Arthritis is a medical condition affecting joints and connective tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. Since it is an autoimmune disease, there is currently no cure, and treatment options are focused on pain management. Osteoarthritis has similar symptoms but is caused by simple wear and tear. People who have arthritis typically experience symptoms in both hands, preventing normal day to day functionality. The hands are still capable of some motion; however, pain increases with added stress on the joints or holding static positions for an extended period of time. Depending on the progression of the disease, the patient is either physically limited in range of motion and dexterity, or avoids tasks that cause pain. Orthotics, braces and other assistive aids are a common method to minimize the pain in daily life. Such devices limit and support the wrist joints, improving the quality of life for people who suffer with arthritis. However, these devices do not restore functionality.
Lovejot Brar, Andrew McDougall, Kevin O’Leary and Ajith Velummylum, four fourth year Mechanical Engineering students of University of Waterloo, identified this engineering opportunity. They intended to design, implement and refine an orthotic device to restore the ability to perform essential life tasks for users that have either completely lost the use of their hands or find it difficult to perform life tasks.
The primary teaching objective of this case study is to practice the design process. The student must analyze a bio-mechanical engineering challenge and design, implement, verify and refine a product to address this challenge.