Finalist 2023


PhysiPal Pty Ltd / Design + Industry (D+I) / Design Junkies

SafeFlex enables safe, effective, clinician-grade therapy to rehabilitate knee movement after surgery, at home.

SafeFlex allows for safe and effective home therapy to improve knee movement after surgery. An ergonomic handle applies clinician-grade movement therapy to improve joint movement, and the stylish and comfortable design encourages the user to complete their exercises. All features pivot around the SafeFlex patented hinge design that bends in line with natural knee movement - increasing effectiveness of the therapy and comfort for the user.

Design Brief:

1 in 6 Australians have a knee replacement and 20% of people are unhappy with their outcome. Knee rehabilitation is a painful and difficult process, and patients are required to independently complete a large portion of their rehabilitation for months after their surgery. The gaps in touch points create barriers to effective rehabilitation, and many patients cease to make progress without direct clinician guidance.

Project SafeFlex aimed to create a device that could be used independently of any clinician, to facilitate the hands-on therapy and guidance provided in face-to-face intervention, briding the gap between clinical appointments. The final product would need to be affordable, and accessible to the target population of largely 60+ year-old retirees.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Stage 1: Discovery and Concepts

  • End-to-end map out of the problem including customer experience research, workflow and interaction studies
  • Analysis of all stakeholder needs
  • Brainstorming and workshopping potential solutions

Stage 2: Proof of Concept

  • Selection of favoured design per features
  • Marrying these together in 3D CAD, simulation, and physical mock-up

Stage 3: Requirements

  • Research in relevant regulatory requirements
  • Feedback into design to reduce regulatory burden of final product

The design accomplishes all required features to execute on the requirements.

Design Excellence

From the ground up, design of of SafeFlex has had effectiveness and accessibility at the forefront. PhysiPal engaged D+I due to their excellent track record in this field creating synergy with PhysiPal's direction for SafeFlex.

UX - SafeFlex is independently don-doffable, lightweight, ergonomic in active and passive therapy modes, and easy to use - it requires below-average strength, and coordination to use, and it is comfortable enough to use despite the unavoidable painful nature of knee rehabilitation. SafeFlex has safeguards built in to prevent overworking the knee in different aspects.

The target user has many needs and nuances to consider, this has been considered from the beginning of the design. The user will be in pain, and will likely be elderly and overweight. These are all factors considered to create as comfortable as possible, and easy to use for all capacities. This was a key factor in deciding to forgo a connected device and create an analogue mechanism that caters to all abilities.

Design Innovation

There have been many attempts to solve this problem, with increasing technological availability, most competing attempts have steered towards adding more bells and whistles, which create unaffordable products that are difficult to use for the target demographic, and often have lost sight of the evidence-based requirements for effective therapy.

We have flipped the notion on it's head that more tech is better, and taken the approach of building SafeFlex to be as accessible as possible, from ease of use to affordability. We have kept the clinical process at the center of the design, and used creative thinking and reasoning to determine ways to solve functional problems using analogue techniques.

The result is a truly unique design that is affordable and accessible to the target-user, with patents for the hinge mechanism and unique use of gear reduction mechanisms to create clinician-grade therapy in a natural knee biomechanic.

Design Impact

Project SafeFlex will positively affect the lives of all people that are needing to rehabilitate their knee after surgery. Further to this, project SafeFlex lays the groundwork to create a line of rehabilitation devices that prioritse accessibility and clinical-impact based on our established design-thinking model and mechanical patent.

SafeFlex is simple and lightweight, this ensures a limitation on the volume of material required. Furthermore, the design of SafeFlex lends itself to the use of recycled and recyclable materials.
Victoria is at the forefront of art, design, and all things creativity. In creating SafeFlex we have engaged with a local powerhouse of industrial design in D+I, and comissioned work through an up-and-coming employer of female artists in Design Junkies. The final product is an embodiment of the creativity and social nature of our state in its unique solution, aesthetics, and accessibility.

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