Date of Award

9-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Engineering (M.S.E.)

Department

School of Engineering

First Advisor

Brent Nowak

Second Advisor

Blake M. Ashby

Third Advisor

Jeanine Beasley

Academic Year

2017/2018

Abstract

Space presents numerous difficulties for astronauts conducting their work, not the least of which is the spacesuit that is worn to protect them from space. It has long been known that a spacesuit is difficult to work in, especially the rigid and pressurized gloves that put strain on the astronaut's hands, frequently leading to injuries. Astronaut gloves inhibit more than 50% of their strength in some cases [1]. NASA and other space agencies have been working to alleviate these problems by attempting to mechanically augment the gloves to reduce the exertions of the astronaut. To date, no augmentation systems have been implemented into spacesuits and prototypes are actively undergoing design and development [2] [3]. Currently existing prototypes are impractical, unconformable, or not effectively augmenting the astronaut as evidenced by the non-implementation of such systems to date.

This work presents a novel conceptual exoskeleton design for astronaut glove augmentation and a mathematical model that is used to predict its performance. In addition, experiments were conducted to validate the math model. The conceptual exoskeleton is designed to overcome the shortcomings of previous attempts to augment astronaut gloves by using rigid linkages actuated by a single tendon routed through them. This system operates exclusively on the dorsal surface of the hand, limiting the restrictions to the palmar surface of the hand. The mathematical model presents a method to equate the tendon tension to the contact force between the linkages and the object that is being grasped.

Two representative models of the conceptual exoskeleton were built and tested. The experimental fixture, custom designed and fabricated, used a Pliance Pressure Pad to measure the total forces produced by the system. The measured force values were then compared to predictions made by the system to assess the accuracy of the mathematical model. The experimental configurations of the systems were measured using a machine vision system.

The mathematical model was shown to accurately predict the contact forces produced by the representative test rigs. Relationships between the contact forces developed in a grasp and the readings from a Jamar Grip Dynamometer were then used to estimate the magnitude of grip strength that the full exoskeleton could develop [4]. These estimations indicate that the conceptual system would be able to recover up to 124% of the strength that astronauts lose to their gloves.

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