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Project Circleg – Appropriate lower-limb prosthetic system made of recycled plastic waste


The project management is responsible for the content of the information provided.


Project Circleg is a research project at the Institute for Design Research of the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).


  • Projekt-Nr: GRS-016/19 
  • Förderbeitrag: CHF 150'000 
  • Bewilligung: 14.01.2019 
  • Dauer: 02.2019 - 10.2021 
  • Handlungsfeld:  First Ventures, seit 2018



Project Circleg is developing an appropriate lower-limb prosthetic system designed for the needs and circumstances of amputees in developing countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 35 to 40 million people globally require prosthetic and orthotic services; 80% of which are living in developing countries where the combination of an affordable and highly functional system is not available. 
Project Circleg aims to reduce this gap through its innovative circular and social business model approach by up-cycling local plastic waste into an affordable high-quality prosthetic leg. This model offers people with lower limb disabilities the opportunity of self-determined mobility - in particular, with regards to access to education, to the labor market and social life. This newfound freedom offers improved prospects for prosperity leading to improved livelihoods and dignity.
Project Circleg will source and produce locally by establishing a system capable of scaling up to meet the needs of this market segment within the region of East Africa. In addition to product supply to distributors such as hospitals, NGOs and orthopedic intermediaries, we shall provide services linked to educational technical training and ‘wear and tear’ spare parts – largely possible thanks to the advanced degree of modularity of our innovative system. Our project focuses on delivering measurable high impact and outcomes for its end-users, while abiding by the forward-looking principles of a circular economy ecosystem, thus accounting for environmental, social, governance and technological considerations. Project Circleg contributes to 10 out of 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with a core emphasis on freedom of choice for self-determined mobility. 

Was ist das Besondere an diesem Projekt?

Compared to other solutions, the Circleg is unique in three innovative aspects being the high functionality and comfort, affordability and sustainability.
By high functionality and comfort, we mean the reproducibility of the biomechanical characteristics of the physiological limb, to fulfill the aesthetics, environmental and cultural requirements and needs of amputees in the countries of implementation. The Circleg prosthetic system is a modular, functional, aesthetic and affordable prosthetic leg for above- and below-knee amputees. It is composed of three components: the polycentric knee joint, a pylon, and a dynamic foot, designed and engineered to reproduce the biomechanical characteristics of the physiological limb. It allows both squatting and kneeling, movements supporting important everyday activities. It is made of reinforced and certified recycled polypropylene (PP), meeting the high-performance requirements of a lower-limb prosthesis while being very lightweight yet sturdy, significantly improving user comfort. The modular design enables the repair of ‘wear and tear’ and the replacement of broken components, reducing time and cost for both the technicians and amputees. The prosthetic will be fitted and aligned following the standards by the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO). Together with the prosthetic, we will provide training to local technicians, to facilitate the system adoption. Local technicians are actively involved in the design process. Of central importance for the affordability is the user-centered design: the modularity ensures the individual adaptation of the Circleg prosthetic system to the user in terms of size, level of activity and colour while reducing the price and time required for the production and repair of parts. This is possible due to the combination, in the prosthetic system, of standard parts that confer a solid and stable structure and of adaptable parts that are easier to exchange and to replace. Moreover, the local access to the materials and on-site manufacturing of the prosthesis allows a lower dependence on material availability and contribute to the local economy. This is also an essential aspect regarding the circular economy which is the sustainable aspect of Project Circleg. The low-cost, high-quality and local production will be done in collaboration with local recycling and production companies in the countries of implementation and set the basis for a product meeting the global standards established by the WHO.


Project Circleg has successfully developed a functional lower-limb prototype which is producible out of recycled plastics. This development is the base for the industrialization and implementation of the Circleg System in the East African region, for which we could develop a viable business model for establishing a healthy social enterprise.
With Project Circleg, we participated in various events to enhance visibility and to share our story. This was also taken up and published by international media as well as on various social media channels. In the meantime, the Project Circleg team has grown to 7 people with different professional backgrounds and set up a subsidiary Circleg base Nairobi, Kenya.


Max Calabrò, Master Thesis at ETH Zurich, May 2021, Evaluation and Improvement of an Adjustable Low-Cost Prosthetic Foot;
Simone Battaglia, Semester Thesis at FHNW, December 2019, Materialcharakterisierung für eine Beinprothese in Entwicklungsländern;
Lukas Drosten, swissfuture – Magazin für Zukunftsmonitoring: Zukunft der Behinderung November 2019, Ganzheitlicher Ansatz zur selbstbestimmten Mobilität;
Rahel Egli, Master Thesis at ETH Zurich, September 2019, Development of a concept for an appropriate prosthetic knee joint in the context of low-income countries



Am Projekt beteiligte Personen

Fabian Engel, Project Manager and co-founder
Simon Oschwald, co-founder
Laura Magni, product development
Daniel Vafi, product & strategy development
Nicole Colmenares Pulido, business and finance development
Martina Horber, communication manager
Shammah Wema, stakeholder management

Letzte Aktualisierung dieser Projektdarstellung  21.04.2022