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DEVELOPMENT OF A SOFT ROBOTIC THIRD ARM

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For my thesis I worked in ASU’s Bio-Inspired Mechatronics lab on a project lead by PhD student Pham H. Nguyen (Berm) to develop an assistive soft robotic supernumerary limb. I contributed to the design and evaluation of two prototypes: the

For my thesis I worked in ASU’s Bio-Inspired Mechatronics lab on a project lead by PhD student Pham H. Nguyen (Berm) to develop an assistive soft robotic supernumerary limb. I contributed to the design and evaluation of two prototypes: the silicon based Soft Poly Limb (SPL) and one bladder-based fabric arm, the fabric Soft Poly Limb (fSPL). For both arms I was responsible for the design of 3D printed components (molds, end caps, etc.) as well as the evaluation of the completed prototypes by comparing the actual performance of the arms to the finite element predictions. I contributed to the writing of two published papers describing the design and evaluation of the two arms. After the completion of the fSPL I attempted to create a quasi-static model of the actuators driving the fSPL.

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2019-05

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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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The Design, Fabrication, and Testing of a New Design of Soft Robotic Module Using Knit FRTAs

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For the basis of this project, a particular interest is taken in soft robotic arms for the assistance of daily living tasks. A detailed overview and function of the soft robotic modules comprised within the soft robotic arm will be

For the basis of this project, a particular interest is taken in soft robotic arms for the assistance of daily living tasks. A detailed overview and function of the soft robotic modules comprised within the soft robotic arm will be the main focus. In this thesis, design and fabrication methods of fabric reinforced textile actuators (FRTAs) have their design expanded. Original design changes to the actuators that improve their performance are detailed in this report. This report also includes an explanation of how the FRTA’s are made, explaining step by step how to make each sub-assembly and explain its function. Comparisons between the presented module and the function of the soft poly limb from previous works are also expanded. Various forms of testing, such as force testing, range of motion testing, and stiffness testing are conducted on the soft robotic module to provide insights into its performance and characteristics. Lastly, present plans for various forms of future work and integration of the soft robotic module into a full soft robotic arm assembly are discussed.

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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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Model Driven Design Optimization and Gait Selection of Compliant Foldable Robots

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This dissertation studies the methods to enhance the performance of foldable robots manufactured by laminated techniques. This class of robots are unique in their manufacturing process, which involves cutting and staking up thin layers of different materials with various

This dissertation studies the methods to enhance the performance of foldable robots manufactured by laminated techniques. This class of robots are unique in their manufacturing process, which involves cutting and staking up thin layers of different materials with various stiffness. While inheriting the advantages of soft robots -- low weight, affordable manufacturing cost and a fast prototyping process -- a wider range of actuators is available to these mechanisms, while modeling their behavior requires less computational cost.The fundamental question this dissertation strives to answer is how to decode and leverage the effect of material stiffness in these robots. These robots' stiffness is relatively limited due to their slender design, specifically at larger scales. While compliant robots may have inherent advantages such as being safer to work around, this low rigidity makes modeling more complex. This complexity is mostly contained in material deformation since the conventional actuators such as servo motors can be easily leveraged in these robots. As a result, when introduced to real-world environments, efficient modeling and control of these robots are more achievable than conventional soft robots.
Various approaches have been taken to design, model, and control a variety of laminate robot platforms by investigating the effect of material deformation in prototypes while they interact with their working environments. The results obtained show that data-driven approaches such as experimental identification and machine learning techniques are more reliable in modeling and control of these mechanisms. Also, machine learning techniques for training robots in non-ideal experimental setups that encounter the uncertainties of real-world environments can be leveraged to find effective gaits with high performance. Our studies on the effect of stiffness of thin, curved sheets of materials has evolved into introducing a new class of soft elements which we call Soft, Curved, Reconfigurable, Anisotropic Mechanisms (SCRAMs). Like bio-mechanical systems, SCRAMs are capable of re-configuring the stiffness of curved surfaces to enhance their performance and adaptability. Finally, the findings of this thesis show promising opportunities for foldable robots to become an alternative for conventional soft robots since they still offer similar advantages in a fraction of computational expense.

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2021

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Soft Wearable Robotics for Ankle and Lower Body Gait Rehabilitation: Design, Modeling, and Implementation of Fabric-Based Actuators to Assist Human Locomotion

Description

This work presents the design, modeling, analysis, and experimental characterization and testing of soft wearable robotics for lower limb rehabilitation for the ankle and hip. The Soft Robotic Ankle-Foot Orthosis (SR-AFO) is a wearable soft robot designed using multiple pneumatically-powered

This work presents the design, modeling, analysis, and experimental characterization and testing of soft wearable robotics for lower limb rehabilitation for the ankle and hip. The Soft Robotic Ankle-Foot Orthosis (SR-AFO) is a wearable soft robot designed using multiple pneumatically-powered soft actuators to assist the ankle in multiple degrees-of-freedom during standing and walking tasks. The flat fabric pneumatic artificial muscle (ff-PAM) contracts upon pressurization and assists ankle plantarflexion in the sagittal plane. The Multi-material Actuator for Variable Stiffness (MAVS) aids in supporting ankle inversion/eversion in the frontal plane. Analytical models of the ff-PAM and MAVS were created to understand how the changing of the design parameters affects tensile force generation and stiffness support, respectively. The models were validated by both finite element analysis and experimental characterization using a universal testing machine. A set of human experiments were performed with healthy participants: 1) to measure lateral ankle support during quiet standing, 2) to determine lateral ankle support during walking over compliant surfaces, and 3) to evaluate plantarflexion assistance at push-off during treadmill walking, and 4) determine if the SR-AFO could be used for gait entrainment. Group results revealed increased ankle stiffness during quiet standing with the MAVS active, reduced ankle deflection while walking over compliant surfaces with the MAVS active, and reduced muscle effort from the SOL and GAS during 40 - 60% of the gait cycle with the dual ff-PAM active. The SR-AFO shows promising results in providing lateral ankle support and plantarflexion assistance with healthy participants, and a drastically increased basin of entrainment, which suggests a capability to help restore the gait of impaired users in future trials. The ff-PAM actuators were used in an X-orientation to assist the hip in flexion and extension. The Soft Robotic Hip Exosuit (SR-HExo) was evaluated using the same set of actuators and trials with healthy participants showed reduction in muscle effort during hip flexion and extension to further enhance the study of soft fabric actuators on human gait assistance.

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2021