Students create cost-effective prosthetic liners for low-income countries

BYU Global Engineering Outreach students are working with health clinics in Ecuador to provide low-cost prosthetic liner molds to help local prosthetic-wearers. (Made in Canva by Megan Zaugg)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Students in the BYU Global Engineering Outreach project created low-cost prosthetic liner molds to help lower-income countries.

Led by BYU professors Randy Lewis and Terri Bateman, the students this semester in the project are tasked with updating a previous design made by last year’s global outreach students — a cost-effective tool used to create silicone liners for prosthetics.

Prosthetic liners are meant to be placed between an individual’s residual limb and the prosthetic to protect the skin and provide maximum comfort, thus improving quality of life.

According to chemical engineering student Emily Wagner, this year and last year’s teams worked with a clinic in Ecuador to provide a mold that allows these expensive liners to be made locally instead of being purchased and imported from the United States. This work parallels that of Operation Namaste, who was the first organization to create silicone liners for prosthetics.

This semester, students are hoping to find and correct flaws in the original design to provide the most effective model.

The two pieces fit together to create the silhouette of the liner; when the silicone is poured, it hardens and forms the liner. This design makes it easier and more cost-effective to create liners locally instead of importing them from other countries. (Image created by last year’s prosthetic team, provided by Emily Wagner).

“It’s really hard because the original design was already so well-done,” Wagner said of her predecessors.

The original model designed by last year’s team consists of two wooden pieces that fit together to create the space where the silicone can be poured and set.

This design saves individuals money on prosthetic liners, which can cost up to $200, civil engineering student Eva Hamill said.

Global Outreach Engineering student Nicole Unguez adheres the fabric to the silicone liner by painting on another layer of silicone. (Photo courtesy of Eva Hamill with permission from Nicole Unguez)

“People just can’t afford to replace them as often as they should or afford them in general,” Hamill said. “The goal is to make a liner that’s more affordable and then hopefully scale that to the manufacturing process, starting within the clinic.”

In 2021, the design won an international award in the Chemical Engineering for Good Competition. Although research teams have only worked with clinics in Ecuador so far, the design is meant to be replicated anywhere.

“You don’t have to go halfway across the world to make a difference in someone’s life,” global engineering outreach teaching assistant Samuel McKinnon said. “Skills we are learning now have foreign applications for the people next door and across the world.”

The class features three other engineering teams in addition to the prosthetic team. They are all preparing for a trip to Peru to implement their work and continue research on their various projects.

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