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.
What is special about the project?
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 consists of two adapters, a knee joint, a pylon and a foot with an ankle joint. The two adapters enable the individual adaptation to the body alignment of the user, allowing a proper fitting and use of the prosthesis. The ankle joint allows a squatting position and thus, the use of a squat toilet, which is common in many developing countries. The polycentric knee joint is equipped with a protective cap and a mechanism which swings the leg forward while walking to allow a kneeling position and prevent dangerous trip hazards. Thanks to the use of recycled polypropylene, the Circleg below-knee prosthesis for adults only weighs 1.5 kg – substantially less than existing low-cost prostheses and therefore significantly improving comfort.
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 prototype of the Circleg prosthetic system which was tested in several iterations. Three different testing methodologies have been performed: (1) the feedback of users and orthopaedic technicians, (2) the structural testing in static and dynamic conditions and (3) analysis with engineering software. However, the development has not yet been completed. In the coming period, the functional Circleg prototype will be optimised and industrialised for series production.
With Project Circleg, we participated in various events to enhance visibility and to share our story. This was also taken up and published by different media as well as on social media. In the meantime, the Project Circleg team has grown to 6 people with different professional backgrounds.
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.
Persons involved in the project
, Project Manager and Co-FounderSimon Oschwald
Laura Magni, product development
Daniel Vafi, product & strategy development
Gregoire Stefan, business and finance development
Sarah Schott, communication manager
Last update to this project presentation 16.12.2020