TU Delft students present exoskeleton to participate in bionic games




A team of students at TU Delft Friday presented a draft of an exoskeleton that is made for paraplegic to walk again. The ‘March’ wants the team in October to participate in the Cybathlon, the first “bionic games.

The team of Project March makes an adjustable prototype, but will then create an exoskeleton that is custom made ​​for Claudia Commijs. She ran 11.5 years ago a spinal injury and therefore can no longer walk.

Paraplegic can not feel where their legs are in relation to their body. The March-exoskeleton must be operated by the carrier by the attitude of the upper body and the placement of the crutches. According to the students are in many cases users of current exoskeletons ‘run’ as a passenger. Project March have to give to the user control. Students expect to use the exoskeleton with a small learning curve is intuitive.

The March is groundbreaking in the case according to the students to freedom of movement, by the use of Series Elastic Actuators. These serve as the joints of the exoskeleton, and have very precise electric motors that can make even more natural by the use of a coil spring movements. The technique should make it possible to walk across uneven terrain, or for example, to go up and down stairs in the house.

The base of the exoskeleton is based on the Mind Walker , which was developed in 2013 by among others the Delft University of Technology and University of Twente. The purpose of this project was to create an exoskeleton which can be operated with the help of brain signals. In practice, it proved not to be feasible. Mind Walker weighed 35kg and had to be connected to an Ethernet cable in use, because the computer was not integrated into the exoskeleton. In March that is the case, and the exoskeleton can not therefore be used without cables.

Mind Walker could be used and a half hours on a battery charge. How long the March without electricity is not yet clear. The first prototype will weigh about 25kg. That weight should be even lower, by designing a custom frame that is completely tailored to the wearer. Therefor will 3D-scans of the legs of Claudia be made. What the end of the exoskeleton weight is not yet clear, the team has yet to make a choice of different formats for the frame.

The March draft has been modified and improved over the Mind Walker. For example, there was designed a new construction for the ankles, which allows for more precise placement of the foot. The exoskeleton is controlled by Simulink software with a Speed ​​Goat system, which is equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor and 4GB of RAM. The exoskeleton make for the acquisition and processing of the data that is required for moving use of Zynq Xilinx FPGAs with two ARM cores. All hardware on the skeleton communicating via EtherCAT with 100Mbit / s.

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Students leave Tweakers know that Claudia is currently training under the guidance of the Sint Maartens, one of the partners of the project. That clinic was in the news late last year when an exoskeleton was shown where a paraplegic patient can run with it. That went to ReWalk, an exoskeleton of a commercial company. Claudia also currently trains with this skeleton in preparation for her training in March. The difference between the two exoskeletons, according to the students, inter alia, the presence of the additional hip joint in the March, so that lateral movement is possible. The joint there also ensures that the center of gravity can be moved sideways, for better control and stability.

March Project is a non-profit organization and depends on partners who support the project by supplying parts for example. Currently all components produced the first prototype and the exoskeleton must be mechanically largely completed on 17 March. Then, the software in the exoskeleton is programmed and if everything goes according to plan can be put the first steps in April.

The goal is to then participate on October 8 to the Cybathlon in Zurich, the first world play for bionic para-athletes. Claudia goes there with the exoskeleton to join the Powered Exoskeleton Race, in which various academic and commercial teams from around the world compete for the win.


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