Last month we didn't sit still at all and that noticeable! Various components went into production and some of them are already in. Furthermore, all departments are increasingly focussing on the detailed engineering and the exoskeleton is taking more and more shape. Also a lot of events took place last month. In this extra long newsletter we will give you an update on all progress!
Secrets of Superhero Science
On the 7th June, during the International Festival of Technology, the very first symposium on Superhero Science took place in the auditorium. During this symposium the current technological developments were being compared with superhero technologies and by means of this it was considered how far we actually are from creating real superpowers and how desirable this is in the end. We also gave a presentation here during which we discussed the similarities, but most of all the differences between our exoskeleton and the iron man suit. It was a very successful and interesting afternoon!
Alumni Lustrum Event
On the 9th of June, in honor of the 175th anniversary of the Delft University of Technology, the Technology for Life Symposium took place. This symposium was especially organized for alumni of the university to inform them of everything that is happening here at the moment. We also got the chance to share our story with them, which was really interesting!
Naturalis After Dark x TU Delft On the 1st of June the Naturalis After Dark event took place on location for the first time, namely at the Delft University of Technology! This is a live science talkshow, during which different speakers gave a presentation about the theme 'How to save the world with technology'. We participated here in a short interview and we introduced the visitors to the technology of exoskeletons by means of the MARCH I!
Introducing: team ankle
Now that the knee and hip joints of the exoskeleton are taking more and more shape, it is time to start focussing on the last part of the exoskeleton: the ankles. In order to do so, a new department was established again, consisting of team members of the HMI department and the joint department. Last month they made the first important choices and soon they will finish the design of the ankles!
The first iteration of the homemade joint design came in last week, after which we immediately started to assembly all separate components. This means that we also started with the testing of this first joint. The results can subsequently be used for the optimization of the second iteration, which will go into production coming month and will form the final version of the joints.
Detailed engineering frame The frame department also made a lot of progress this month. The detailed engineering of the design of the frame is currently under way and by using CATIA it is possible to incorporate all these details in the design. In this way it is possible to determine the right positioning of all components. Together with the Electrical Department all electronics and all wiring are being included in the design. Also the connections between the bones and the joints are being designed. In this way a design of the exoskeleton as a whole is being developed. Coming week the definitive design of the complete frame will be finished.
Power Distribution Board Last week the Power Distribution Board (PDB) went into production. The PDB has the ability to connect to the battery of the exoskeleton and distribute the power to both the four joint motors and the electronics. It includes safety features such as an emergency switch, which can be controlled by an external button that connects to the board (black connector on the right). Moreover, the PDB is fitted with multiple sensors that monitor the power system, such as temperature, battery voltage and power usage of the motors. These are useful to check if the exoskeleton is properly functioning and also gives us valuable data during operation.
Start programming walking patterns
The Software & Control departments has started with the High-Level concept of the MARCH II in the meantime. This includes the different walking patterns and actions the exoskeleton should be able to execute once Ruben will walk in it. In this way they will make sure the MARCH II is able to receive and send out the right signals to execute the right actions subsequently.
Input device Also the design of the input design is almost finished. This is the responsibility of the Human Machine Interaction department. The idea is that the pilot controls the exoskeleton via the handle of the crutch. By placing the input device in the crutch, the pilot is always able to control the exoskeleton in a safe way. Furthermore, you see a "big hole" in the model, which is meant for the screen. On this screen it can be seen very clearly from which actions the pilot can choose to execute, such as standing up, climbing a stairs or go down. At this moment they are working on the software for this screen.
Did you know... ... we have already used 15.600 Post-its with a value of €262,48? This comes down to 1.68 eurocents per sticky!
... the motors in the MARCH II have a combined maximum power output of 8 hp (horsepower)?
... you can blow up a motor when only putting 30% of the maximum allowable amount of power trough it? We didn't.
Yesterday the documentary 'Sta Op en Loop' was broadcasted at NPO2. In this documentary the story of Claudia is told, who learns to walk again by means of an exoskeleton and starts a collaboration with the first team of Project MARCH to realize her dream even more. Together they start training for the Cybathlon, the first bionic 'Olympics'. But despite the ambitions and the dedication of everybody the reality seems to be tougher than expected. However, this somewhat cumbersome start forms the base of a very promising future. In case you missed the documentary, you can watch it here! (Note: the documentary is in Dutch)
On the occasion of the documentary, Claudia was present during Pauw at Friday the 28th of April together with Nick, the Chief Engineer of the team of last year. Here they talked about the documentary, exoskeletons in general and the collaboration between Project MARCH and Claudia. In case you missed it, you can watch the fragment here.
From the 19th until the 21th of April RoboBusiness Europe took place in the World Forum the Hague. This is one of the biggest international robotics fairs in the world. Project MARCH had a stand here too for all three days thanks to RoboValley and here we were able to introduce a lot of people to our exoskeleton. Even prince Constantijn visited our stand during this event!
Ruben starts training
Something else we started with last month is building all six obstacles we want to overcome at the end of the year with the MARCH II and Ruben as the pilot. In the meantime the slope is finished completely and this obstacle is already delivered in Nijmegen, so that Ruben can start training with it in advance with his ReWalk. In that way he can include the different obstacles in his standard walking routines, so that he can already get used to the track. Since Ruben thinks the slope is the most challenging obstacle, we placed this one in Nijmegen first. The other obstacles will be completed this month and after that they will also be brought to Ruben!
Dwarlaesie Organisatie Nederland At the 8th of April we were present at the DON-dag, which is a day full of workshops and presentations organized by the national organization for paraplegics in the Netherlands together with rehabilitation center Adelante. Here we presented our exoskeleton to a lot of people who have a spinal cord injury themselves and they learned us to move around in a wheelchair in turn, which wasn't as easy as we expected... It was really interesting to meet a lot of people on whose life an exoskeleton can have a large impact.
PCB Layout Workshop As the custom electronics get more complex in design, so does the implementation. A great amount of skill is required to properly layout a custom PCB. Henk is a PCB Layout Lead Engineer at Sintecs, one of our partners, and he specializes in layouts and routing of advanced PCBs. Last week, he was at our workshop for an entire day to teach us all the ins and outs of PCB layouting. The four of our Electrical Engineers eagerly absorbed all information that was presented that day, which was of incredible help for a proper PCB design.
Did you know... ... we will participate together with Ruben in the Wings for Life Run in Breda at the 7th of May, of which all registration fees will go to spinal cord injury research?
... we are also extending our new website? You can take a look already!
... we already started with the interviews of the application procedure for the core team for next year?
Coming month Coming month a lot of big steps will be taken with regard to the building process. The joints went into production in the meantime, it is now possible to control the motors by means of one central computer and the points of support of the frame are being optimized with feedback of Ruben. We will also go on a teamweekend to keep the team spirit high.
On Friday the 24th of March it was finally time: during our crowded design presentation we presented the new design for the first time. Furthermore, the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport, Martin van Rijn, was present. He talked on stage with Ruben, the pilot of this year, and this resulted in an interesting conversation about insurances and the future perspective of exoskeletons in healthcare amongst other things. It was a very succesful evening and we want to thank everybody who was present during our presentation. In case you missed it, you can watch the whole design presentation back here!
Professors in the Theater Arena
On the 28th of March we were present with some team members during 'Professors in the Theater Arena' at Theater de Veste. During this event three professors participate in a debate about a current theme in the field of science. This time, the theme was 'The bionic human, from protheses to upgrades'. Since we match this theme pretty well as Project MARCH, we were invited to be present with the MARCH I and to give a small presentation to the public ourselves. It was a very interesting evening, during which we gained some new knowledge ourselves.
This month a lot of progress is made with regard to the feedback system. The feedback system makes sure the paraplegic that walks in the exoskeleton knows where his feet are located. He needs this feedback, since he cannot feel this himself. It was chosen to have a feedback system that makes use of vibrations on the body. In order to do so, small pressure sensors are placed under the shoe soles. When the pilot places his foot on the ground and hereby exerts pressure on the sensors, he will feel a vibration that is communicated via special components placed on his fully functional upper body.
Joint design Another point of focus this month was the designing of the joint of the exoskeleton. Much attention is paid to the compactness of the design: we want to make the joint as compact as possible. Furthermore, a high force transmission is required in order to be able to move the exoskeleton together with the pilot and to lift the toal weight. To realize this, it was chosen to make use of a Harmonic Drive. At this moment we are working hard on the construction drawings of the joint, so that the production of this component can officially start!
Tests bone structure In order to be sure the bones of the exoskeleton will be stiff enough and thus are able to carry all the weight when a person is actually walking in the exoskeleton and a lot of forces are being exerted on the bone structure, some tests are being executed first by using an external weight and two different types of aluminium bones. These two types of bones consist of a commercial produced bone and a self-produced one. By hanging different weights on these bones, the stiffness of the bone structure can be determined, just as the effect of the structure itself on this stiffness.
Motor Last month we worked hard on the motor. The motor is now able to rotate to a specific angle by means of rotate commands. By connecting more of these motors the exeskeleton will be able to perform the human gait. Furthermore, another less useful function was added: the motor is now also able to sing songs when he is runned on the right frequency of certain notes. The next step will be to make it possible to send the rotate commands via the communication lines, that will be present in the exoskeleton, so that all motors can be managed by one central computer.
Input device The input device is the system which makes it possible for the pilot to really control the exoskeleton. With this the pilot can specify what kind of action he want to perform with the exoskeleton. For additional user friendliness the input device will be placed in one of the crutch handles and it will be controlled by means of two different buttons. To determine the ideal shape of the handle and the ideal placement of the buttons on the handle, different models are used, digitally and physically. Therefore, a prototype of the handle was produced out of clay and another prototype has been printed by means of a 3D printer for example.
Did you know...
... the walls of the working space were painted MARCH blue last weekend?
... the team members of the Software & Control department themselves sometimes think it is called the Systems & Control department?
... you can earn a digital taco when you did a nice job for the team? We give out these tacos as a reward and we keep an eye on the leaderboard all the time!
Coming month This month we will officially start the building process of our exoskeleton. Besides, a lot of tests will be performed to optimize the design. Furthermore, we will be present during a lot of events, including RoboBusiness Europe, the International Robotics Week.
We are happy to inform you that our team will be strengthened by a second pilot from this moment on: Ruben de Sain! As some of you already know, Claudia, our first pilot, has not yet completely recovered from a fractured leg and therefore she will not be able to walk in an exoskeleton for now unfortunately. Therefore we had to decide to add a second pilot to our team. Ruben will help us this year to realize the MARCH II and to overcome all six obstacles of the Cybathlon. He already has a lot of experience with walking in his own exoskeleton, namely the ReWalk, and therefore he will be able to give us a lot of very helpful feedback!
Innovation for Health On the 16th of February we were present at the Innovation for Health congress that took place in the WTC of Rotterdam. Here we found some useful new contacts and Marise pitched about our project for extra sponsoring and about our ideas for the future.
Critical Minds workshop Furthermore, we had a useful workshop given by Critical Minds. They looked at our long term planning with us. The goal was to make this planning a lot more clear and visual for the whole team. In this way we are able to meet our deadlines more easily from now on! The day was ended with a nice drink together.
New department This month it was decided to establish a sixth department within the team to improve the efficiency, namely team frame. Both the mechanical and the HMI (Human Machine Interaction) department split up partly and in this way team frame was formed. This department, as the name already suggests, will focus on the design and the construction of the entire frame and the fixtures of the MARCH II.
New 3D printer Last month we received our new 3D printer, which we received from Ultimaker. Immediately, the first test models of the different components of the exoskeleton were printed by using this printer. These models are used to test these components subsequently.
Team update Last Wednesday we had a meeting with the whole team. First, we had dinner with everybody in the Dreamhall. Thereafter, each department gave a detailed update of their progress and some general topics were discussed. This meeting was very useful and helped to make sure the whole team is still on the same page.
Design Presentatie and Martin van Rijn As you all now, our design presentation will take place on the 24th of March in the auditorium of the Delft University of Technology. Last week you all received the invitation by mail, but to make sure, here is the link of the registration form once more:http://projectmarch.nl/en/march/design-presentation! Make sure you sign up yourself, since you don't want to miss this event!
Furthermore, this week we received the news that Martin van Rijn, the State Secretary of Public Health, has accepted our invitation to be present at our design presentation and he will also open the presentation by means of a short presentation!
Did you know...
... the TED Talk of our team manager gave at TEDxSittardGeleen is now online and can be found on YouTube ?
... ten different nationalities are represented within our team?
... we passed the 1500 likes on Facebook in the meantime?
Upcoming month This month we will mainly finish the design of the MARCH II and prepare the last important things for the design presentation, so that we can experience one of the first highlights of this year with all of you on the 24th of March!
Save the Date To get straight to the point: the date of our design presentation has been set! Write down the following date: the 24th of March! From 20:00 on we will reveal our new design by means of a presentation in the auditorium of the Delft University of Technology. The official invitation for this event will be sent to you in a couple of weeks, but in this way we want to invite you to be present at our design presentation already!
TEDxSittardGeleen Last Friday two team members were present at TEDxSittardGeleen, because our team manager was a speaker at this event. He had the chance to give a TED talk here on behalf of Project MARCH for an audience consisting of 200 people! In total, 22 speakers gave a talk on this day, all of them with a personal and very inspiring story. The theme of the event was Be Bright Together, something we did for sure. It was a successful day and we were able to share ideas with other people and to tell our own story. All talks that were given on this day were recorded, so keep an eye on our Social Media channels, since the talk of our team manager will be put on there! In this way everybody is able to see and hear this presentation.
Testing the Feedback System In the meantime we started testing the chosen concepts for the feedback system, that is placed in the crutches. By means of an input device the pilot is able to control the exoskeleton. Next to this, a good feedback system is necessary, so that the pilot knows which leg is moving and when the step or action is completely finished. In this way it is no longer necessary for the pilot to look down the whole time, he or she can look forward during walking in the exoskeleton. Last Monday six team members travelled to the Sint Maartenskliniek to test the four different concepts with two different pilots. The outcome of these tests can be used subsequently to make the final choice with regard to the feedback system in the crutches.
Global positioning components Friday the 20th of January our partner Spark Design & Innovation visited us again to think along about the integral design of our exoskeleton. This time the global distribution of the components that have to be incorporated into the exoskeleton was considered along with the most effective way these components can be placed. First mockups of these components were made out of foam and after that we played along with these mockups to see how the design comes together when you have it physically in your hands instead of only on your computer.
Exams Last week and this week all students of the Delft University of Technology have (had) exams again. This means that our part-timers (and some full-timers) had to focus a lot more on their study the last two weeks than they normally do. We really hope these exams went well for everyone and we are looking forward to work on Project MARCH at full strength again from next week onwards.
Team activities This month we also had a couple of nice activities to strengthen the team bond and to preserve a good atmosphere within the team. We went to the "Oliebollen" party of Kees with a big part of the team. Kees, the workshop manager, had organized a delicious dinner for all dreamteams (including "oliebollen" and champaign) on the 12th of January followed by a very pleasant drink.
Furthermore, we had a nice evening with our own team in the Snookercafé, after we had dinner with each other in the D:Dreamhall. Here we put our precision skills to the test during a lot of pool games. It seemed that some were better than others, but that did not spoil the fun! This was again a successful evening.
Did you know... ... we have a new full time team member since January who has moved all the way from Maastricht to Delft to participate in our project?
... we are known in the D:Dreamhall as the team with the best lunches?
... we collect all funny quotes, said by team members, after which we choose a "Quote of the Week" that will be printed and put up in our offices?
The upcoming month
Apart from a lot of prototyping, the upcoming month will involve a lot of important decisions with regard to the design of our exoskeleton. In this way the final design will be completed. Furthermore the invitations for the design presentation will be sent out and we will work hard on the content of the presentation itself.
A new year First of all, on behalf of all team members of Project MARCH, we would like to wish you all the best for the coming year! Meanwhile, we have started to work on the project again after a well-deserved week of vacation. We are really looking forward to the upcoming year, in which we hopefully will achieve our goals successfully. In this newsletter we would like to give you an update on what we have achieved as a team towards the end of 2016 and what we are planning to achieve in the first half of 2017!
Introduction workspace Kees from the hall management introduced the equipment that is available in the D:Dreamhall to our team members. Of this we will make intensive use during the manufacturing stage of the exoskeleton. By attending this introducing workshop some of the team members are now authorized to use these machines in the future.
The first important decisions During the last week before Christmas the first important decisions were made with regard to the design of the exoskeleton. The different technical departments have presented their concepts to each other and too some members of the old team to receive valuable feedback concerning the possible concepts for the joints. Hereafter the first definitive choices were made with respect to the joints, which will be the basis for our exoskeleton. Furthermore, the strategies in the field of PR, acquisition and finance were presented and discussed. For each of these components a final policy is being composed, which will be valid during the coming year.
Social Media Also this year we will actively use social media. If you don't want to miss a thing of Project MARCH during the rest of the month, apart from our newsletter, make sure you follow us through our other channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn). At the bottom of this newsletter you can find the links to our different social media accounts by clicking on the icons.
New partners We are pleased to welcome the Stiching Agis Zorginnovatiefonds as new partner. Furthermore, the faculties of Aerospace Engineering, Industrial Design and Technology, Policy and Management have joined our circle of partners. Along with the rest of our partners, we will confidently continue our project.
Team activities To celebrate the holidays and to strengthen the team bond we also enjoyed some team activities. Along with the other dreamteams we joined the BBQ in the D:Dreamhall, where employees of the D:Dreamhall made us some delicious and in our opinion Michelin star-worthy dishes during a cooking workshop. Furthermore, we toasted already to a successful new year.
Besides, we organized a Christmas drink ourselves for the whole team to usher in the holidays and to wish each other a happy new year in advance. In our fancy Christmas sweaters we enjoyed some "oliebollen" and glühwein, whereafter we made a team photo for our Christmas card.
Did you know... ... the mannequin we bought for testing is called Marcha and is considered to be a real team member?
... our Chief Engineer often spends some time in the kitchen to make some very spicy sambal for the whole team?
... the girls of the non-tech department are almost always cold?
The upcoming month
In the upcoming month the concepts will be elaborated in a more detailed way and we will definitively reach the design stage. Therefore a lot of important choices will be made this month with regard to the final design and we will start with the preparation for the design presentation. Furthermore, our team manager will give a TED Talk during the TEDx event in Sittard-Geleen on the 27th of January on behalf of Project MARCH.