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Soft Robotics: A Quasi-Passive Knee Brace to Assist in Lifting

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This research evaluated soft robotic knee brace designs that were intended to reduce the risk of injury, chronic pain, and osteoarthritis in laborers tasked with repetitive lifting. A soft robotic quasi-passive system was proposed due to energy efficiency, comfortability, and

This research evaluated soft robotic knee brace designs that were intended to reduce the risk of injury, chronic pain, and osteoarthritis in laborers tasked with repetitive lifting. A soft robotic quasi-passive system was proposed due to energy efficiency, comfortability, and weight. The researcher developed three quasi-passive knee brace systems that would store energy when the user attempted a squat lift and release the energy when the user stood up. The first design focused on using clamped layered leaf springs to create an increased resistive force when the user bends at the knee. The researchers found that because of the unideal clamping of the springs the design failed to produce a significant increase to the forces the user experienced. The second design used a change in length of the layered leaf springs to provide a significant change in force. Through simple tests, the researchers found that the design did create a change in force significant enough to warrant further testing of the design in the future. The third and final design was inspired by a previous honors thesis by Ryan Bellman, this design used pre-stretched elastic bands to create an increased bending moment. Through experimental testing, the researchers found that the elastic bands created a factor increase of 8 from a non-loaded test. Further work would include prototyping a knee brace design and developing a method to allow the user to stretch and unstretch the elastic bands at will. In conclusion, design 2 and design 3 have the potential to significantly increase the well being of workers and increase their knee longevity.

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2019-05

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ROBOTIC SHOE: AN ANKLE ASSISTIVE DEVICE FOR GAIT PLANTAR FLEXION ASSISTANCE

Description

The mean age of the world’s population is rapidly increasing and with that growth in an aging population a large number of elderly people are in need of walking assistance. In addition, a number of medical conditions contribute to gait

The mean age of the world’s population is rapidly increasing and with that growth in an aging population a large number of elderly people are in need of walking assistance. In addition, a number of medical conditions contribute to gait disorders that require gait rehabilitation. Wearable robotics can be used to improve functional outcomes in the gait rehabilitation process. The ankle push-off phase of an individual’s gait is vital to their ability to walk and propel themselves forward. During the ankle push-off phase of walking, plantar flexors are required to providing a large amount of force to power the heel off the ground.

The purpose of this project is to improve upon the passive ankle foot orthosis originally designed in the ASU’s Robotics and Intelligent Systems Laboratory (RISE Lab). This device utilizes springs positioned parallel to the user’s Achilles tendon which store energy to be released during the push off phase of the user’s gait cycle. Goals of the project are to improve the speed and reliability of the ratchet and pawl mechanism, design the device to fit a wider range of shoe sizes, and reduce the overall mass and size of the device. The resulting system is semi-passive and only utilizes a single solenoid to unlock the ratcheting mechanism when the spring’s potential force is required. The device created also utilizes constant force springs rather than traditional linear springs which allows for a more predictable level of force. A healthy user tested the device on a treadmill and surface electromyography (sEMG) sensors were placed on the user’s plantar flexor muscles to monitor potential reductions in muscular activity resulting from the assistance provided by the AFO device. The data demonstrates the robotic shoe was able to assist during the heel-off stage and reduced activation in the plantar flexor muscles was evident from the EMG data collected. As this is an ongoing research project, this thesis will also recommend possible design upgrades and changes to be made to the device in the future. These upgrades include utilizing a carbon fiber or lightweight plastic frame such as many of the traditional ankle foot-orthosis sold today and introducing a system to regulate the amount of spring force applied as a function of the force required at specific times of the heel off gait phase.

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Date Created
2019-12

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Lower Limb Gait Simulator Based on a Pure External Force

Description

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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Date Created
2016-12

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

Description

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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Date Created
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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Development of a Novel Low Inertia Exoskeleton Device for Characterizing the Neuromuscular Properties of the Human Shoulder

Description

The human shoulder plays an integral role in upper limb motor function. As the basis of arm motion, its performance is vital to the accomplishment of daily tasks. Impaired motor control, as a result of stroke or other disease, can

The human shoulder plays an integral role in upper limb motor function. As the basis of arm motion, its performance is vital to the accomplishment of daily tasks. Impaired motor control, as a result of stroke or other disease, can cause errors in shoulder position to accumulate and propagate to the entire arm. This is why it is a highlight of concern for clinicians and why it is an important point of study. One of the primary causes of impaired shoulder motor control is abnormal mechanical joint impedance, which can be modeled as a 2nd order system consisting of mass, spring and damper. Quantifying shoulder stiffness and damping between healthy and impaired subjects could help improve our collective understanding of how many different neuromuscular diseases impact arm performance. This improved understanding could even lead to better rehabilitation protocols for conditions such as stroke through better identification and targeting of damping dependent spasticity and stiffness dependent hypertonicity. Despite its importance, there is a fundamental knowledge gap in the understanding of shoulder impedance, mainly due to a lack of appropriate characterization tools. Therefore, in order to better quantify shoulder stiffness and damping, a novel low-inertia shoulder exoskeleton is introduced in this work. The device was developed using a newly pioneered parallel actuated robot architecture specifically designed to interface with complex biological joints like the shoulder, hip, wrist and ankle. In addition to presenting the kinematics and dynamics of the shoulder exoskeleton, a series of validation experiments are performed on a human shoulder mock-up to quantify its ability to estimate known impedance properties. Finally, some preliminary data from human experiments is provided to demonstrate the device’s ability to collect the measurements needed to estimate shoulder stiffness and damping while worn by a subject.

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Date Created
2020

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Design and Development of Exoskeletons for Squatting, Gait Assistance, and Fall Prevention Applications

Description

This research seeks to present the design and testing of exoskeletons capable of assisting with walking gait, squatting, and fall prevention activities. The dissertation introduces wearable
robotics and exoskeletons and then progresses into specific applications and developments in the
targeted

This research seeks to present the design and testing of exoskeletons capable of assisting with walking gait, squatting, and fall prevention activities. The dissertation introduces wearable
robotics and exoskeletons and then progresses into specific applications and developments in the
targeted field. Following the introduction, chapters present and discuss different wearable
exoskeletons built to address known issues with workers and individuals with increased risk of fall.
The presentation is concluded by an overall analysis of the resulting developments and identifying
future work in the field.

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Date Created
2021

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Development of an Aerial Porter Exoskeleton and Exoskeleton Standardization Metrics

Description

As the world moves towards faster production times, quicker shipping, and overall, more demanding schedules, the humans caught in the loop are subject to physical duress causing them to physically break down and have muscular skeletal injuries. Surprisingly, with more

As the world moves towards faster production times, quicker shipping, and overall, more demanding schedules, the humans caught in the loop are subject to physical duress causing them to physically break down and have muscular skeletal injuries. Surprisingly, with more automation in logistics houses, the remaining workers must be quicker and do more, again resulting in muscular-skeletal injuries. To help alleviate this strain, a class of robotics and wearables has arisen wherein the human is assisted by a worn mechanical device. These devices, traditionally called exoskeletons, fall into two general categories: passive and active. Passive exoskeletons employ no electronics to activate their assistance and instead typically rely on the spring-like qualities of many materials. These are generally lighter weight than their active counterparts, but also lack the assistive power and can even interfere in other routine operations. Active exoskeletons, on the other hand, aim to avoid as much interference as possible by using electronics and power to assist the wearer. Properly executed, this can deliver power at the most opportune time and disengage from interference when not needed. However, if the tuning is mismatched from the human, it can unintentionally increase loads and possibly lead to other future injuries or harm. This dissertation investigates exoskeleton technology from two vantage points: the designer and the consumer. In the first, the creation of the Aerial Porter Exoskeleton (APEx) for the US Air Force (USAF). Testing of this first of its kind exoskeleton revealed a peak metabolic savings of 8.13% as it delivers 30 N-m of torque about each hip. It was tested extensively in live field conditions over 8 weeks to great success. The second section is an exploration of different commercially available exoskeletons and the development of a common set of standards/testing protocols is described. The results show a starting point for a set of standards to be used in a rapidly growing sector.

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Date Created
2021