by Paolo Valpolini
Eduard Winckers, Senior Business Developer Defence, Safety and Security at TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research, illustrated the Exobuddy, developed by DEC M&U (Defence Centre of Expertise for Soldier and Equipment), TNO and InteSpring, a Dutch start-up active in the exoskeleton business. Currently at the technological demonstration level, that is TRL-6, the Exobuddy is a passive support structure designed to relieve the body when walking with heavy loads; these are reduced between 50 and 80%, while movability is not hampered.
New mechatronics and hydraulics improving support and comfort were adopted, official tests of what is dubbed “Pistonbuddy” being planned for November 2018, while a new miniaturised and ruggedised knee-mechanism was developed in order to provide an increase support and comfort, and will be integrated into the system in early 2019; it allows to stiffen the leg taking away up to 80% of the load while maintaining full freedom of movement. As the Exobuddy is mostly designed to be used during transfer and not much in combat, InteSpring developed a quick-release mechanism for backpack and shoe mount, allowing donning and doffing of the exoskeleton in a matter of seconds.
At laboratory level the current damping strategy was simulated showing that with a simple set-up it is possible to generate 3 Watt during the stance/damping phase, making the exoskeleton an energy-harvesting item. In July 2019 the Exobuddy Small should start testing, all hydraulics and mechatronics being integrated in the “thigh” of the Exobuddy, this being the first version in which miniaturisation will become a key element. According to Mr. Winckers the Exobuddy should be available in one and half year time, that is in Spring 2020.