Affordable prosthesis

Affordable prostheses(途上国向け義足)Now under development, with a cost target of around 3,000 yen, is a prosthetic leg aimed at the developing world. The business model, which has been an essential part of the product R&D, allows for the prosthesis to be manufactured in local factories using locally available plastic.

Researcher Ken Endo began developing a prosthetic leg for the developing world when he was working at MIT, after he was introduced to an Indian non-profit called Jaipur Foot. Since 1975, Jaipur Foot has been collecting donations to fund the making of prosthetic legs, supplying them free of charge to the people who need them.

Jaipur Foot is strongly committed to providing free prosthetic legs to the poor. Endo started an effort to create a prosthetic leg as good as those already being distributed that could be manufactured for just 3,000 yen. These prostheses would then be given to India's poor through Jaipur Foot.

Affordable prostheses(途上国向け義足)03The manufacturing environment in the developing world is totally different from that in the developed world in various ways: technology, materials, workforce. However, the drive to make the best possible product within the constraints of the production environment is the same, whether you are making a state-of-the-art robotic prosthesis or one that costs just 3,000 yen. This realization led Endo to apply the research he had done on robotic prosthetics to an artificial leg suited to the developing world.

Meanwhile, Japan's medical insurance system only covers one artificial leg per missing leg, and prostheses are very expensive to purchase on the open market. In practice, many users of prosthetic legs are unable to keep a backup. They must live with the fear that if their prosthetic leg breaks, they will be unable to walk, and so they use it less. A prosthetic leg costing 3,000 yen, however, can be treated as essentially disposable. People would be empowered to go to onsen resorts, the beach, or other places they would never risk damaging their expensive primary prosthetic. A low-cost prosthetic leg has the potential to enrich the lives not only of people in the developing world, but also of people in Japan.