23 Apr 2014
I thought I’d take a moment to share the latest of what we’re working on in developing the ExMS-1. We’ve been quite busy in the lab over the past few months. As I described in my last post, we were working on two devices: an “interface mockup” and a “functional mockup”. Both have since been built, but this post focuses on the latter, which I consider the more interesting and (dare I say it) “awesome” one.
Our functional mockup (shown below in the picture) is a revised research platform that is going to be used to verify the efficacy of the core architecture of the ExMS-1 (in biomechanical terms: its ability to reduce the effort required of the postural muscles of the lower back in assuming and holding flexed postures of the trunk, primarily in the sagittal plane). While we kept many of the same core components of the very first prototype I created as a doctoral student, the efforts of our team have updated just about every one of them to be more effective. Mechanically, we still use the same type of actuators we had before, but we’ve increased the number and greatly reinforced their enclosures and primary structure of the device (thanks to our mechanical engineer, Sam Beckett), enhancing both the maximum support force and robustness of the unit. Electrically, we’ve managed to put just about everything we need on a single circuit board of our own design: the “Catalan” (named after our electrical engineer, Alejandro Catalan). Finally, our new sensor system takes advantage of amazingly-compact signal conditioning circuitry designed by one of our 2013 summer interns. All of this is commanded by updated control software created by Sam and myself.
Sam and I have been putting the final tweaks on the behavior of the mockup, and I’m going to be wearing it and getting some fresh test data in the coming days. Fingers crossed, but we’re hopeful that this new functional mockup will provide even better results than the original prototype. Check back for our results, and thanks for reading!