Carl Caspers is a technologist with a special connection to his market. As an amputee, he understands the limits of most prosthetic limbs. His company's Harmony System, released last year, is a breakthrough—a product that may well change the standard by which the medical community and amputees measure mobility and comfort.
CEO and cofounder, TEC Interface Systems
Waite Park, Minnesota
FROM CARL'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:
What needed an overhaul?
As an amputee and certified prosthetist, Carl Caspers intimately understands the problems amputees experience on a daily basis. When fitting his patients, he quickly grew frustrated with the quality of the products available. Prosthetic technology severely had fallen behind the times and was adversely affecting a growing population of amputees. Typical artificial limbs did not manage common side effects such as an inconsistent fit, as well as painful blisters, rashes, chafing and even ulcers. For many amputees using a prosthetic device, mobility was limited to only a few steps at a time before the pain became unbearable.
What was the single biggest obstacle?
In a field that severely lacked research and development funding, amputees were left with devices that were bound to fail, disappoint, limit and cause pain. The central problem that no manufacturer had ever resolved before was volume loss in the stump, which leads to a painful, inconsistent fit. With conventional artificial limb liners, the repeated pressure on the stump caused body fluids to be forced upward into the leg, eventually shrinking the size of the limb and loosening the prosthesis as the day wore on. The loosened fit caused friction—leading to painful side effects.
How did you overcome it?
With persistence and an unwavering commitment to the industry, Caspers started a manufacturing company that quickly earned a reputation as the industry innovator. TEC Interface Systems heavily invested in research and development, a risk that no other manufacturer had taken before, and the results have paid off. After several successful product launches, the 2001 release of the Harmony System has become TEC's most impressive innovation to date. Harmony is a vacuum pump within the artificial limb. With every step, the vacuum maintains a balanced volume in the stump, practically eliminating shrinkage of the stump and the related painful side effects.
How have you seen results?
Since the Harmony device was introduced in July 2001, TEC has seen direct and dramatic results. From a financial standpoint, TEC expects a 50 percent increase in 2001 revenues. The future looks bright because no other manufacturer has a comparable product. The field belongs solely to this Minnesota company. But the most rewarding result for Caspers has been the remarkable increase in the mobility of Harmony users—some going from 10 minutes of mobility to 10 hours. Prosthetists across the country are saying that Harmony will change the standard by which the medical community and amputees view mobility and comfort.