The BETH Project’s prosthetic socket is designed to be adjustable, robust and affordable. This is accomplished by the use of a jammable material contained within an elastomeric bladder. At atmospheric pressure, the grammable material within the bladder is easily manipulated into the geometry and shape required by an amputee’s physiology. When a vacuum is applied to the inside of the bladder, the assembly is frozen into the desired shape. The shape can be adjusted throughout the lifetime of the socket through this vacuum cycle to accommodate changes in an amputee’s residual limb volume and composition.
This project was driven by the need for affordable, well-fitting sockets throughout the world. There are over 30 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America who require a prosthesis (WHO). It doesn’t matter how sophisticated a prosthesis is, it is virtually useless without a well-fitting socket to attach it to the residual limb. The current manufacturing method for most prosthetic sockets involves a time intensive artisan process requiring specialized tools and workshops. Such sockets are typically rigid and must be replaced or significantly modified in response to slight weight changes or the development of sores and infections.
The project was initially developed by applying a new material solution to a huge existing problem that required mass customization at an affordable price. Since meeting at a MIT H@cking Medicine conference in February 2012, the team members have combined their experience in physiology, robotics, material science and industrial design with the expertise and advice of numerous prosthetists and patients. Several rounds of prototyping to date have been supported by generous awards from the MIT IDEAS competition, the MIT $100K and the Enterprise Africa Business Plan competition. Our goal is to use winnings to continue development on the universal prosthetic socket to bring it to those who need it most.