Wearable Exoskeletons and Bionics
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info Sanlap Nandi

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Someone having interest in Robotic Exoskeletons , wearable robots and prosthetics for human rehabilitation and movement enhancement.

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Wearable Exoskeletons and Bionics

The challenge

There are thousands across the world who suffer from neuromuscular disorders which inhibit their motion. There are also many who had to be amputated (amputees) due to some unfortunate accident. Since, the requirement for the proper movement of the various body parts is quintessential, it is important that such disabilities do not impede them from leading a normal and healthy life. The exoskeletons and bionic implants present currently in the market are extremely expensive. They tend to be more general in design as well. For example the cost of a bionic arm ranges between $18,000-100,000 depending on the production quality. Henceforth, it becomes very difficult for common people to avail such technology. Sometimes there are also instances where such devices especially powered exoskeletons tend to be heavy when worn unless they are powered up by an external source which would then allow locomotion. The exorbitant prices and the complexity of design are the two major challenges which engineers in this field of research are facing today.

The solution

Keeping in mind the physical disabilities discussed in the problem, we propose to rehabilitate people with such maladies with the help of technology to provide ease and comfort in what they do. Powered exoskeletons will help support people with neurophysiological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and aid in their movement. Bionic implants and myoelectric prosthetics will allow amputees to function lucidly without any hindrance. Every non functional part of the body can be assisted with an electro-mechanically actuated device or any amputated part can be replaced with a biomechatronic substitute to enable normal functioning of a human body. The main goal of this project is to reduce the cost of production of such systems so that they are widely available to the general public and also to be able to make lighter substitutes but with robust designs making them more efficient and user-friendly. The target audiences being patients with neurophysiological disabilities, amputees, elderly people with movement difficulties and the like. Technical and Economic Aspects: - Exoskeletons and bionic prosthetics these days include feedback through EMG signals from neuroskeletal muscles. The most common electrode for acquiring such signals is a silver/silver chloride (Ag/AgCl). Replacing such electrodes with carbon(graphite or carbon black) electrodes can greatly reduce the cost and increase efficiency since it has been seen from recent study that carbon electrodes significantly reduce noise in the system. - Haptic feedback using EMG senor arrays, force sensors and vibrotactile sensors can make the system more sturdy than those already available. Use of such sensors can help bring down the size of such systems significantly. -The body of the exoskeletons and bionic implants can be 3-D printed in order to make lightweight systems and inexpensive. They can be a replacement to steel which is heavy and aluminium alloys which has issues of fatigue. Titanium combined with carbon fibres can be used for making high end structures. -Companies can fund institutes and universities who have individuals working on this fields. This can help them get more volunteers, who are the patients to test the system, view its functionality in real time and take notes for future improvements. This can help generate revenue from the users and thereby encourage more researchers to work in this field. -The systems are to be designed in-situ, which means that considerations are to be taken based on the individual who is using it based on body type, physique and the disability to be tackled. Hence, the designs will be customized to be user specific rather than being general. -Since the production of these systems are in-house, there will be work related to various other fields such as sensor design and sensor fusion technology, material science, mechanics to be a few. This will reduce the production cost and dependency on supplier and also boost research and development in other fields. Future Prospects: -Powered exoskeletons can help people working at high end labour jobs which require a lot of physical activity. When worn by the workers they can help reduce fatigue and exertion. -The systems can be self-actuating in the future which means they can be driven without an external power source but can harvest energy from the electrical signals that are generated by the human body due to motion. An example of this would be the use of bio-batteries in the near future which can harness energy from movement or biological processes such as sweat. This can be amalgamated along with the exoskeletons and implants and be a probable solution to reduce energy usage for such technology. -Affordable bionic implants can be used for replacement of internal and delicate organs present in the human body. eg. bionic eye or artificial heart which currently cost a fortune.


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