(GIST OF SCIENCE REPORTER) 3D Printed Gloves for Rehabilitating Stroke Patients
3D Printed Gloves for Rehabilitating Stroke Patients
Stroke is India’s third leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability. Physiotherapy is one of the few treatments available for rehabilitating stroke victims and patients with physical injuries. However, physiotherapy can take days to months depending on the severity of the disability, making it challenging for patients as well as their attendants.
To help such patients, researchers in the Department of Physics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have developed a soft, wearable device that exploits the fundamental properties of light to sense a patient’s limb or finger movements. The customisable, 3D printed gloves can be remotely controlled, opening up the possibility of teleconsultation by physiotherapists.
Bid explains that quantifiable feedback – for example, the units of pressure applied while squeezing a ball or the degree of bending of a leg with a knee injury – is crucial for doctors to monitor the patient, even remotely. Such feedback can also motivate patients to perform better in every consecutive session.
Issues and challenges:
The challenge is that physiotherapy often requires daily hospital visits. Home visits by professionals or sophisticated devices to monitor patients remotely, although ideal, are not readily available and are expensive.
To address these challenges, the team has developed a mechanism by which customisable wearables like hand gloves can be designed, 3D printed, and controlled remotely. The device can sense various hand and finger movements, and precisely detect parameters like pressure, bending angle and shape.
The technology that drives the device is based on the fundamental properties of light: refraction and reflection. A light source is placed at one end of a transparent rubbery material, and the other end has a light detector. Any movement in the finger or arm of the patient causes the flexible material to deform.
The deformation alters the path of light, and thereby its properties. The device translates this change in light properties to a quantifiable unit. Since light travels across the entire length of the device, movement along any part of the patient’s finger or arm can be accurately measured.