In recent years there has been a growing interest in the healthcare field for robotics applications in rehabilitation and clinical assessment. Although there have been different initiatives for the applications of serial robots in the healthcare field, there are no parallel robots with sufficiently safe control systems for in-vivo applications. The use of parallel robots with three or more degrees of freedom would allow, compared to serial robots, the improvement of both accuracy and versatility of clinical assessment and the individualization of therapeutic physical intervention. In addition, since the distal part of the limb can be placed on the mobile platform of these robots, closed kinetic chain work is possible, which facilitates proprioception training.
Therefore, the present project will focus on research on the use of parallel robots in the field of healthcare.
The main objective is to develop and experimentally validate a mechatronic system, based on a parallel robot, capable of performing, with full safety for the patient and for the clinical staff, both proprioceptive rehabilitation tasks and clinical assessment of the lower limb.
This proposal is based on the knowledge achieved in two previous consecutive research projects of the Agencia Estatal de Investigación, Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Gobierno de España): Integration of biomechanical models in the development and operation of reconfigurable rehabilitative robots (DPI2017-84201-R-AR) and Design Methodology of Biomechatronic Systems. Application to the development of a hybrid Parallel Robot for diagnosis and rehabilitation (DPI2013-44227-R)
Thanks to these projects, a parallel robot with a mobile platform was developed. However, its development highlighted several important issues that must be solved to have a useful, operative and safe system. On the one hand, lower limb musculoskeletal models should be improved, so that the previously developed model, as a result of previous projects could be enhanced by incorporating the musculoskeletal morphology analysis, coactivation patterns of agonist and antagonist muscles, as well as the generation of normative bases of healthy and pathological persons.
On the other hand, in the field of mechanics, procedures will be developed to identify errors associated with manufacturing clearances, developing a kinematic and dynamic model of the clearances of the parallel robot. Further, the impact of the errors on a Type II singularity proximity index developed in the research group will be analyzed.
In the control area, a new control architecture will be implemented, and new force and/position control strategies will be developed to perform assessment and rehabilitation exercises. The controllers will incorporate the dynamic model of the robot, and the musculoskeletal model of the coactivation. Moreover, real-time control strategies will be developed for the automatic avoidance of singular points, and of the controlled output in the case of falling into a singularity.
The project is conducted by a multidisciplinary group of researchers from 3 areas of knowledge: Biomechanics, Control and Automation Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. The group has been working together uninterruptedly for more than 15 years.
In order to achieve these objectives, we have gathered a multidisciplinary team formed by researchers of Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and Universitat de València (UV) with a long experience in multibody dynamic systems, in the development of parallel robot control systems, design of biomechanical models, and application of such models to the clinical and rehabilitation areas (Instituto Universitario de Automática e Informática Industrial (ai2), Instituto Universitario de Ingeniería Mecánica y Biomecánica (I2MB) and Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia (IBV), UPV), development of biomechanics procedures for functional assessments in people with different pathologies and conditions, biomechanical gait analysis or physiotherapy (Departamento de Fisioterapia, UV).
This team will also interact with a researcher of the Universidad de los Andes (Venezuela).
From the perspective of the system control, we will develop advanced techniques for the control of position and force, based on estimates from the biomechanical model of the lower limb. We will incorporate interfaces for programming exercises through portable devices, in order to facilitate an intuitive and friendly usage by clinical operators and patients. Finally, we will develop different control modes adapted to different rehabilitation strategies based on active, passive and AAN (Assist-As-Needed) exercises.
In order to achieve these objectives, we have gathered a multidisciplinary team formed by researchers of UPV with a long experience in multibody dynamic systems, in the development of parallel robot control systems, design of biomechanical models, and application of such models to the clinical and rehabilitation areas (Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Materials, Dept. of Systems Engineering and Automatics, and University Institute of Biomechanics of the UPV). This team will also interact with researchers of the Association Institute of Biomechanics of Valencia, UP de Navarra and the Faculty of Physiotherapy of the Universitat de València, plus two Professors of the Universidad de los Andes (Venezuela) and Berzeit University of Jerusalem.