An ankle foot orthosis (AFO) is a device that provides a controlled force to compensate for the muscle deficiencies in the ankle and helps normalize the gait of the patient. Evidence has indicated that there exists an optimal match correlating the patient’s gait related problems and the AFO stiffness. AFO ankle stiffness is measured by the moment around the ankle joint exerted by the AFO per degree of ankle joint rotation. To date, several testing devices and procedures have been developed to assess the stiffness characteristics of AFOs. Most of the devices are manually driven and may not exactly replicate human leg motion. Objective of developing an automated testing assembly is to identify stiffness characteristics of passive AFOs so as to develop an active AFO with shape memory alloy. We have developed an assembly using aluminum T-slotted profiles, single flange linear bearings, and living hinges from 80/20 Inc. Angle measurement was done by mounting Digital Protractor on the shank segment. The whole assembly was mounted on BOSE ElectroForce 3330 test instrument. dSPACE hardware-in-the-loop solution was used for real time data capture of force and angle sensor output. After assessing the characteristics of passive AFO we incorporated SMA wire in the AFO. Similar tests were conducted to evaluate effect of SMA wires on the overall stiffness of an AFO. The results confirm that SMA wires provide stiffness variation such a way that AAFO can be developed to achieve stiffness variation close to normal ankle stiffness.

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