Transforming medical devices one step at a time
As a product designer, Eloise Cleary has made almost anything you can imagine. Lamps, glassware, kitchen appliances, speaker systems – you’ll find them all in her (impressive) portfolio. But it’s in the realm of medical devices where Cleary is really finding her feet.
A UTS honours student in the Bachelor of Design in Product Design, Cleary designed and produced a prosthetic foot for her end-of-year project. The product, called Super-abled, is a tangible example of how to incorporate both function and form into the design of medical devices.
“When you look at a prosthesis, you see an engineered device and the way it functions is extraordinary, but I think in this day and age, it’s lacking in design and in user influence,” Cleary says.
“In my design solution, I wanted to create an element of customisation and co-creation to acknowledge the prosthetic as a limb and an extension of the wearer’s body and personality.”
Super-abled is comprised of the prosthesis, a height-adjustable heel and an interchangeable nylon cover. It’s produced using two different 3D printing techniques – the heel is constructed of a nylon plastic and carbon fibre composite, while the interchangeable cover, which sits over the body of the prosthesis, is produced using another 3D printing process called selective laser sintering (SLS).
The design of the product was guided by a research project that included case studies of two women who require lower-limb prostheses. This research resulted in Cleary devising a co-creation system in which the users contribute to the design of the nylon cover; by being part of the design development, the user is likely to experience a deeper connection to the end product.
“The idea of the interchangeable element is that you might wear a casual daytime cover, but then during the evening switch to something a bit more extravagant. It gives the wearer the ability to have more fashion choices and to express herself as she wants,” Cleary says.
“My goal was to incorporate emotional design into a medical context and use my research project to change the way we think about prosthetic devices. I’ve also worked a lot in 3D printing throughout my course, so I really wanted to reflect that in my honours work and represent the skills that I had developed.”
This research spoke to Cleary’s growing interest in medical devices, which had evolved from a previous project called Reboot, an orthopaedic moon boot for foot and ankle rehabilitation. Together, these projects embody Cleary’s fascination with working at the intersection of design and emerging technology.
Having now completed her honours year, Cleary will take her technical, research and theoretical design skills, as well as other learnings from her UTS degree and honours program, into the next stage of her career.
Learn more about UTS Product Design.