This paper presents the design of a series elastic actuator and a higher level controller for said actuator to assist the motion of a user’s hand in a linkage based hand exoskeleton. While recent trends in the development of exoskeleton gloves has been to exploit the advantages of soft actuators, their size and power requirements limit their adoption. On the other hand, a series elastic actuator can provide compliant assistance to the wearer while remaining compact and lightweight. Furthermore, the linkage based mechanism integrated with the SEA offers repeatability and accuracy to the hand exoskeleton. By measuring the user’s motion intention through compression of the elastic elements in the actuator, a virtual dynamic system can be utilized that assists the users in performing the desired motion while ensuring the motion stability of the overall system. This work describes the detailed design of the actuator followed by performance tests using a simple PD controller on the integrated robotic exoskeleton prototype. The performance of the proposed high level controller is tested using the integrated exoskeleton glove mechanism for a single finger, using two types of input motion. Preliminary results are discussed as well as plans for integrating the proposed actuator and high level controller into a complete hand exoskeleton prototype to perform intelligent grasping.

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