By Andy Choi
At Australia’s Flinders University a new robot has been developed by engineers which is all set to revolutionize the study of joints and their artificial replacements. The Hexapod Robot simulates joint motion and helps the study the performance of normal and diseased joints.
The robot which was launched on September 27 at the Flinders University is the most advanced of its kind in the world. It was developed by Biomechanical Engineer Dr John Costi and his team over a period of two years. They had help from the researchers at the University of Adelaide’s School of Mechanical Engineering.
The robot is based on the Stewart Platform. It is a design that allows for six degree of freedom position and motion control, widely used in flight simulators and theme park rides. Dr Costi said that the Hexapod Robot very precisely simulates people walking, bending, twisting and lifting to within fractions of a millimetre, which allows researchers to determine the force placed on joints from repeated movements or actions.
He added that they were well-advanced in using the robot to examine the strains in spinal discs that may be a cause of slipped discs and lower back pain during complex manual handling/lifting movements in the workplace. He also said that they could apply the same principle to test any number of synthetic materials, to see how they respond to twisting, pulling and pushing with up to two tonnes of force.
Dr Costi said that the robot could help in the design of a new vehicle shock-absorber, for example, or to improve manual handling guidelines in the workplace to minimize spinal injury. Specialist health providers such as orthopedic surgeons from The Royal Adelaide Hospital and SportsMed. SA have already expressed interest in using the robot, and a number of research projects are underway.