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Robotic systems such as exoskeletons can be effectively used in the reduction of fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) associated with physical tasks, but robots which work in physical contact with humans pose problems with user safety. A novel approach to developing intrinsically safe robots is to use passive actuators which have the advantage of being safer, ensuring stability, high force/weight ratios and lower power consumption. It is however not clear how effective an exoskeleton utilizing passive actuators would be in reducing fatigue and the risk of MSD. This paper analyzes the benefit of using such a system with results from dynamic simulations and an experiment using a specially designed mechanism used for evaluation. Results indicate that fatigue and effort could be reduced if robot impedance is minimized. Experiments also highlighted issues of implementing such a system into practice.
Date of Conference: 18-22 Oct. 2010