Clutchable series-elastic actuator: Implications for prosthetic knee design

E. J. Rouse, L. M. Mooney and H. M. Herr Clutchable series-elastic actuator: Implications for prosthetic knee design International Journal of Robotics Research, 2014, in press


Currently, the mobility of above-knee amputees is limited by the lack of available prostheses that can efficiently replicate biologically accurate movements. In this study, a powered knee prosthesis was designed utilizing a novel mechanism, known as a clutchable series-elastic actuator (CSEA).The CSEA includes a low-power clutch in parallel with an electric motor within a traditional series-elastic actuator. The stiffness of the series elasticity was tuned to match the elastically conservative region of the knee’s torque-angle relationship during the stance phase of locomotion. During this region, the clutch was used to efficiently store energy in the series elasticity. The fully autonomous knee prosthesis design utilized a brushless electric motor, ballscrew transmission and cable drive, as well as commercial electrical components. The knee was lighter than the eighth percentile and shorter than the first percentile male shank segment. The CSEA Knee was tested in a unilateral above-knee amputee walking at 1.3 m/s. During walking, the CSEA Knee provided biomechanically accurate torque-angle behavior, agreeing within 17% of the net work and 27% of the stance flexion angle produced by the biological knee. In addition, the process of locomotion reduced the net electrical energy consumption of the CSEA Knee. The knee’s motor generated 1.8 J/stride, and the net energy consumption was 3.6 J/stride, an order of magnitude less energy than previously published powered knee prostheses.

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