Parallel, Modular Fabric Actuators for a 2-DOF Pneumatic Sleeve

by   Rainier Natividad, et al.

The shoulder is responsible for the movement of the entire upper limb. It is capable of articulating in three degrees-of-freedom (DOF), enabling the arm to perform manipulation actions with incomparable dexterity. Exoskeletons targeting the shoulder must be able to emulate its complex kinematics. While typical architectures have proven to be useful, they employ complex and usually inadequate techniques to match the mobility of the shoulder. A new 2-DOF soft robotic shoulder exoskeleton is presented. Modular soft robotic actuators with separated inflation modules on the exoskeleton are able to emulate the humerus' natural movement. These actuators were organized into two antagonistic pairs and operate in a parallel configuration. We present the design and functionality of the actuators powering the exoskeleton. The actuator design enables it to perform 3-D bending with insignificant resistance. We measured its performance through a series of static and dynamic tests. Depending on the configuration, the actuator can generate up to a maximum torque of 15.54 N-m and can respond with a minimum rise time of  2s when excited by a step input. We demonstrated its ability to perform assistance of shoulder movements. It is capable of reaching any point on the humerus' workspace from any starting position.



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