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Developing an Innovative Orthotic Device for Supporting Bipedal Walking for People With Walking DifficultyUCHIDA Co.,Ltd

2020.12.08

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Solved conventional issues such as durability, weight, and design by making the most of CFRP properties.

Product Name = CFRP Lightweight Bipedal Walker Equipment “C-FREX”

Solving Conventional Issues with Orthotic Devices such as Durability, Weight, and Design

Many people with spinal injuries suffer from motor paralysis, which makes it difficult to move limbs and other parts of the body. If they do not move the paralyzed areas for extended periods of time, the risk of experiencing other problems, such as muscle atrophy and lifestyle-related diseases, will increase. Therefore, rehabilitation with an orthotic device that supports the paralyzed area's movement is important; however, conventional orthotic devices have had problems such as low durability, heavy weight, inefficient movement, and poor design.

C-FREX, a bipedal walker equipment developed by UCHIDA Co.,Ltd., replaces metal, which has made the conventional products heavy, with "CFRP”(*)," a composite of carbon fiber and resin, to achieve both high durability and light weight. It achieves advantages such as a significant improvement in exercise efficiency while being easily fitted. It also achieves knee joint flexion with no power, by applying the principle of the double pendulum. The rehabilitative effect on paralyzed leg muscles is promising, as paralyzed leg muscles respond to the movement of the knee joint. Since this product is not power-driven, it naturally has an advantage in terms of cost. Moreover, the design was a matter that received great attention. In making this product, the company has addressed the problems of conventional products one by one.
*Abbreviation for Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics. It is a composite material produced by combining carbon fiber and resin to reinforce strength and durability.

Using CFRP, Which is Attracting Attention from All Industries, for Orthotic Devices

The most remarkable feature that represents the advantage of this product is CFRP, which is used as the main material. CFRP's weight is a quarter of that of iron but ten times stronger. It also has a feature different from metals in that it can be fabricated flexibly by changing the direction of the fibers. CFRP is attracting attention from all fields that support today's society, including aerospace, automotive, energy, and medical.

In 2014, the National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities, Research Institute offered the company, which had excellent molding technology for this composite material, to conduct joint research on this product, and thereafter the two organizations promoted research and development in collaboration with each other. In the beginning, the development did not proceed as expected, and they needed more than two weeks to manufacture one component. However, after they introduced a 3D printer in 2018, the development speed has been accelerated. They have continued making prototypes based on feedback from test users and the responses received at exhibitions in Japan, as well as abroad, and are preparing to put the product into practical use in 2021. Test users who actually wore the product said they felt a sense of kicking on the ground, felt stability and security while wearing it, and liked the design.

Hope for People Around the World Who Have Walking Difficulty

The company's vision extends beyond people wearing the device during rehabilitation, and aims at continuously supporting the daily lives of many people who have difficulty in walking. To achieve this goal, the company is currently developing a children's version. It is also considering developing a "wheelchair-integrated model," enabling people to stand up and walk immediately after reaching the rehabilitation site.

Today, the number of people with spinal injuries is estimated to be 100,000 or more in Japan and 300,000 or more in the United States. This product gives hope to people around the world who have difficulty in walking. If you are seeking collaboration with UCHIDA, there are many things you can do while waiting for the release of the product, such as learning about how to make the most of the product, scenes of use, fields in which to deploy the product, and possibilities for development.

Coverage date October 30, 2020

Company Overview

UCHIDA Co.,Ltd.

The company was established in 1968. With the slogan "Contributing to the world through molding technology for composite materials," it has been engaged in prototype manufacturing. Its strength mainly lies in Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic molding technology. The company contributes to simultaneously achieving high strength and light weight, for devices used in the automotive industry (cars and motorcycles), in the aerospace industry (passenger airplanes and rockets), and in the medical and welfare field, including bipedal walker equipment.

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