Different tasks and conditions in gait call for different stiffness of prosthetic foot devices. The following work presents a case study on design modifications of a prosthetic foot, aimed at variable stiffness of the device. The objective is a proof-of-concept, achieved by simulating the modifications using finite element modeling. Design changes include the addition of a controlled damping element, connected both in parallel and series to a system of springs. The aim is to change the stiffness of the device under dynamic loading, by applying a high damping constant, approaching force coupling for the given boundary conditions. The dynamic modelling simulates mechanical test methods used to measure load response in full roll-over of prosthetic feet. Activation of the element during loading of the foot justifies the damped effect. As damping is in contrast to the main design objectives of energy return in prosthetic feet, it is considered important to quantify the dissipated energy in such an element. Our design case shows that the introduction of a damping element, with a high damping constant, can increase the overall rotational stiffness of the device by 50%. Given a large enough damping coefficient, the energy dissipation in the active element is about 20% of maximum strain energy.
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