For all the neural-controlled, bluetooth-enabled and sport-specific prosthetics humanity has designed over the years, one thing remains constant: most of of them are lousy for climbing rock faces. Design student Kai Lin learned this while researching artificial limbs in a prosthetic-design class at Pratt Institute — traditional leg prosthetics don’t have enough grip or articulation to facilitate effective climbing. Lin’s solution to the problem is almost elegant in its simplicity. He designed a prosthetic leg inspired by one of nature’s best rock climbers: the mountain goat.
Mountain goats have an uncanny ability to traverse the steepest of terrains without so much as the slightest misstep. So it only makes sense that if one were designing a prosthetic leg for human mountain climbers they would look towards nature’s masters most sure-footed creations for inspiration. And that’s exactly what designer Kai Lin did with his Klippa prosthetic. It turns out that rock-climbing is a very popular sport among amputees for keeping fit—especially for those in the armed forces who were injured in combat. But traditional prosthetics are of course primarily designed for traversing flat terrains. With a little research Lin discovered that mountain goats are good at what they do thanks to their small hooves that act as suction cups on the inside, and provide extra stability with its rigid outer shell. The result of that research is a prosthetic with a compact footprint that’s able to better wedge itself into small cracks providing support and stability as a climber makes their way up a rock face. At least in theory, because Lin has yet to actually test his prototypes with climbers. However, the bio-mimicry approach is a great way to design products since Mother Nature has been beta-testing her designs for eons. And when’s the last time you saw a mountain goat with a broken leg?
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