Actuators and Prosthetic Limbs

An actuator is the part of a device or machine that helps the machine achieve physical movement by converting energy into mechanical force. Actuators, specifically artificial muscles or muscle-like actuators, operate very similarly to the muscles in the human body.


The goal of prosthetics is to deliver functionality to the user. Prosthetics not only give the wearer a sense of completion and emotional comfort, but they are also effective in making day-to-day tasks easier.


The first recorded prosthetic is a big toe that belonged to a noblewoman in Egypt. This prosthetic dates between 950 to 710 BCE. This is significant because the big toe was important to Ancient Egyptians. They needed it to wear traditional Egyptian sandals. It could have been cheaper and easier to create a different type of shoe, but this evidence suggests that wearing traditional sandals was important enough to society and identity to create a prosthetic for the big toe.


Today, prosthetics do a similar job of helping people function in society while offering comfort. Despite the development of prosthetics being a slow process, soft actuators have made great strides in the functionality of prosthetics. Because actuators operate similarly to muscles, scientists and medical professionals have been able to create prosthetics that allow the user to take full control of the limb. These advanced features have gone so far as to offer wrist pivoting, opposable thumbs, rotating risks, and temperature sensing capabilities.


Most devices, from your cell phone to your television, utilize actuators. Actuators are the parts of a device that help the device achieve movement by converting energy to mechanical force. Actuators are ever-present in prosthetics, and the combination of technology and innovation has created some of the most advanced artificial limbs.



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