High-tech prosthetics can easily cost $50,000. They’re a luxury usually afforded only to Westerners. But an engineer at Stanford has just unveiled an artificial knee that costs a mere $20. Last year, Joel Sadler was presented with the intimidating challenge in a course on biomedical design: Creating a low-cost, high-performance artificial knee for the developing world. Now, he’s just unveiled the JiapurKnee. It’s named after the project’s sponsor, JaipurFoot, a long-time charity that provides prosthetics to Indian amputees.
Low-cost artificial knees usually only swing one way, like a door hinge. That makes them nearly useless to someone forced to walk all day over varied terrain. Sadler and his colleagues took another tack, studying top-end titanium joints, which can cost up to $100,000. They managed to produce a similar joint, using a nylon polymer filled with oil that creates a self-lubricating assembly. So far, 43 have been distributed in India, and Sadler is aiming for 100k more in the next three years. By that point, Sadler expects the costs to fall even further.