Design and Control of a Quasi-Direct Drive Soft Hybrid Knee Exoskeleton for Injury Prevention during Squatting

by   Shuangyue Yu, et al.

This paper presents a new design approach of wearable robots that tackle the three barriers to mainstay practical use of exoskeletons, namely discomfort, weight of the device, and symbiotic control of the exoskeleton-human co-robot system. The hybrid exoskeleton approach, demonstrated in a soft knee industrial exoskeleton case, mitigates the discomfort of wearers as it aims to avoid the drawbacks of rigid exoskeletons and textile-based soft exosuits. Quasi-direct drive actuation using high-torque density motors minimizes the weight of the device and presents high backdrivability that does not restrict natural movement. We derive a biomechanics model that is generic to both squat and stoop lifting motion. The control algorithm symbiotically detects posture using compact inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors to generate an assistive profile that is proportional to the biological torque generated from our model. Experimental results demonstrate that the robot exhibits 1.5 Nm torque when it is unpowered and 0.5 Nm torque with zero-torque tracking control. The efficacy of injury prevention is demonstrated with one healthy subject. Root mean square (RMS) error of torque tracking is less than 0.29 Nm (1.21 torque) for 50 exoskeleton, the maximum amplitude of the knee extensor muscle activity (rectus femoris) measured by Electromyography (EMG) sensors is reduced by 30 assistance of biological torque.


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