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Design and Fabrication of Pneumatic Actuators for a Soft Ankle Foot Orthosis

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This paper presents the design of a pneumatic actuator for a soft ankle-foot orthosis, called the Multi-material Actuator for Variable Stiffness (MAVS). This pneumatic actuator consists of an inflatable soft fabric actuator fixed between two layers of rigid retainer pieces.

This paper presents the design of a pneumatic actuator for a soft ankle-foot orthosis, called the Multi-material Actuator for Variable Stiffness (MAVS). This pneumatic actuator consists of an inflatable soft fabric actuator fixed between two layers of rigid retainer pieces. The MAVS is designed to be integrated with a soft robotic ankle-foot orthosis (SR-AFO) exosuit to aid in supporting the human ankle in the inversion/eversion directions. This design aims to assist individuals affected with chronic ankle instability (CAI) or other impairments to the ankle joint. The MAVS design is made from compliant fabric materials, layered and constrained by thin rigid retainers to prevent volume increase during actuation. The design was optimized to provide the greatest stiffness and least deflection for a beam positioned as a cantilever with a point load. The design of the MAVS took into account passive stiffness of the actuator when combining rigid and compliant materials so that stiffness is maximized when inflated and minimal when passive. An analytic model of the MAVS was created to evaluate the effects in stiffness observed by varying the ratio in length between the rigid pieces and the soft actuator. The results from the analytic model were compared to experimentally obtained results of the MAVS. The MAVS with the greatest stiffness was observed when the gap between the rigid retainers was smallest and the rigid retainer length was smallest. The MAVS design with the highest stiffness at 100 kPa was determined, which required 26.71 ± 0.06 N to deflect the actuator 20 mm, and a resulting stiffness of 1,335.5 N/m and 9.1% margin of error from the model predictions.

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2020-05

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Lower Limb Gait Simulator Based on a Pure External Force

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For the past two decades, advanced Limb Gait Simulators and Exoskeletons have been developed to improve walking rehabilitation. A Limb Gait Simulator is used to analyze the human step cycle and/or assist a user walking on a treadmill. Most modern

For the past two decades, advanced Limb Gait Simulators and Exoskeletons have been developed to improve walking rehabilitation. A Limb Gait Simulator is used to analyze the human step cycle and/or assist a user walking on a treadmill. Most modern limb gait simulators, such as ALEX, have proven themselves effective and reliable through their usage of motors, springs, cables, elastics, pneumatics and reaction loads. These mechanisms apply internal forces and reaction loads to the body. On the other hand, external forces are those caused by an external agent outside the system such as air, water, or magnets. A design for an exoskeleton using external forces has seldom been attempted by researchers. This thesis project focuses on the development of a Limb Gait Simulator based on a Pure External Force and has proven its effectiveness in generating torque on the human leg. The external force is generated through air propulsion using an Electric Ducted Fan (EDF) motor. Such a motor is typically used for remote control airplanes, but their applications can go beyond this. The objective of this research is to generate torque on the human leg through the control of the EDF engines thrust and the opening/closing of the reverse thruster flaps. This device qualifies as "assist as needed"; the user is entirely in control of how much assistance he or she may want. Static thrust values for the EDF engine are recorded using a thrust test stand. The product of the thrust (N) and the distance on the thigh (m) is the resulting torque. With the motor running at maximum RPM, the highest torque value reached was that of 3.93 (Nm). The motor EDF motor is powered by a 6S 5000 mAh LiPo battery. This torque value could be increased with the usage of a second battery connected in series, but this comes at a price. The designed limb gait simulator demonstrates that external forces, such as air, could have potential in the development of future rehabilitation devices.

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2016-12

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Exoskeletal Hand Fixture for use with Tool Balancing arm for Packing/Warehouse Applications

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Many industries require workers in warehouse and stockroom environments to perform frequent lifting tasks. Over time these repeated tasks can lead to excess strain on the worker's body and reduced productivity. This project seeks to develop an exoskeletal wrist fixture

Many industries require workers in warehouse and stockroom environments to perform frequent lifting tasks. Over time these repeated tasks can lead to excess strain on the worker's body and reduced productivity. This project seeks to develop an exoskeletal wrist fixture to be used in conjunction with a powered exoskeleton arm to aid workers performing box lifting types of tasks. Existing products aimed at improving worker comfort and productivity typically employ either fully powered exoskeleton suits or utilize minimally powered spring arms and/or fixtures. These designs either reduce stress to the user's body through powered arms and grippers operated via handheld controls which have limited functionality, or they use a more minimal setup that reduces some load, but exposes the user's hands and wrists to injury by directing support to the forearm. The design proposed here seeks to strike a balance between size, weight, and power requirements and also proposes a novel wrist exoskeleton design which minimizes stress on the user's wrists by directly interfacing with the object to be picked up. The design of the wrist exoskeleton was approached through initially selecting degrees of freedom and a ROM (range of motion) to accommodate. Feel and functionality were improved through an iterative prototyping process which yielded two primary designs. A novel "clip-in" method was proposed to allow the user to easily attach and detach from the exoskeleton. Designs utilized a contact surface intended to be used with dry fibrillary adhesives to maximize exoskeleton grip. Two final designs, which used two pivots in opposite kinematic order, were constructed and tested to determine the best kinematic layout. The best design had two prototypes created to be worn with passive test arms that attached to the user though a specially designed belt.

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2016-12

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Evaluation of Machine Learning Algorithms for Modeling Therapist Assistance during Gait Rehabilitation

Description

Robotic assisted devices in gait rehabilitation have not seen penetration into clinical settings proportionate to the developments in this field. A possible reason for this is due to the development and evaluation of these devices from a predominantly engineering perspective.

Robotic assisted devices in gait rehabilitation have not seen penetration into clinical settings proportionate to the developments in this field. A possible reason for this is due to the development and evaluation of these devices from a predominantly engineering perspective. One way to mitigate this effect is to further include the principles of neurophysiology into the development of these systems. To further include these principles, this research proposes a method for grounded evaluation of three machine learning algorithms to gain insight on what modeling approaches are able to both replicate therapist assistance and emulate therapist strategies. The algorithms evaluated in this paper include ordinary least squares regression (OLS), gaussian process regression (GPR) and inverse reinforcement learning (IRL). The results show that grounded evaluation is able to provide evidence to support the algorithms at a higher resolution. Also, it was observed that GPR is likely the most accurate algorithm to replicate therapist assistance and to emulate therapist adaptation strategies.

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Date Created
2021

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Characterization of 2D Human Ankle Stiffness during Postural Balance and Walking for Robot-aided Ankle Rehabilitation

Description

The human ankle is a vital joint in the lower limb of the human body. As the point of interaction between the human neuromuscular system and the physical world, the ankle plays important role in lower extremity functions including postural

The human ankle is a vital joint in the lower limb of the human body. As the point of interaction between the human neuromuscular system and the physical world, the ankle plays important role in lower extremity functions including postural balance and locomotion . Accurate characterization of ankle mechanics in lower extremity function is essential not just to advance the design and control of robots physically interacting with the human lower extremities but also in rehabilitation of humans suffering from neurodegenerative disorders.

In order to characterize the ankle mechanics and understand the underlying mechanisms that influence the neuromuscular properties of the ankle, a novel multi-axial robotic platform was developed. The robotic platform is capable of simulating various haptic environments and transiently perturbing the ankle to analyze the neuromechanics of the ankle, specifically the ankle impedance. Humans modulate ankle impedance to perform various tasks of the lower limb. The robotic platform is used to analyze the modulation of ankle impedance during postural balance and locomotion on various haptic environments. Further, various factors that influence modulation of ankle impedance were identified. Using the factors identified during environment dependent impedance modulation studies, the quantitative relationship between these factors, namely the muscle activation of major ankle muscles, the weight loading on ankle and the torque generation at the ankle was analyzed during postural balance and locomotion. A universal neuromuscular model of the ankle that quantitatively relates ankle stiffness, the major component of ankle impedance, to these factors was developed.

This neuromuscular model is then used as a basis to study the alterations caused in ankle behavior due to neurodegenerative disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Stroke. Pilot studies to validate the analysis of altered ankle behavior and demonstrate the effectiveness of robotic rehabilitation protocols in addressing the altered ankle behavior were performed. The pilot studies demonstrate that the altered ankle mechanics can be quantified in the affected populations and correlate with the observed adverse effects of the disability. Further, robotic rehabilitation protocols improve ankle control in affected populations as seen through functional improvements in postural balance and locomotion, validating the neuromuscular approach for rehabilitation.

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Date Created
2020