The UK’s leading prize for innovation in engineering was last night awarded to a team of engineers from Blatchford for the development of the world’s most advanced prosthetic limb.

The Basingstoke based company are world leaders in the field of rehabilitation, developing the first ever prosthetic limb to feature integrated robotic control of the knee and foot.  The smart Linx Limb system constantly monitors the wearer’s movements, adapting automatically to the terrain, allowing the wearer to move with freedom and confidence. 

Staving off strong competition from automotive giant Jaguar Land Rover and MRI pioneers Siemens Magnet Technology to win the MacRobert Award, Blatchford were presented with the gold medal and a £50,000 prize by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal in an awards ceremony hosted at the Tower of London last night.  The Award, run by the Royal Academy of Engineering with the support of the Worshipful Company of Engineers, honours the UK technology sector’s most exciting engineering innovations.

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE, FREng, Chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “Blatchford has combined a compassionate approach to patient needs with huge ambition and exceptional systems engineering.

“The Linx is helping patients throughout the world by empowering them with the freedom to tackle a much greater variety of terrains with confidence, and reducing the discomfort and costs associated with the problems of wearing prosthetics. The team behind this incredible innovation are true role models who show the positive impact that engineering can have on society.”

The Linx works by employing a network of sensors throughout the knee and foot that work just like the nerves in a human limb, collecting information from the environment and feeding it back to a central computer at a rate of 400 messages per second.  The central computer then acts like the brain, using this information to automatically adapt the limb’s response to the terrain, ensuring the wearer maintains a steady footing at all times.  The intelligent system inside the Linx can also sense when the wearer is stationary, locking the knee into a secure and stable position that allows the wearer to relax comfortably. As soon as the wearer is ready to move on, the sensors wake up again and seamlessly unlock.

With more the 45,000 people in the UK alone relying on lower limb prostheses, and around 4,000 lower limb amputations carried out each year, it is essential that prosthetics can be made universally comfortable.  The Linx accommodates this by collecting real time data from the sensors and ‘learning’ how each wearer naturally walks, automatically adapting its movement accordingly.  In previous prosthetics, this calibration is a lengthy and inaccurate process that often requires repeat adjustments.

The team members honoured by the award are Technical Director, Professor Saeed Zahedi, OBE, FREng; Senior Control Engineer, Nadine Stech; Principle Electronic Engineer, Andy Sykes; Principle Mechatronic Engineer, Dr David Moser; and Senior Mechanical Engineer, Rob Painter.

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