The Department of Mechanical Engineering, in collaboration with the Department of Systems and Control Engineering and the Department of Artificial Intelligence, and in partnership with Orthopaedic Centre Malta, are currently leading a project entitled MAProHand: Development of the Mechanical and Control Framework for a Minimal Anthropomorphic Prosthetic Hand. The project is being funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), and has been awarded € 194,992 for the three-year period ending in February 2022.
A major issue in the development of commercial prosthetic hands is the trade-off between simplicity, dexterity and usability. The global prosthetic hand market has to date failed to achieve balance between these three attributes within a single device, and the available products can be listed starkly within three distinct categories: aesthetic prostheses (simplicity); open/close functional devices (usability); or complex, expensive and heavy multi-finger prosthetic hands (dexterity).
The primary research objective of this work is to carry out a systematic exercise to for the first time seek a practical solution that optimizes this classical trade-off within a single device, by extracting an acceptable and optimum dexterity out of the simplest possible architecture while maintaining high usability of the device. This project builds on previous work carried out at the University of Malta, which has already focussed on preliminary studies of this trade-off in general compact multi-degree-of-freedom devices; on the development of artificial dexterous hands that include only the essential features of the human hand; and on the relationship between forearm surface electromyography signals and finger movement.
The research team comprises Prof. Ing. Michael A. Saliba (lead investigator, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering), Prof. Kenneth Camilleri (Dept. of Systems and Control Engineering), Prof. Alexiei Dingli (Dept. of Artificial Intelligence), Dr Jesmond Attard (Orthotist/Prosthetist), Mr Emanuele Aliotta (owner and CEO of the industrial partner Orthopaedic Centre Malta, which specialises in orthopaedic and rehabilitation supports among other areas), and UM research support officers Ms Yesenia Aquilina and Ms Rachel Cauchi.
MAProHand is being funded through the MCST Fusion R&I Programme under contract number R&I-2017-028T.