Compliant Actuation of Exoskeletons

H. van der Kooij, J.F. Veneman, R. Ekkelenkamp

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This chapter discusses the advantages and feasibility of using compliant actuators in exoskeletons. We designed compliant actuation for use in a gait rehabilitation robot. In such a gait rehabilitation robot large forces are required to support the patient. In case of poststroke patients only the affected leg has to be supported while the movement of the unaffected leg should not be hindered. Not hindering the motions of one of the legs means that mechanical impedance of the robot should be minimal. The combination of large support forces and minimal impedances can be realised by impedance or admittance control. We chose for impedance control. The consequence of this choice is that the mass of the exoskeleton including its actuation should be minimized and sufficient high force bandwidth of the actuation is required. Compliant actuation has advantages compared to non compliant actuation in case both high forces and a high force tracking bandwidth are required. Series elastic actuation and pneumatics are well known examples of compliant actuators. Both types of compliant actuators are described with a general model of compliant actuation. They are compared in terms of this general model and also experimentally. Series elastic actuation appears to perform slightly better than pneumatic actuation and is much simpler to control. In an alternative design the motors were removed from the exoskeleton to further minimize the mass of the exoskeleton. These motors drove an elastic joint using flexible Bowden cables. The force bandwidth and the minimal impedance of this distributed series elastic joint actuation were within the requirements for a gait rehabilitation robot.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMobile Robots
Subtitle of host publicationTowards New Applications
EditorsAleksandar Lazinica
Place of PublicationMammendorf, Germany
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-3-86611-314-5
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • IR-69976
  • METIS-238569


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