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Prosthetic Feet for a New Life

Publish On 17, May 2019 | Prosthetic Feet for a New Life

Given basic necessities that allow them to live a normal life, everyone can reach their true potential. For people with disabilities, however, the loss of such important body parts as legs can not only affect how they make a living and fit in society, but also undermine their self-esteem to realize their full potential.





Chemicals Business, SCG and its partners, Dow Thailand Group, the leading Petrochemicals producer and innovative design solution for better quality of life, and Rubber Soul Company Limited, Thailand’s premier shoe designer and manufacturer, recognize the importance of returning opportunities to disable people and voluntarily work for the Prostheses Foundation of H.R.H. the Princess Mother, founded to fulfill H.R.H. Princess Srinagarindra’s aspiration to help these individuals live a normal life and earn a living.


The goal of this collaboration is to help the disable people to live normally in the society again and contribute their forces to develop the country.





First step


Having assisted amputees for over 30 years, the Prostheses Foundation recognizes that the development of equipment and prostheses to enhance their efficiency and durability is of paramount importance. Therefore, it has collaborated with private organizations with relevant capabilities.



Kajohnpong Pusitdhikul, Marketing and Market Intelligence Manager at Dow Thailand Group,



Kajohnpong Pusitdhikul, Marketing and Market Intelligence Manager at Dow Thailand Group, a sponsor of the foundation, related the beginning of this collaborative effort. “Dow has donated its specialty urethane products to the foundation since 1996. In the past, a prosthetic leg was composed of the shin, leg, and foot parts. Dow’s product was a foam pad on the underside of the shin part, which made the prosthetic leg softer.”


The challenge was to develop a new prosthetic foot. Assoc. Prof. Vajara Rujiwetpongstorn, M.D., Board Member and Secretary General of the Prostheses Foundation of H.R.H. the Princess Mother, told Dow that the foundation was looking for a new design with better ergonomics.





“For the design, we give credit to SCG’s team, who was responsible for designing prosthetic feet that were better in quality, more affordable, and most importantly, better ergonomics. With Dow bringing its chemical products to the table, SCG bringing its design expertise, and with the assistance of our business partner Rubber Soul in prosthesis casting, the collaboration thus began. What we are developing with the Prostheses Foundation is new prosthetic feet that could absorb more shock and lend themselves better to daily life use.”


“As we are in the field of medical equipment development, Dow, invited us to join this project with the foundation,” said Supathida Ratanaswasd, Medical and Wellbeing Business Manager at Chemicals Business, SCG.



Supathida Ratanaswasd, Medical and Wellbeing Business Manager at Chemicals Business, SCG



“We would like to thank Dow. This is an excellent opportunity for SCG to make use of our expertise and years of experience in medical equipment development to improve society. Everyone on the team has enjoyed the process so much thanks to the camaraderie and cooperative spirit, which are invaluable. The project will help society and create sustainable results.”


Saran Phooripratya, Managing Director of Rubber Soul Co., Ltd., recounted how the collaborative project began. “Rubber Soul is an expert in rubber sandals and shoes, and a customer of SCG. As prosthetic feet were relatively costly, SCG was trying to manufacture more affordable models. They approached us and asked if we could lend a hand. Therefore, we decided to join the project.”



Towards the goal


Bringing their expertise to the table, the three companies shared a goal of ensuring that people with disabilities can resume normal life. However, to achieve that goal, there were many challenges they had to overcome.





Assoc. Prof. Vajara stated, “imported medical equipment in the past was very costly and therefore unaffordable to many. So, the foundation started producing prosthetic legs domestically and has been developing them ever since. However, we are still encountering some issues. For instance, the polyurethane of the foot component degrades quickly, and the plastic keel might snap if the user is heavy or does a lot of heavy lifting. These are areas that could use some improvements.”





Supathida said, “After our discussion, we planned our working process. Like any product development, we always start with understanding product problem and user need to be able to design appropriate solutions. One of the major problems was the breaking of the keel, the challenge was to make it more durable. However, the challenge could not simply be solved with harder materials, as they could mean more shock to the area and thus more pain for the user. Therefore, we had to select suitable materials. Another challenge was the skills in aesthetic design and engineering design to achieve a model that met industrial standards.


Furthermore, the existing models was permanently fixed. A whole foot would be thrown away if either keel or foot shell was broken, leading to material waste. Therefore, we came up with a modular design with separate keel and foot shell, allowing them to be individually repaired and replaced and thereby reducing wastage.”


Kajohnpong added, “The material that Dow chose for this project is elastomers, an innovation with good impact resistance and resilience, preventing deformation due to temperature. Utilized by leading footwear companies, this material was selected because the foot part was normally subject to impact.”



Saran Phooripratya, Managing Director of Rubber Soul Co., Ltd.



“Dr. Vajara was looking for lightweight, durable, and affordable prosthetic feet that were similar to human feet in properties, affordable and could be easily replaced. This was what Rubber Soul was tasked with. Fortunately, our company had a team that could design a mold and compound materials for the product. So, we could complete the entire process by ourselves,” remarked Saran.



Overcoming obstacles


Once the ball was rolling, each partner encountered different challenges in accordance with their tasks. Throughout the process, however, they regularly discussed their issues and kept forging ahead.





Entrusted with the task of designing the product, SCG’s Supathida said, “the main challenge was the selection of materials, which had to be something we had available and affordable. In the end, we chose a material used in the automotive industry. We also changed the shape of the keel. As the previous C-shaped keel could snap when subject to direct impact, the new design incorporated a hive-like structure and featured an A-shaped keel to promote force distribution. Our final design finally met the industrial standard and was capable of supporting as much as 90 kilograms. In addition, the new prosthetic foot could last for at least 2,000,000 steps, which could accommodate daily use efficiently.”





Saran of Rubber Soul said, “A prosthetic foot normally features a keel in the middle, functioning like a bone in a human foot. If the foot shell is lightweight and soft but not tough enough, the keel can poke out. So, we needed to carefully calculate the weight and toughness of the material and balance this with the cost and quality. Luckily, Dow offered us several products that could be used for this purpose. In addition, SCG also gave us guidance on the design of the keel, while we took care of the foot shell around it. The whole process, from initial drafts to 3D modelling and molding, took us almost a year.”


“The main challenge for us was change management, as everything was changed, from materials and design to casting. Therefore, every step of the process involved new changes and therefore new challenges for the team. Credit is due to the team for always helping each other and finding ways to deal with issues that arose. We also worked closely with the foundation, and after each trial, Dr. Vajara would get back to us with the feedback. As the foundation worked with users of different ages, demand, and lifestyles, our team had to meet regularly to work on the design and material as well as cast new prototypes for more trials. Those were the challenges facing us,” added Kajohnpong.



Walking side by side

          Although responsible for different parts of the project, all the parties worked towards the same goal and supported each other synergistically.



Assoc. Prof. Vajara Rujiwetpongstorn, M.D., Board Member and Secretary General of the Prostheses Foundation of H.R.H. the Princess Mother



“Through this collaborative project with private organizations, we saw their dedication, their equipment readiness, which allowed them to conduct any necessary experiment right away, as well as their knowledge and experience. We were looking for a practical product, not just a new body of knowledge, and SCG, in collaboration with Dow and Rubber Soul, has successfully delivered it,” stated Dr. Vajara.


“All the parties have collaborated actively as we all share the determination to develop the quality of life for people with disabilities and enable them to be reintegrated into society. We hope to see children happy to go to school and adults being able to go back to work. These will all contribute to an increase in our country’s GDP and a better society,” added Kajohnpong, the person who initiated the project.


“In my opinion, effective collaboration depends in large part on the individuals and the organizations involved. As long as all parties do not put themselves at the center and remain open to opinions, I think collaboration is possible, as everyone will be working towards the same goal,” said Saran.


Supathida added, “our team is very honored and proud to have worked with the foundation, Dow, and Rubber Soul. This is a synergistic collaboration in which every party has made use of their expertise to improve society. This development is also sustainable, as the foundation can carry on this process by itself.”



A sense of pride


All the partners are filled with pride that the prosthetic foot is offering a step into the bright future of disable people.


“When I first got on board, I did not expect much. However, once I saw a user wear it, I felt a surge of pride in my profession. I thought that I was just working, but I could see that I was now helping people who couldn’t walk to get back on their feet again. I was very proud. When I showed a video clip to my crew, everyone smiled, proud that they were giving new lives,” said Saran.





“When I saw the patients take their first steps, I was filled with pride and joy. As part of an organization responsible for medical equipment development, nothing could bring me more pride than to see the patient walk with the invention we had developed and say that the product was amazing. That was all I could ever ask for, stated Supathida, on behalf of the design team.


“I am proud of our work, and I can proudly say that this project benefits the country tremendously. We’re helping people who have lost their legs to reenter society and pursue their dreams once again. At the same time, we do not wish to see more patients of this kind. Therefore, it is vital that we raise awareness of safety on the road and in daily life,” added Kajohnpong regarding the prevention of new cases.



The next step


Having accomplished an extraordinary feat, the organizations discuss their future plans and expectations.


“In my eight years at the foundation, I’ve only wanted to provide more opportunities for underprivileged individuals. Apart from prosthetic legs, what I will do next is to initiate activities rooted in the aspirations of H.R.H the Princess Mother, such as local occupational support programs. It was her wish to give people with disabilities better prostheses, better life, and enable them to foster self-reliance,” said Vajara regarding his determination.


“I would like government agencies to recognize the benefits of this product, which is designed and manufactured by Thai companies. This can lead to a new business plan for exporting. The product has proven to tick all the boxes and truly improve the quality of life for patients,” added Kajohnpong on the possibility of developing a national-level business out of the product.


Beyond contributing to the advancement of the world, the innovative product that has been developed is restoring hope and giving a new lease on life to many people. SCG strives to develop more innovations and contributes to a better quality of life for all and sustainable mutual growth.







Keels are made with polypropylene composites (PP composites) from Chemicals Business, SCG. The composites contain fiberglass, which enhances their durability and makes them lightweight.


 Foot shell


The foot shell is made with ethylene vinyl acetate and ENGAGETM polyolefin elastomer, produced by Dow Thailand Group.

In addition to enhanced durability, resilience, and resistance to pressure, the foot shell is tough, flexible, lightweight and aesthetically realistic.


Innovative design


  • The design ensures efficient support and force distribution to prevent keel breakage.
  • The new model features an additional structure locking the keel to the foot shell, allowing the user to take each step with greater confidence.
  • The added polyurethane pad in the sole enhances the flexibility when force is applied and reduces shock.
  • As all parts can be individually replaced, the modular design ensures the maximum useful life of each component.





“Some patients have never walked for 40 years because they have never had access to prostheses. If you go to the prosthesis casting room or see people coming to our foundation early in the morning hoping that they would be able to walk the next day, you’ll understand what I’m doing all this for.”


Assoc. Prof. Vajara Rujiwetpongstorn

M.D., Board Member and Secretary General

 the Prostheses Foundation of H.R.H. the Princess Mother






“The development of this new prosthetic foot gives people with disabilities a new lease on life. The selected materials and the design have reduced the cost by half, enabling the foundation to help more people under the same budget.”  


Supathida Ratanaswasd

Medical and Wellbeing Business Manager

Chemicals Business, SCG







“This project has sparked the development of innovative products that improve quality of life. The new prosthetic leg is an example of innovative products that better meet existing demand.”


Kajohnpong Pusitdhikul

Marketing and Market Intelligence Manager

Dow Thailand Group







“We can see it in their eyes. We saw a five-year-old boy put on the prosthesis and then keep walking back and forth happily. It filled our hearts with joy.”


Saran Phooripratya

Managing Director

Rubber Soul Company Limited







Special thanks to our partners to collaborate on the creation of

this new prosthetic foot for a better quality of life for people with disabilities.






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