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Artificial Knee Joints Actuators with Energy Recovery Capabilities:A Comparison of Performance
The human knee absorbs more energy than it expends in level ground walking. For this reason it would be useful if the actuation system of a wearable robot for lower limbs was able to recover energy thus improving portability. Presently, we recognize three promising technologies with energy recovery capabilities already available in the literature: the Series Elastic Actuator (SEA), the Clutchable Series Elastic Actuator (C-SEA), and the flywheel Infinitely Variable Transmission (F-IVT) actuator. In this paper, a simulation model based comparison of the performance of these actuators is presented. The focus is on two performance indexes: the energy consumed by the electric motor per gait and the peak torque/power requested to the electric motor. Both quantities are related to the portability of the device: the former affects the size of the batteries for a given desired range; the latter affects the size and the weight of the electric motor.The results show that, besides some well-explained limitations of the presented methodology, the C-SEA is the most energy efficient whereas the F-IVT allows cutting down the motor torque/peak power strongly. The analysis also leads to defining how it is possible to improve the F-IVT to achieve a reduction of the energy consumption.
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