Analysis, Design, and Preliminary Evaluation of a Parallel Elastic Actuator for Power-Efficient Walking Assistance
This paper introduces the analysis, design and preliminary evaluation of a self-integrated parallel elastic actuator (PEA) with an electric motor and a flat spiral spring in parallel to drive the hip joint of lower limb exoskeletons for power-efficient walking assistance. Firstly, we quantitatively analyze the reason why the parallel elasticity (PE) placed at the sagittal hip joint can reduce the motor power requirement during walking assistance, which contributes to the theory of PEA
... ry of PEA development and application. The design of the PEA is then introduced in detail. The novelty of the design is that the actuator is reduced in size by integrating the spring into the motor, and the requirement of spring stiffness is significantly reduced by placing the spring directly parallel to the motor shaft. Furthermore, both the simulation based on dynamic modeling and benchtop experiment are conducted preliminarily to evaluate the performance of the PEA with nine spring stiffnesses in a range from 0 -5.29 mN·m/rad regarding two indexes including the average and maximum positive electrical power of the motor. Their results show that the two indexes become smaller when the PE is attached and decrease as the spring stiffness increases. When the PE with a stiffness of 5.29 mN·m/rad is attached, the actuator obtains the largest reduction rate of 11.99 and 16.84 % in the average (root mean square) and maximum positive electrical power of the motor in the simulation and 10.3 and 26.25 % in the experiment, respectively. Those results provide evidence for the applicability of the newly designed PEA in driving a lower limb exoskeleton with high power efficiency during walking assistance for paraplegic patients with complete loss in walking ability. INDEX TERMS Actuator design, compliant actuation, lower limb exoskeleton, parallel elastic actuator, power-efficient actuator.