Motor-powered prosthetic arms utilize switches and buttons to operate the prosthetic. Like body-powered prosthetics, the opposite shoulder is typically employed, but instead of operating a cable, the shoulder instead pushes a button or switch. Different buttons and switches perform different actions on the prosthetic arm.
The most advanced, and thus expensive, method is myoelectric. This method is inspired by the natural process of contracting and relaxing muscles, which occurs through electrical signals. Similarly, myoelectric-powered prosthetics utilize the electrical signals generated by the residual limb when contracting muscles to move the prosthetic. Electrodes are placed to read these electrical signals and then move the prosthetic as indicated.
It is this method of powering prostheses that forms the foundation of bionic limbs.
Bionic limbs, in general, are a type of artificial limb that utilize signals from the muscles, brain, or nerves to move. This method of powering the prosthetic results in a much more seamless movement that very closely mimics natural movement.
Compared to other forms of powering prostheses, bionic limbs do not require as much body power to operate and give the user maximum control. This not only applies to what movements are completed by the prosthesis but also how fast or slow the movement occurs. For example, with a bionic arm, users can open and close the hand quickly or slowly depending on the signal sent to the prosthesis.
Benefits Of a Bionic Limb
The bionic limb and its advanced technology offers many benefits to users.
One of the most significant advantages of the bionic limb is the amount of control that it allows for its users. With other prosthetic limbs, the movement relies on either the actions of another part of the body or the manual pressing of a button, which can leave movement slightly jilted.
In comparison, bionic limbs function very similarly to a natural arm in that they move based on electrical signals released by the muscles. So, when someone wants to move their wrist, the muscles in the residual limb contract, and the electrodes placed on the muscle record these signals and move the wrist accordingly.
Some bionic limbs are even working on controlling finger movements, allowing for fine motor control that was previously inaccessible for those with a prosthetic arm, further improving the user’s control.
Bionic limbs can also register the speed at which certain actions should be done. For example, when wanting to close the hand slowly, the muscles in the residual limb contract slowly, and the speed of contraction is picked up by the electrodes and mimicked in the bionic limb. This technology allows for immense control over the bionic limb, which is not possible in other prosthetic arm types.
Improvement Of Sensation
Recent advances in bionic limbs allow the user to feel the placement and movement of their artificial limb, something which has been challenging to replicate in other prostheses.
Bionic arms also allow the user to feel objects by sending the necessary signals back to the brain from the point of contact on the prosthetic. This encourages the user’s ability to use the bionic limb similar to a natural arm and restores a monumental sense of touch to that limb.
Improved Reintegration of the Artificial Limb
The improved controllability offered by the bionic limb also means that it is more easily utilized in everyday mechanics. Some artificial limbs serve no physical function and simply act as a natural-looking arm. In contrast, bionic limbs are intended to work as a natural arm would. While no prosthetic hand has been able to mimic the functionality of an anatomical hand, technological has improved tremendously over the years and is continually striving to mimic the amazing functionality of an anatomical arm.