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.