The ankle plays an important role in human movement as it supplies the majority of energy to support an individual’s walking. In this paper, the authors present a robotic ankle-foot orthosis (RAFO), which is essentially a wearable robot that acts in parallel to the user’s biological ankle for motion assistance. Unlike most of the existing robotic ankle-foot ortheses, the RAFO in this paper is a compact and portable assistive device with full energy autonomy, which enables its use in a user’s daily life without the typical limitation associated with tethered operation. The primary performance goal in the design of the RAFO is to provide a torque capacity equivalent to 35% of a 75 kg healthy person’s maximum ankle torque in slow walking, while keeping the weight of the device less than 2 kg. To reach such goal, the orthotic joint is actuated with a compact flat motor coupled with a two-stage transmission that provides a total 200:1 gear ratio. Additionally, a novel two-degree-of-freedom (2-DOF) joint design is incorporated. In addition to the powered dorsiflexion – plantarflexion, the 2-DOF joint also allows passive inversion – eversion of the joint, which greatly improves the comfort in the prolonged wearing of the device. For the control of the powered joint, a finite-state, friction-compensated impedance controller is developed to provide natural interaction with the user and reliable triggering of the powered push-off in walking. A prototype of the RAFO has been fabricated and assembled, and preliminary results demonstrated its effectiveness in assisting the user’s locomotion in treadmill walking experiments.

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