Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products has announced the introduction of NONSPEC, a talented group of engineering students from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, who are developing breakthrough prosthetics technologies aimed at making arm and hand devices.

These students just may revolutionize the prosthetics industry by utilizing medical grade plastics to take the place of heavier and more expensive metal components for the skeletal portion of the prosthesis.

Their innovations have yielded an advanced device that can be manufactured for a much lower cost, making them more financially accessible to patients – especially within the pediatric prosthetics market.

The NONSPEC team began by evaluating the functionality and cosmetic deficiencies in the most common pediatric claw-type devices. Then they began development on a prototype designed to be more durable and cosmetically appealing, functional like a real hand, addressed growth adjustment, yet was inexpensive to produce.

The device can be weighted to allow a patient to develop balanced muscles and a normal spinal curve.

The first prototype was operated via a computer system, using components from children’s toys, string, and Play-Doh.

From this initial testing phase, their innovations were born.

NONSPEC team vice president and plastics engineering student Erin Keaney noted by using advanced injection molded plastics, they increased quality and traceability.

"That, in addition to eliminating unnecessary parts, reduces manufacturing cost which means less cost to patients," Keaney added.

While the majority of hand and arm prosthetics can cost upwards of a few hundred to even thousands of dollars, NONSPEC aims to bring their devices to market at $20 per unit.

In material selection, the NONSPEC team relied upon the expertise of the Life Sciences division of plastics distributor, Total Plastics, and advanced plastics and polymer manufacturer, Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products.

Originally considering PEEK materials, distributor expertise and support from Quadrant’s online Material Selection Tool helped the team find a more appropriate solution.

NONSPEC team CEO and mechanical engineering student Jonathan Perez de Alderete noted their design is unique because it can expand to fit a child as they grow which greatly reduces the purchase of multiple devices while maintaining a natural shape and feel.

"Children outgrow prosthetics like they would shoes.

"From a mechanical engineering background I never thought plastics would work.

"It was Erin, with help from Total Plastics, who discovered that using Quadrant PC 1000 (polycarbonate) and Quadrant Nylon 101 PA66 materials cut the weight by 1/3rd, was more versatile, and was stronger and more durable during machining than aluminum," Alderete added.

Currently in the testing stage, they hope to launch clinical trials by early 2014, while finishing the remaining college classes.