Continuously-Variable Series-Elastic Actuator

L. M. Mooney and H. M. Herr Continuously-Variable Series-Elastic Actuator, Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, 2013


Actuator efficiency is an important factor in the design of powered leg prostheses, orthoses, exoskeletons, and legged robots. A continuously-variable series-elastic actuator (CV-SEA) is presented as an efficient actuator for legged locomotion. The CV-SEA implements a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) between a motor and series elastic element. The CVT reduces the torque seen at the motor and allows the motor to operate in speed regimes of higher efficiency, while the series-elastic element efficiently stores and releases mechanical energy, reducing motor work requirements for actuator applications where an elastic response is sought. An energy efficient control strategy for the CV-SEA was developed using a Monte-Carlo minimization method that randomly generates transmission profiles and converges on those that minimize the electrical energy consumption of the motor. The CV-SEA is compared to a standard SEA and an infinitely variable series elastic actuator (IV-SEA). Simulations suggest that a CV-SEA will require less energy that an SEA or IV-SEA when used in a knee prosthesis during level-ground walking.

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