Accepted for publication (PostPrint)
IEEE Transactions on Mechatronics
Construction workers regularly perform tasks that require kneeling, crawling, and squatting. Working in awkward kneeling postures for prolonged time periods can lead to knee pain, injuries, and osteoarthritis. In this paper, we present lightweight, wearable sensing and knee assistive devices for construction workers during kneeling and squatting tasks. Analysis of kneeling on level and slopped surfaces (0, 10, 20 degs) is performed for single- and double-leg kneeling tasks. Measurements from the integrated inertial measurement units are used for real-time gait detection and lower-limb pose estimation. Detected gait events and pose estimation are used to control the assistive knee-joint torque provided by lightweight exoskeletons with powerful quasi-direct drive actuation. Human subject experiments are conducted to validate the effectiveness of the proposed analysis and control design. The results show reduction in knee extension/flexion muscle activation (up to 39%) during stand-to-kneel and kneel-to-stand tasks. Knee-ground contact forces/pressures are also reduced (up to 15%) under robotic assistance during single-leg kneeling. Increasing assistive knee torque shows redistribution of the subject’s weight from the knee in contact with the ground to both supporting feet. The proposed system provides an enabling tool to potentially reduce musculoskeletal injury risks of construction workers.
Siyu Chen, Duncan Stevenson, Shuangyue Yu, Monika Mioskowska, Jingang Yi, Hao Su, and Mitja Trkov. (2021). Wearable Knee Assistive Devices for Kneeling. IEEE Transactions on Mechatronics, in press. DOI: 10.1109/TMECH.2021.3081367