The application of a design methodology for the determination of the optimal prosthesis architecture for a given upper limb amputee is presented in this paper along with the discussion of its results. In particular, a novel procedure was used to provide the main guidelines for the design of an actuated shoulder articulation for externally powered prostheses. The topology and the geometry of the new articulation were determined as the optimal compromise between wearability (for the ease of use and the patient’s comfort) and functionality of the device (in terms of mobility, velocity, payload, etc.). This choice was based on kinematic and kinetostatic analyses of different upper limb prosthesis models and on purpose-built indices that were set up to evaluate the models from different viewpoints. Only 12 of the 31 simulated prostheses proved a sufficient level of functionality: among these, the optimal solution was an articulation having two actuated revolute joints with orthogonal axes for the elevation of the upper arm in any vertical plane and a frictional joint for the passive adjustment of the humeral intra-extra rotation. A prototype of the mechanism is at the clinical test stage.
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