Design of a Clutch–Spring Knee Exoskeleton for Running

G. Elliott, A. Marecki and H. Herr. Design of a Clutch–Spring Knee Exoskeleton for Running, Journal of Medical Devices, vol 8, no. 3, 031002-031002-11, July. 2014.


Because the leg is known to exhibit springlike behavior during the stance phase of running, several exoskeletons have attempted to place external springs in parallel with some or all of the leg during stance, but these designs have failed to permit natural kinematics during swing. To this end, a parallel-elastic exoskeleton is presented that introduces a clutch to disengage the parallel leg-spring and thereby not constrain swing-phase movements of the biological leg. A custom interference clutch with integrated planetary gear transmission, made necessary by the requirement for high holding torque but low mass, is presented and shown to withstand up to 190 Nm at 1.8 deg resolution with a mass of only 710 g. A suitable control strategy for locking the clutch at peak knee extension is also presented, where only an onboard rate gyroscope and exoskeletal joint encoder are employed as sensory inputs. Exoskeletal electromechanics, sensing, and control are shown to achieve design critieria necessary to emulate biological knee stiffness behaviors in running.

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