We developed a powered ankle-foot orthosis that uses artificial pneumatic muscles to produce active plantar flexor torque. The purpose of this study was to quantify the mechanical performance of the orthosis during human walking. Three subjects walked at a range of speeds wearing ankle-foot orthoses with either one or two artificial muscles working in parallel. The orthosis produced similar total peak plantar flexor torque and network across speeds independent of the number of muscles used. The orthosis generated ∼57% of the peak ankle plantar flexor torque during stance and performed ∼70% of the positive plantar flexor work done during normal walking. Artificial muscle bandwidth and force-length properties were the two primary factors limiting torque production. The lack of peak force and work differences between single and double muscle conditions can be explained by force-length properties. Subjects altered their ankle kinematics between conditions resulting in changes in artificial muscle length. In the double muscle condition greater plantar flexion yielded shorter artificial muscles lengths and decreased muscle forces. This finding emphasizes the importance of human testing in the design and development of robotic exoskeleton devices for assisting human movement. The results of this study outline the mechanical performance limitations of an ankle-foot orthosis powered by artificial pneumatic muscles. This orthosis could be valuable for gait rehabilitation and for studies investigating neuromechanical control of human walking.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Biomedical Engineering