Design and Preliminary Implementation of an Air Microfluidics Enabled Soft Robotic Knee Brace Towards the Management of Osteoarthritis*
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A dynamic and low-profile unloader tibiofemoral knee brace is designed and prototyped by synergizing concepts from the fields of microfluidics and soft robotics. Microfluidics provides strategies for miniaturization and multiplexing while soft robotics afford the tools to create soft fluidic actuators and allow compliant and inherently safe robotic assistance as part of clothing. The unloader knee brace provides dynamic response during the gait cycle, where a three-point leverage torque is provided only during the stance phase to contribute to joint stability when required and enhance comfort and compliance.Clinical Relevance- This novel soft robotic brace has the potential to reduce device abandonment due to aesthetics, user non-compliance and discomfort due to a constant three-point leverage torque during the gait cycle. Also, this air microfluidics enabled soft robotic knee brace could be expanded upon to improve the efficacy of braces in general and augment the effects of physical therapy, rehabilitation and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.
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