Prototyping approaches for rehabilitation devices : from product embodiment to data management

Urquhart, Lewis and Petrakis, Konstantinos and Hansen, John Paul and Wodehouse, Andrew and Mariani, Milton Edgardo and Lauer-Schmaltz, Martin Wolfgang and Loudon, Brian (2023) Prototyping approaches for rehabilitation devices : from product embodiment to data management. Computer Aided Design and Applications, 20 (S6). pp. 145-157. ISSN 1686-4360 (

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This paper will present two research cases, both of which have similar objectives within upper-limb rehabilitation, which have utilized prototyping as a broad tool to explore the design solution space. Prototyping is a fundamental component of a large array of design work, with a multitude of techniques now available to designers of product embodiments and functions. PRIME-VR2 and ReHyb are two large European research projects focusing on efforts to reinvent medical rehabilitation through engagement with new technological advances to develop unique biomedical devices. PRIME-VR2 is focused on the development of a bespoke virtual reality gaming controller that can recreate therapeutic motions, while ReHyb aims to create rehabilitation aiding assistive exoskeletons. Prototyping has been a critical tool in the development of the design solutions, notably PRIME-VR2 has explored a range of novel additive manufacturing strategies such as a complex phased printing procedure and the ReHyb project has made innovative use of LegoTechnic components in prototypes developed for human-robot interactions. Starting by examining the principles of prototyping within a bespoke device context, the two case studies are subsequently presented. Both are explored from the point of view of key prototyping practices and the data management and design generation tools. Lastly, the two projects are compared considering the strengths and weaknesses of both design approaches with a discussion focusing on the implications for future design projects that may have similar objectives in rehabilitative medicine.