Torso simulator offers promise for new back brace innovations

Engineers have for the first time created a simulator mimicking the mechanical behavior of the human torso—which could lead to innovations in the design of medical back supports.

It allows researchers to test different back brace designs and configurations without needing to test them on people—removing significant logistical and ethical issues.

The torso simulator rig models the biomechanical behaviour of a human torso. Dr David Cheneler, Lancaster University

Lancaster University, 30 July 2019

The simulator includes a male torso-shaped mechanical test rig, alongside computer simulation models. It includes an artificial additively manufactured (also referred to as 3D Printed) spine and rib cage, created using modified CAD models derived from CT scans of a human spine, and a torso with geometries and other properties that closely resemble and behave like human tissues.

The rig also allows for different spine configurations and deformities, such as scoliosis, to be modeled and tested with different back braces without causing discomfort to human testers.

Researchers can use the rig to collect data on the reduction of flexion, extension, lateral bending and torsion each back brace design provides.

Although human testing of back braces would eventually be required, it will be further down the design process to help optimize comfort and muscle engagement.

Dr. David Cheneler, part of the Lancaster University team of Engineers who created the simulator, said: “Back braces have been used as both medical and retail products for decades, however existing designs can often be found to be heavy, overly rigid, indiscreet and uncomfortable.

“Our simulator enables new back braces to be developed that are optimized to constrain particular motions but allowing for other movements. It could also help with the design of braces and supports with targeted restriction of movement, which would be beneficial to some conditions and helping to reduce the risk of muscle-loss.”

The researchers tested the rig with two novel back brace designs, an existing medical back brace, as well as a weightlifting belt.

Jon Harvey, who recently graduated with a MEng in Mechanical Engineering from Lancaster University and who worked on the back brace project, said: “This is an excellent example of how engineering research can have wide reaching impact, not only in industry, but also in the quality of life of a population. It also shows how research is used to enhance engineering education at Lancaster University.”

The research, funded by the Engineering Department at Lancaster University, has been outlined in a paper, which has been published in the journal Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering.

The authors are Liam Cooper, Alex Gullane, Jonathan Harvey, Anna Hills, Michelle Zemura, Dr Allan Rennie and Dr David Cheneler, all of Lancaster University’s Engineering Department, and Dr Jane Martindale of the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.

Source Lancaster University
via Medical Xpress

Experimental platform to facilitate novel back brace development for the improvement of spine stability, Cooper L, Gullane A, Harvey J, Hills A, Zemura M, Martindale J, Rennie A, Cheneler D. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2019 Jul 30:1-11. doi: 10.1080/10255842.2019.1645837. [Epub ahead of print]
  Further reading
3D correction of AIS in braces designed using CAD/CAM and FEM: a randomized controlled trial, Cobetto N, Aubin CÉ, Parent S, Barchi S, Turgeon I, Labelle H. Scoliosis Spinal Disord. 2017 Jul 23;12:24. doi: 10.1186/s13013-017-0128-9. eCollection 2017. Full text

Effectiveness of braces designed using computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) and finite element simulation compared to CAD/CAM only for the conservative treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: a prospective randomized controlled trial, Cobetto N, Aubin CE, Parent S, Clin J, Barchi S, Turgeon I, Labelle H. Eur Spine J. 2016 Oct;25(10):3056-3064. Epub 2016 Feb 9.

Braces Optimized With Computer-Assisted Design and Simulations Are Lighter, More Comfortable, and More Efficient Than Plaster-Cast Braces for the Treatment of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis, Cobetto N, Aubin CE, Clin J, Le May S, Desbiens-Blais F, Labelle H, Parent S. Spine Deform. 2014 Jul;2(4):276-284. doi: 10.1016/j.jspd.2014.03.005. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

New brace design combining CAD/CAM and biomechanical simulation for the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, Desbiens-Blais F, Clin J, Parent S, Labelle H, Aubin CE. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2012 Dec;27(10):999-1005. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2012.08.006. Epub 2012 Sep 16.

Assessing range of motion to evaluate the adverse effects of ill-fitting cervical orthoses, Bell KM, Frazier EC, Shively CM, Hartman RA, Ulibarri JC, Lee JY, Kang JD, Donaldson WF 3rd. Spine J. 2009 Mar;9(3):225-31. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2008.03.010. Epub 2008 May 27.

Also see
Hong Kong Polytechnic University Develops Palm-sized 3D Scoliosis Ultrasound Imaging System in Imaging Technology News

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