alexa A five-wheel wheelchair with an active-caster drive system.


Journal of Applied Mechanical Engineering

Author(s): Munakata Y, Tanaka A, Wada M

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Abstract A novel wheelchair system with an active-caster drive mechanism is presented in this paper. A manual (hand propelled) wheelchair with an external single-wheel drive system forms a five-wheel configuration. The active-caster mechanism is applied to a drive system to motorize a manual wheelchair. Two electric motors which drive a wheel axis and a steering axis of a drive wheel independently are equipped on the active-caster. A coordinated control of the two motors enables the velocity vector on the steering shaft to direct in an arbitrary direction with an arbitrary magnitude. The generated velocity vector allows a wheelchair to go straight and/or rotate completely in a same way as a standard electric wheelchair. Namely 2DOF of the wheelchair can be controlled independently by a single drive wheel without any constraint, such as the orientation of the drive wheel which is well known as a non-holonomic constraint. In addition to the 2DOF mobility, the proposed system enables wheelchair users to change drive modes, a rear drive and a front drive. The drive wheel on the back side of the wheelchair is vertically actuated by a linear motor to change the height of the drive wheel that can vary load distribution and the number of wheels contacting to the ground. The five-wheel-contact makes the wheelchair to move as the normal mode in which the center of rotation is located at the midpoint of the main wheels. Depressing the drive wheel results in lost contacts of the main wheels from the ground in which the center of rotation is jumped at the midpoint of the front wheels, namely it performs as a front drive wheelchair. In this paper, kinematic models of the wheelchair and that with an active-caster drive system are analyzed and a control method by using a 2DOF joystick is derived. Based on the kinematic model, a prototype mechanism of the active-caster is designed and mounted on a manual wheelchair to realize the five-wheel wheelchair. In the experiments, the independent 2DOF motion can be achieved by the control of the active-caster in which the wheelchair shows successful translation, rotation and compound motions which include flip motions of the active-caster mechanism. Additionally, the two drive modes (front and rear) are tested by the prototype with a linear actuator. This article was published in IEEE Int Conf Rehabil Robot and referenced in Journal of Applied Mechanical Engineering

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