Rishi Vegad is an engineering student and an amputee wearing the world’s most intelligent prosthetic limb. Linx, from Blatchford, a leading supplier of prosthetic devices, is the world’s first fully integrated limb system.  It was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s prestigious MacRobert Award in 2016 and Rishi has played a unique role in helping to develop and test it.

Rishi, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am currently studying mechanical engineering at Kingston University and will graduate next year. I haven’t yet decided which field to specialise in after I graduate, but at the moment, I think I would like to work in the design and manufacture of prosthetics, or alternatively use my mechanical background to focus more on aerospace engineering.

What inspired you to set out into a career in engineering?

I was surrounded by engineering from an early age. As a child, I grew up close to Heathrow airport and saw planes taking off and landing every day. My dad is also a telecommunications engineer, so engineering has always been around and appealed to me. I think there is a great sense of satisfaction in designing and making things to solve certain problems.

Which bits of engineering do you find the most enjoyable?

The aspects I enjoy the most in engineering are the manufacture of things. I like solving puzzles and trying to put complicated things together. When I was working with the Blatchford team, I often found myself watching prosthetists put my leg together and then trying it myself. The limb system I use is quite complicated and each component of it, particularly the knee, is really complex. It takes a team of skilled people to assemble all of it. It’s amazing to see it in action!

How did you get involved with the team at Blatchford Prosthetics?

In 2013, I was asked by the team at Blatchford to help test the Linx limb when it was still in the prototype stage. The limb needed some development in the real world and constant refinements to make sure it worked efficiently and reliably.

I simply wore Linx as each incremental change was made to it, right up until it was ready to launch. Each time a change was made, I would give the engineers feedback as to how it felt to walk on and its general functionality, allowing them to constantly improve it.

How has the Linx helped you?

The Linx system has been really important in allowing me to live my life. Prior to wearing Linx, I used a purely mechanical system, without any of the electronic motors or sensors that are in Linx. As such, the limb was less stable, I was more prone to falling, and walking was harder. Now I think less about walking – I just walk! This subtle change is so important and has improved my quality of life massively.

What place do you think engineering has in healthcare today?

Engineering and innovation are crucial to modern healthcare. You only need to look at artificial limbs and see how amazing and advanced they have become to realise this.

I remember seeing a 3D printed device made from titanium that was no bigger than a fingernail. Its purpose was to help fuse vertebrae in the spine. Although this is a totally different sector of medical engineering, the techniques used are the same as those used in Linx.

Both engineering and innovation are crucial to providing better outcomes for people with healthcare problems and to the healthcare industry in general.