Mathematical modelling enables faster development of electrical
stimulation devices customised for patients
13 October 2009
The Cleveland FES Center in the US has used model-based design tools
to develop technology that more quickly restores movement to individuals
with neuromuscular disabilities.
Adopting model-based design reduced the development time of
functional electrical stimulation (FES) devices and enabled researchers
to build customized prototypes for patients many times faster than they
could do before.
FES devices restore movement to paralyzed arms and legs. They send
electrical impulses to electrodes — implanted in the body, worn on the
skin, or operating through the skin — to produce and control movement.
Adapting the FES device for each patient was a time-consuming process,
as the device software needed multiple iterations for a customized
response to each patient’s needs.
The Cleveland FES Center, at Case Western Reserve University,
developed the Universal External Control Unit (UECU) to address the need
for tailored FES devices. With the UECU’s modular software and hardware
design, research engineers in the clinic can modify a FES controller
application and immediately test the results.
With MathWorks tools, teams are able to develop, test, and implement
algorithms that suit specific patient scenarios, reducing the
traditional development cycle for some FES functions to less than a day.
“All of our FES applications used to be built by dedicated
programmers using C code,” said Robert Kirsch, PhD, Professor,
Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University and Associate
Director of Technology, Cleveland FES Center. “The overall process was
slow because everything had to be done by our central programmers, which
limited how quickly we could move from idea to implementation. MathWorks
tools for Model-Based Design provide the flexibility and ease of use
that enables our clinical groups to develop and refine FES applications
on their own.”
“An approach like model-based design is ideal for researchers and
scientists who may not have an extensive software programming background
but who are still involved in product design and development,” said Paul
Barnard, marketing director — design automation, at The MathWorks. “The
creation of industry firsts, such as the UECU, demonstrates just how
critical MathWorks tools have become in the field of biomedical
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