WDS Refurbish Long-Lasting HydraClamps to Provide a Further 20 Years of Service in Prosthetics Development

The development of prosthetic limb design and manufacturing techniques is crucial to improving the comfort and quality of life for thousands of people across the UK. During manufacture the plaster which is used can easily ingress into the seals of the workholding equipment, rendering it unreliable and in need of replacement. This is why a leading research centre uses HydraClamps from WDS; after 20 years of continuous operation a simple refurbishment is all that was required to ensure continued functionality.

University of Salford, Manchester, is one of only two universities in the UK where students can learn prosthetic design. It is home to a leading prosthetics development department where postgraduates are able to use the high-tech facilities to carry out research which helps to drive the technology forward. The facilities include a workshop where students can improve their manufacturing techniques and prototype limbs can be built.

Precision is the key to making prosthetics which are comfortable to wear and effective in improving the patient’s day-to-day quality of life. Unfortunately it is common for the plaster which is used during manufacture to penetrate the seals of the clamps which hold the prosthetics in place and cause damage. If the clamps become unreliable and allow even a few millimetres of slip then they need to be replaced, which can become costly.

Understanding the importance of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) savings, the prosthetics department was keen to find a clamping solution which could survive for extended periods in the messy environment and reduce the need for replacement or repair. Having investigated the market it was decided that HydraClamps, part of the Spencer Franklin range from WDS, would offer the ideal solutions.

A spokesman for the University comments: “Prosthetic limbs are totally unique to each individual and absolute accuracy is essential to ensure that the mechanics of the design work efficiently with the user’s own body dimensions. We found that the plaster that we work with can easily seep into the moving parts of equipment and quickly cause damage. We rely on the clamps to keep the prosthetics absolutely still while we work - so we chose a clamp that is effectively sealed and offers long lasting reliability. Opting for the HydraClamps has proven to be a wise decision; after 20 years of continuous service they are only now in need of a minor refurbishment to keep them operational.”

The WDS HydraClamp is a 360 degree clamping device. Ideal for wood carving, woodworking, tool making, dental training, jewellery making, assembly and repair applications or electrical / circuit board assembly.

The HydraClamp range of innovative hydraulic clamping products allows users to exert a constant and precise pressure to hold objects in position during manufacturing and machining operations. Available in a range of sizes, the smaller SF-1400 HydraClamp is used by the university as it is ideally suited to worktop applications; it is operated by a hand screw which allows pressure to be applied in accordance to the requirements of the load; or alternatively a foot operated pneumatic release kit is available.

The SF-1400 range is fitted with a pre-optive safety sleeve which controls pressure release when adjusting position of the work piece. The sleeve also provides for a degree of sustained pressure when the application requires it and ensures the load doesn’t suddenly drop from position. The clamping mechanism is extremely adjustable, it uses a short ball arm to keep the height of work above bench level to a minimum (a long ball arm model is available) which avoids any needless loss of loading capacity. 360 degree holding is possible, which improves access to all areas of the held object, and a max. load of 45kg can be held 300mm from the ball centre at 45 degrees.

John Marshall, Technical Engineer for WDS, explains: “The HydraClamp range is designed to provide an easy clamping solution which delivers exact pressures time and again, even in the toughest of environments. The HydraClamp is designed and assembled to protect the internals from outside contaminants which ensures a long life for the product.”

Since the HydraClamps were first installed over 20 years ago they have been in regular use on an almost daily basis. Despite regular cleaning of the work area it was inevitable that dried plaster accumulated on the equipment over the years, despite this the clamps have continued to perform reliably, and a recent refurbishment is the only maintenance that’s been required.

John continues: “The HydraClamps have performed admirably in the application, especially when you consider the constant use that they have been subjected to. The recent refurbishment saw us clean down the products entirely and replace the seal. We then gave them a re-spray for added protection and put them back in place. I see no reason why they won’t last another 20 years.”