A group of Loyola Marymount University engineering students and their professor won the Best Paper Award at an international conference this fall.
Sean Nevin, one of the student researchers and a mechanical engineering senior, said, “I was in shock until my professor showed me the paper. It’s great to know that our work was helpful.” Nevin, Alexander Hendricks ‘17, Clayton Wikoff ‘16, Melissa Dougherty ‘18 and Jacob Orlita ’18 co-authored the paper, titled “The Low-Cost Design and 3-D Printing of Structural Knee Orthotics for Athletic Knee Injury Patients,” with Rafiq Noorani, professor of mechanical engineering.
Their paper was presented by Noorani at the 20th International Conference on Biomedical Applications and Equipment in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 10-11, 2018. It was later published in a special journal edition of Biomedical Applications and Equipment.
The purpose of the LMU project was to create a low-cost alternative for knee orthotics, also called knee braces, by using 3-D printing technology. The knee orthotics that are currently used are bulky, expensive and have complex controls. The 3-D-printed knee brace is more affordable and can be customized to fit the user’s knee for maximum performance.
“I learned to rapid prototype a design of the knee brace,” explained Nevin, “by taking the dynamics of an athlete’s knee to calculate the forces they experience to develop a structural model of a knee brace that counteracts these forces in the athlete’s active environment.”
Hendricks, now a graduate student at USC, started this project alongside Noorani during his sophomore year at LMU through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. After making a few models of the knee orthotic and testing them using common physical therapy practices, such as motion tests, the team presented at LMU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in spring 2017, and then submitted their paper to the conference.
Working as a team always has benefits especially when led by a faculty member. Noorani specializes in 3-D printing and in rapid prototyping, which is an inexpensive and faster process for building prototypes from three-dimensional computer-aided design drawings. Nevin said that he learned much valuable information from Noorani, and is glad for the positive experience of working with a faculty member.“I learned about the additive manufacturing process known as Fused Deposition Modeling,” Nevin said. “It is a widely used technique in which a thermoplastic material such as polylactic acid, is heated to its melting point and extruded through a nozzle to create the part layer by layer.”
The conference connects scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange their experiences and research results on biomedical applications and equipment. It’s a platform for participants to present the latest innovations, trends and challenges in the field and discuss new ideas. The Best Paper Award is given to the paper that the committee of peer reviewers determines stands out.
Reporter Tiffany Parham is a senior psychology major.