Bio-inspired braces: how seahorses may solve rehabilitation consequences of traditional braces

Project focus

Concept design of a bio-inspired brace (image by Dries De Bock)

Current use of braces and casts after orthopaedic trauma frequently involves a strategy of total immobilization of the affected joint, thereby inducing negative side effects that require subsequent rehabilitation treatment. Yet, biological systems, such as skeletal body armours exist that reflect geometry-based constraints being imposed on the mechanical range of mobility, from solid to highly flexible systems. The skeletal armour of seahorses is one of them. Being comprised of a basic design of bony plates connected to the vertebral column, they provide an interesting bio-inspiration for making braces that allow regional variability in rigidity versus mobility. The seahorse armour manages to ma

ke a flexible ‘neck’ needed for pivot feeding, a rigid trunk to protect the internal organs, and a tail that can bend in almost any direction. Learning from this armour, key concepts of how geometry defines mobility and rigidity, new brace designs can be developed that circumvent a complete immobilization of a joint, and thus reduce post-trauma rehabilitation.

Keywords

Seahorses, body armour, biomimetics, bio-inspired design, brace, orthosis, orthopaedic trauma

Researchers

Dominique Adriaens

Yannick Christiaens (campus Kortrijk - Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Product Design; design.nexus)

Dries De Block (campus Kortrijk – MSc program Industrial Design)

Catherine Van Der Straeten (UZGent - Health, Innovation and Research Institute)

Jan Victor (UZGent - Department of Human Structure and Repair)