Development of a lightweight underactuated exoskeleton for load-carrying augmentation

C. Walsh, D. Paluska, K. Pasch, W. Grand, A. Valiente, and H. M. Herr. Development of a lightweight, underactuated exoskeleton for load-carrying augmentation, Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Orlando, FL, pp. 2939-2945, May 2006.


Metabolic studies have shown that there is a metabolic cost associated with carrying load [1]. Several leg exoskeletons have been developed by various groups in an attempt to augment the load carrying capability of the human. Previous research efforts have not fully exploited the passive dynamics of walking and have largely focused on fully actuated exoskeletons that are heavy with large energy requirements. In this paper, a lightweight, underactuated exoskeleton design is presented that runs in parallel to the human and supports the weight of a payload. Two exoskeleton architectures are pursued based on examining human walking data. A first architecture consists of springs at the hip, a variable impedance device at the knee, and springs at the ankle. A second architecture replaces the springs at the hip with a non-conservative actuator to examine the effect of adding power at desired instances throughout the gait cycle. Preliminary studies show that an efficient, underactuated leg exoskeleton can effectively transmit payload forces to the ground during the walking cycle.

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