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Actuators 2017, 6(3), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/act6030027

Pneumatic Multi-Pocket Elastomer Actuators for Metacarpophalangeal Joint Flexion and Abduction-Adduction

1
Department of Medical Engineering, Graduate school of Engineering, Chiba University, Inage-ku, Yayoi-cho, 1-33, Chiba 263-8522, Japan
2
Center for Frontier Medical Engineering, Chiba University, Inage-ku, Yayoi-cho, 1-33, Chiba 263-8522, Japan
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 July 2017 / Revised: 4 September 2017 / Accepted: 6 September 2017 / Published: 19 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators)
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Abstract

During recent years, interest has been rising towards developing fluidic fiber-reinforced elastomer actuators for wearable soft robotics used in hand rehabilitation and power-assist. However, they do not enable finger abduction-adduction, which plays an important role in activities of daily living, when grasping larger objects. Furthermore, the developed gloves often do not have separate control of joints, which is important for doing various common rehabilitation motions. The main obstacle for the development of a fully-assisting glove is moving a joint with multiple degrees of freedom. If the functions are built into the same structure, they are naturally coupled and affect each other, which makes them more difficult to design and complex to control than a simple flexion-extension actuator. In this study, we explored the key design elements and fabrication of pneumatic multi-pocket elastomer actuators for a soft rehabilitation glove. The goal was to gain more control over the metacarpophalangeal joint’s response by increasing the degree of actuation. Three main functional designs were tested for achieving both flexion and abduction-adduction. Five prototypes, with four different actuator geometries and four different reinforcement types, were designed and fabricated. They were evaluated by recording their free motion with motion capture and measuring their torque output using a dummy finger. Results showed the strengths and weaknesses of each design in separating the control of the two functions. We discuss the different improvements that are needed in order to make each design plausible for developing an actuator that meets the requirements for full assist of the hand’s motions. In conclusion, we show that it is possible to produce multi-pocket actuators for assisting MCP joint motion in both flexion and abduction-adduction, although coupling between the separate functions is still problematic and should be considered further. View Full-Text
Keywords: soft robotics; fluidic elastomer actuators; fiber-reinforced; multi-pocket; hand rehabilitation; finger abduction-adduction soft robotics; fluidic elastomer actuators; fiber-reinforced; multi-pocket; hand rehabilitation; finger abduction-adduction
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Tarvainen, T.V.J.; Yu, W. Pneumatic Multi-Pocket Elastomer Actuators for Metacarpophalangeal Joint Flexion and Abduction-Adduction. Actuators 2017, 6, 27.

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