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  1. This paper presents the design and validation of a backdrivable powered knee orthosis for partial assistance of lower-limb musculature, which aims to facilitate daily activities in individuals with musculoskeletal disorders. The actuator design is guided by design principles that prioritize backdrivability, output torque, and compactness. First, we show that increasing the motor diameter while reducing the gear ratio for a fixed output torque ultimately reduces the reflected inertia (and thus backdrive torque). We also identify a tradeoff with actuator torque density that can be addressed by improving the motor's thermal environment, motivating our design of a custom Brushless DC motormore »with encapsulated windings. Finally, by designing a 7:1 planetary gearset directly into the stator, the actuator has a high package factor that reduces size and weight. Benchtop tests verify that the custom actuator can produce at least 23.9 Nm peak torque and 12.78 Nm continuous torque, yet has less than 2.68 Nm backdrive torque during walking conditions. Able-bodied human subjects experiments (N=3) demonstrate reduced quadriceps activation with bilateral orthosis assistance during lifting-lowering, sit-to-stand, and stair climbing. The minimal transmission also produces negligible acoustic noise.« less
  2. This paper presents the mechatronic design and initial validation of a partial-assist knee orthosis for individuals with musculoskeletal disorders, e.g., knee osteoarthritis and lower back pain. This orthosis utilizes a quasi-direct drive actuator with a low-ratio transmission (7:1) to greatly reduce the reflected inertia for high backdrivability. To provide meaningful assistance, a custom Brushless DC (BLDC) motor is designed with encapsulated windings to improve the motor’s thermal environment and thus its continuous torque output. The 2.69 kg orthosis is constructed from all custom-made components with a high package factor for lighter weight and a more compact size. The combination ofmore »compactness, backdrivability, and torque output enables the orthosis to provide partial assistance without obstructing the natural movement of the user. Several benchtop tests verify the actuator’s capabilities, and a human subject experiment demonstrates reduced quadriceps muscle activation when assisted during a repetitive lifting and lowering task.« less