Latest Papers

ASME Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics

  • Mechanical Characterization of Supernumerary Robotic Tails for Human Balance Augmentation
    on August 31, 2023 at 12:00 am

    AbstractHumans are intrinsically unstable in quiet stance from a rigid body system viewpoint; however, they maintain balance, thanks to neuro-muscular sensory control properties. With increasing levels of balance related incidents in industrial and ageing populations globally each year, the development of assistive mechanisms to augment human balance is paramount. This work investigates the mechanical characteristics of kinematically dissimilar one and two degrees-of-freedom (DoF) supernumerary robotic tails for balance augmentation. Through dynamic simulations and manipulability assessments, the importance of variable coupling inertia in creating a sufficient reaction torque is highlighted. It is shown that two-DoF tails with solely revolute joints are best suited to address the balance augmentation issue. Within the two-DoF options, the characteristics of open versus closed loop tails are investigated, with the ultimate design selection requiring trade-offs between environmental workspace, biomechanical factors, and manufacturing ease to be made.

Design of a Four-Bar Latch Mechanism and a Shear-Based Rotary Viscous Damper for Single-Axis Prosthetic Knees


With over 30 million people worldwide requiring assistive devices, there is a great need for low-cost and high-performance prosthetic technologies that can enable kinematics close to able-bodied gait. Low-income users of prosthetic knees in the developing world repeatedly report the need for n inconspicuous gait to mitigate the severe socioeconomic discrimination associated with disability. However, passive prosthetic knees designed for these users have primarily focused on stability and affordability, often at the cost of the high biomechanical performance that is required to replicate able-bodied kinematics. In this study, we present the design and preliminary testing of two distinct mechanism modules that are novel for passive prosthetic knee applications: the stability module and the damping module. These mechanisms are designed to enable users of single-axis, passive prosthetic knees to walk with close to able-bodied kinematics on level-ground, specifically during the transition from the stance phase to the swing phase of the gait cycle. The stability module was implemented with a latch mounted on a virtual axis of a four-bar linkage, which can be engaged during early stance for stability and disengaged during late stance to initiate knee flexion. The damping module was implemented with a concentric stack of stationary and rotating pairs of plates that shear thin films of high-viscosity silicone oil. The goal of the resulting first-order damping torque was to achieve smooth flexion of the prosthetic knee within the able-bodied gait range (64 ± 6 deg). For preliminary user-centric validation, a prototype prosthetic knee with the stability module and two different dampers (with varying damping coefficients) was tested on a single subject with above-knee amputation in India. The stability module enabled smooth transition from stance to swing with timely initiation of knee flexion. The dampers also performed satisfactorily, as the increase in the damping coefficient was found to decrease the peak knee flexion angle during swing. The applications of the mechanisms presented in this article could significantly improve the kinematic performance of low-cost, passive prosthetic knees.

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