by Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR (RIA)
As I sat in the airport and contemplated the last few days at RIA’s Robotic Grinding, Deburring & Finishing Workshop, from my chair I saw a news story about a double amputee from California who returned to his job this month on two “bionic legs.” Lately, the difference between robotics and other technology has become blurry, and while this wasn’t a story about robots, I have seen cases where prosthetics (i.e., bionic legs) and robotics were linked.
This man was a California police officer whose job is physically demanding. He had to get back into patrolman shape under circumstances that would challenge many of us to simply lose weight and get our motivation back after months of suffering and immobility. His story is an inspiration.
He is no cyborg, although he deserves credit for superhuman effort. There may come a time when artificial limbs have robotic attributes, but you don’t have to look into the future to find examples of robots used to help people walk again. For example, they are used right now to polish replacement joints for hips and knees.
It turns out there could be life after death for these robotically finished joints.
In a very serendipitous moment during our Workshop, one of our speakers bumped into someone from another conference about “Joint Replacement” and got the scoop. Dick Hewitt met a doctor who has a vision to take replacement joints from cadavers and reuse them in people where the standard of living is lower and new technology isn’t easily supported by prevailing economic conditions.
You’ve heard of organ donation, right? Why not recover perfectly good artificial joints? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Apparently, artificial joints are made in specific groups of sizes, a tidbit that was explained to me by people at our Workshop who are from Stryker. Patients are fitted with a joint that was made for their size range.
As a point of clarity, the Joint Conference going on at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis at the same time as ours had nothing to do with artificial joints. In fact, the focus was on cell replacement therapy, or some aspect of that topic. However, the attendees for their conference, just like our own attendees, have a wide range of experience in many areas which can lead to unanticipated exchanges of ideas and insights.
So, just as there may not be a direct connection between the cop with “bionic legs” and robotic grinding and polishing, there are some threads that could lead you to consider the possibilities. And while you may not expect to find a medical doctor in the same place as an engineer who uses robots, let alone one with thoughts on how to recycle used joints that were polished by a robot, it can happen. In a way, that is one of the things we strive for with our workshops. We hope to mix you with other professionals of different backgrounds whose work and experience might inspire you to find new ways to use robots and become more successful with them.
To all our attendees, I hope we helped you find new ways to look at your processes and robot applications. In fact, I hope you made connections that you can use to be more successful in your career and in solving your problems. Good luck and thank you for attending!