Comfort-Centered Design of a Lightweight and Backdrivable Knee Exoskeleton

Junlin Wang, Xiao Li, Tzu-Hao Huang, Shuangyue Yu, Yanjun Li, Tianyao Chen, Alessandra Carriero, Mooyeon Oh-Park, Hao Su*, Member, IEEE

This paper presents design principles for comfort-centered wearable robots and their application in a lightweight and backdrivable knee exoskeleton. The mitigation of discomfort is treated as mechanical design and control issues and three solutions are proposed in this paper: 1) a new wearable structure optimizes the strap attachment configuration and suit layout to ameliorate excessive shear forces of conventional wearable structure design; 2) rolling knee joint and double-hinge mechanisms reduce the misalignment in the sagittal and frontal plane, without increasing the mechanical complexity and inertia, respectively; 3) a low impedance mechanical transmission reduces the reflected inertia and damping of the actuator to human, thus the exoskeleton is highly-backdrivable. Kinematic simulations demonstrate that misalignment between the robot joint and knee joint can be reduced by 74% at maximum knee flexion. In experiments, the exoskeleton in the unpowered mode exhibits 1.03 Nm root mean square (RMS) low resistive torque. The torque control experiments demonstrate 0.31 Nm RMS torque tracking error in three human subjects.

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