Prototyping and Experimental Investigation of Digital Hydraulically Driven Knee Exoskeleton
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Digital hydraulic drives are known for their superior efficiency, power density, and robustness. Such advantages make them an attractive alternative (to electric drives) for actuation of exoskeleton devices. This work presents development of a prototype for such a digital hydraulically driven knee exoskeleton and its experimental testing. The device uses two miniature hydraulic cylinders and a novel mechanism to translate the linear motion to rotary motion. The device is controlled via a passive control method in the stance phase and a simplified model predictive control method in the swing phase. In this work, the design of the exoskeleton device is optimized with respect to compactness and weight. Next, the features of the design are further refined to ensure that the device is able to support the operational loads. This design is then realized into a prototype with a mixture of inhouse manufactured parts and procured components. Finally, via experimental tests, the performance of the design and the control strategy are investigated. Certain drawbacks related to valve size and overall weight are observed in the prototype, which will be addressed in future studies.