Abstract

Walking with bodyweight support is a vital tool for both gait rehabilitation and biomechanics research. There are few commercially available bodyweight support systems for overground walking that are able to provide a near constant lifting force of more than 50% bodyweight. The devices that do exist are expensive and are not often used outside of rehabilitation clinics. Our aim was to design, build, and validate a bodyweight support device for overground walking that: 1) cost less than $5,000, 2) could support up to 75% of the users' bodyweight (BW), and 3) had small (±5 % BW) fluctuations in force. We used pairs of constant force springs to provide the constant lifting force. To validate the force fluctuation, we recruited 8 participants to walk at 0.4, 0.8, 1.2 and 1.6 m/s with 0, 22, 46 and 69% of their bodyweight supported. We used a load cell to measure force through the system and motion capture data to create a vector of the supplied lifting force. The final prototype cost less than $4,000 and was able to support 80% of the users' bodyweight. Fluctuations in vertical force increased with speed and bodyweight support, reaching a maximum of 10% at 1.6 m/s and 69% BW support.

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