electronicaelectronica 2010 will showcase a world first in medical electronics: a prosthetic leg that moves in response to the wearer's thoughts. This remarkable achievement was developed by American biophysicist Hugh Herr, a professor at MIT, Freescale Semiconductor and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA.

The technology required to make voluntary control possible is called electromyography (EMG), an experimental method that deals with the generation, recording and analysis of myoelectric signals. These electrical signals are produced by the change in tension when a muscle contracts. The researchers will demonstrate an EMG pinball machine (electronica Hall A2.221) controlled by muscular tension.

The world need for intelligent prosthetics

For an able-bodied person, walking, running and climbing the stairs are natural movement sequences. For wearers of conventional artificial limbs, every step is often a real effort. They find everyday life challenging because their artificial leg does not always do what they want it to. Natural movement is something desired by some 100,000 US people a year after losing a leg through amputation.

Medical electronic innovations now offer amputees the hope of recovering near able-bodied functionality. At electronica 2010, the international trade fair for electronics components, systems and applications, exhibitors including Freescale and the Fraunhofer Institute will present innovative components and artificial limbs that simulate the natural movement sequences of the leg.

World first: naturally moving artificial limbs

Project Manager Alfred von Rosenberg, from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, explains the approach: "Our aim was to develop a control system that identifies the artificial limb wearer's desired movement." The key to this innovation is that the voluntary signal is determined in real time. The prosthesis can thus respond to voluntary thoughts and execute the wearer's wish.

It is all based on ingenious technology: the prosthetic limb incorporates an array of sensors to measure all activity signals from the leg muscles. "So the artificial limb knows whether its wearer is currently standing, walking, sitting or running," added IPA Project Manager Harald von Rosenberg. Pressure sensors that are sandwiched beneath the electronic sensors identify when the amputee shifts their full weight onto the artificial limb. The voluntary control is actuated by EMG.

A step into the future: intelligent prosthetic leg

Freescale Semiconductor participated in the development of a titanium prosthetic leg which, in conjunction with a robot, simulates the functionality of the real lower leg. The new prosthesis was designed using Freescale components by Dr. Herr, himself a leg amputee following a climbing accident in 1982. In 2011 the company iWalk will start volume production with the prosthetic lower leg "PowerFoot One". "When I move my legs in my thoughts, the prosthetic legs move," explained the researcher.

The titanium prosthetic leg imitates natural ankle joints, allowing the artificial foot to be set down, rolled and raised. The robot attached to the artificial lower leg contains five motors and twelve sensors. These include a 3-axis acceleration sensor from Freescale (Hall A6.107). The sensors measure torque, force and speed, converting the readings into motor control commands according to the movement situation. The Freescale sensor is called MMA7361LC and is designed for "low g" movement measurements in wearable applications where only low acceleration forces are encountered.

electronica Forum 2010: innovation platform for medical electronics

The future potential of the industry is reflected in numerous applications for highly advanced electronics that appeal to the imagination of consumers and industry in equal measure. As well as intelligent prostheses, companies such as Freescale, Heimann Sensor and EBV Elektronik are showcasing the latest portable medical apparatus such as blood sugar testers and pulse meters, implantable blood pressure sensors and remote monitoring and control systems for pacemakers at the electronica. New developments will be highlighted through presentations and a panel discussion in a session on Thursday, November 11, 2010 at the electronica Forum in Hall A3.

Medical electronics: driving force for the economy and innovation

The medical electronics sector is one of the highest-revenue and most innovative development areas of the electronics industry. Jochen Franke, Chairman of the ZVEI Electromedical Technology Professional Association, declared: "The future of the international market for health and medical technology lies in the modernization of the health infrastructure. Medical electronics currently offers the best growth prospects for industrial semiconductors, too. According to the Californian market research institute Databeans, the worldwide segment is growing by as much as 11%. In Germany alone, revenue in 2009 reached USD 1.5 billion (source: ZVEI). Virtually all key innovations in medical technology involve a high level of electronics expertise. Medical technology is thus dependent on intelligent solutions and regular advances from the sphere of electronics, while at the same time stimulating application-oriented research.

About electronica

electronica is the world's leading trade fair for electronic components, systems and applications. It has been held every two years in Munich since 1964 and presents innovations from the entire range of products and services in the electronics industry. electronica is the most important international meeting-point for the electronics industry and features, in addition to the exhibition areas, a supporting program containing first-class conferences - electronica Automotive Conference and Wireless Congress - and discussions. electronica 2008 was attended by around 73,000 visitors and almost 2,800 exhibitors. The total amount of exhibition space was 1.72 million square feet.

hybridica, international trade fair for the development and manufacture of metal-plastic hybrid components, has been staged concurrently with electronica since 2008 and produces numerous synergy effects.

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