Knee Compliance Reduces Peak Swing Phase Collision Forces in a Lower-Limb Exoskeleton Leg: A Test Bench Evaluation

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Schrade, Stefan O
Menner, Marcel
Shirota, Camila
Winiger, Peter
Stutz, Alex
Zeilinger, Melanie N
Lambercy, Olivier
Gassert, Roger
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2021
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Abstract

Powered lower limb exoskeletons are a viable solution for people with a spinal cord injury to regain mobility for their daily activities. However, the commonly employed rigid actuation and pre-programmed trajectories increase the risk of falling in case of collisions with external objects. Compliant actuation may reduce forces during collisions, thus protecting hardware and user. However, experimental data of collisions specific to lower limb exoskeletons are not available. In this work, we investigated how a variable stiffness actuator at the knee joint influences collision forces transmitted to the user via the exoskeleton. In a test bench experiment, we compared three configurations of an exoskeleton leg with a variable stiffness knee actuator in (i) compliant or (ii) stiff configurations, and with (iii) a rigid actuator. The peak torque observed at the pelvis was reduced from 260.2 Nm to 116.2 Nm as stiffness decreased. In addition, the mechanical impulse was reduced by a factor of three. These results indicate that compliance in the knee joint of an exoskeleton can be favorable in case of collision and should be considered when designing powered lower limb exoskeletons. Overall, this could decrease the effort necessary to maintain balance after a collision, and improved collision handling in exoskeletons could result in safer use and benefit their usefulness in daily life.

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IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
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© 2021 IEEE. Personal use of this material is permitted. Permission from IEEE must be obtained for all other uses, in any current or future media, including reprinting/republishing this material for advertising or promotional purposes, creating new collective works, for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or reuse of any copyrighted component of this work in other works.
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Biomedical engineering
Science & Technology
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Engineering, Biomedical
Engineering
Exoskeletons
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Schrade, SO; Menner, M; Shirota, C; Winiger, P; Stutz, A; Zeilinger, MN; Lambercy, O; Gassert, R, Knee Compliance Reduces Peak Swing Phase Collision Forces in a Lower-Limb Exoskeleton Leg: A Test Bench Evaluation, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 2021, 68 (2), pp. 535-544
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