What are exoskeletons?
Exoskeletons are robotic devices that are worn on the body and assist the wearer in doing various duties. Rehabilitation, industrial jobs, and military activities are among their applications. They can be used to increase strength, balance, and reduce fatigue. Exoskeletons can also be used to improve medical outcomes, such as avoiding falls and improving movement in disabled patients.
What are major components in exoskeletons?
Actuators, joints, power sources, control systems, and sensors are typical components of an Exoskeleton.
There are various types of actuators used in exoskeletons:
- Motors: The most commonly used type of actuator in exoskeletons is the motor, which provides the power to move the joints.
- Hydraulic Actuators: Hydraulic actuators generate force and movement by using pressurized fluid. They are frequently utilized to power the joints of a robotic exoskeleton.
- Pneumatic Actuators: Pneumatic actuators generate movement by using pressurized air. Because they have a broader range of motion than hydraulic actuators, these actuators are widely applied in medical exoskeletons.
- Shape Memory Alloy Actuators: These actuators use heat generated by electricity to change the shape and cause movement. Because of their potential to transmit a considerable amount of force in a small size, they are a prominent research topic.
A rotating joint is a typical form of joint found on exoskeletons. This type of joint is designed to provide rotational motion, which allows for more flexibility and mobility. It is usually made up of a motor, a gearbox, and a bearing. It can be utilized to connect two exoskeleton pieces and allow unrestricted movement between them.
Electricity sources: These can include batteries, fuel cells, and other sources of power that deliver power to the exoskeleton.
Exoskeleton sensors are typically used to measure the motion and force of the user. This is important in order to accurately control the exoskeleton and provide feedback to the user. Sensors can be used to measure user joint angles, the joint torque, and other physical parameters such as the speed and acceleration of the user. Sensors can also be used to measure environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity.
Control systems of exoskeletons could use sensors, actuators, and controllers to allow a user to interact with the device. Sensors could detect the user’s movement and provide feedback to the controller, which would then generate commands to the actuators, which would drive the exoskeleton’s motion. The system could also include a computer interface for the user to control the device, as well as a safety system to prevent the user from making dangerous movements. The system could be programmed with different commands and behaviors, enabling the user to control the exoskeletons to perform a variety of tasks.
Is the system already in use in our daily lives?
Yes, there are various commercially available systems on the market; some of the leading players are listed below:
ReWalk Robotics exoskeleton: ReWalk Robotics has developed the most advanced commercial exoskeleton system available, designed to help people with lower limb paralysis or weakness to stand and walk. The device is lightweight, adjustable, and includes a motorized leg brace worn around the legs and hips that provide powered hip and knee motion to enable standing and walking.
Ekso Bionics exoskeleton: Ekso Bionics makes the world’s first wearable, a battery-powered robotic exoskeleton for individuals with lower extremity paralysis. The Ekso GT is the most advanced model, with its motorized joints, adjustable straps, and lightweight design. It can be used for everyday activities, such as walking and standing, as well as for physical therapy.
Sarcos Guardian XO: Sarcos’s Guardian XO is a full-body, powered exoskeleton designed to amplify the strength and endurance of its wearer. It can be used for industrial and medical applications and has been used to lift up to 200 pounds and carry them for extended periods of time. With its advanced sensor and control technologies, the Guardian XO can sense and respond to its environment in real-time.
What is the trend of future exoskeletons?
Exoskeletons are likely to become more personalized, accessible, and incorporated into daily life in the future. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and material science advancements are also projected to allow exoskeletons to be smaller and lighter while yet providing higher strength and precision. Exoskeletons are also expected to become more inexpensive and adaptable, making them accessible to people of diverse ages, skills, and backgrounds.