Wearable Mobile Arm Support

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Arm Rehabilitation Mobile Support
FLIR Imaging Test Setup
Sponsor: University of Idaho
Team Name: ARMS
Duration: Fall 2016 - Spring 2017
Faculty Advisor:
  • James Founds
  • Tony Branz
  • Carter Drake
  • Murray-Gann
  • Jace Courtright
  • Parker Hill
  • The goal of this project is to improve upon the current arm support device by making it portable, reducing friction, improving force mapping, and making it safe. This was achieved by creating a portable model, testing pulley friction, continuous device testing, and redesigning cams within the system.

    Problem Definition


    Patients with neurological damage to the brain from events such as stroke often exhibit a loss in arm range of motion on the contralateral side of the body. It has been shown that by simulating a low-gravity environment, through gravitational support to the arm, a patient can achieve a larger range of motion. This increased range of motion may be sufficient to allow the completion of otherwise unattainable movements and tasks such as functional ADLs (activities of daily living) or tasks that are beneficial to promote further recovery of lost range of motion. The University of Idaho has designed an arm support that supports the arm and could allow stroke patients to regain lost function and mobility. Our objective is to understand its shortcomings, identify sources of error, and improve the system.

    Design Constraints

    Device must
    • Safe to the user
    • Low friction to allow for close mapping of desired forces
    • Wearable/Mobile
    Device should
    • Be comfortable for extended use
      • Sleek enough to avoid collisions with environment
    • Wearable
      • Able to put on and taken off in under 2 minutes
    • Be aesthetically pleasing
    • Improve elbow stability when the arm is extended

    Project Learning

    Pulley Board Trials

    2017 WearablePulleyBoard1.jpg

    Our initial test setup can be seen on the left. The objective of this test was to observe how different masses, numbers of pulleys, and types of cable effects friction. We also compared how different cable diameters and pulley diameters effect the system. While doing this test a mass was moved up and down by hand which lead to a high margin of error.

    Surgical Tubing Fatigue

    2017 WearableSpringConstant.PNG

    Preliminary tests were taken to allow for comparisons after modifications and to check for ongoing issues. These tests ended up showing us that the bands used to store energy were fatiguing over time. An image of the results can be seen to the left. We believe that the fatigue was mainly caused due to constant tension on the tubes and repeated use. To resolve this we replaced the tubing.

    Contact Points and Deformation

    2017 WearableDeformationpic.PNG

    Upon receiving the project we looked over the current model closely and found a contact point between a cam and the bracket as seen on the left. We removed material from the bracket, which in turn reduced the friction in the device. We also found that the cams within the internal elbow rotating assembly were deforming due to the high stresses within the system. We later redesigned the cams to eliminate this problem.


    Shaft/Cams Redesign

    2017 WearableShaft.JPG

    The original assembly consisted of individually machined aluminum cams fixed to a steel shaft. To increase the robustness and life of the internal elbow rotating assembly the shaft was redesigned and manufactured into one solid steel piece as seen on the left. Critical points on the cams were also redesigned to further increase the factor of safety within the assembly. We later performed a finite element analysis to confirm that we resolved the deformation issue.

    Pulley Board 2.0

    2017 WearablePulleyBoard2.png

    The pulley board was redesigned to reduce the error that was prominent in the initial tests. A motor was used to move the mass rather than by hand which moved the mass at a more consistent velocity. This helped reduce the effects of inertia while testing and produced more accurate results.


    2017 WearableWearable.jpg

    To make the Arm portable a vest was designed using a police tactical vest, thermoplastic, 3D printed parts, laser cut wood cross sections, several machined blocks of aluminum, therapeutic foam, and an assortment of fasteners bought from a local supply shop. The thermoplastic was first cut, then molded with a heat gun to fit the contours of the subjects back. 8 shoulder contours were laser cut from a piece of birch wood and secured to the thermoplastic via the machined metal blocks and the fasteners. The tactical vest was slipped under the thermoplastic and attached followed by the arm being attached at the top shoulder.

    Safety Cover

    2017 WearableIPCover.JPG

    A cover was designed to improve the devices aesthetics as well as providing safety for the user. The design is lightweight and uses several arches to support a nylon cover. This cover protects the user from a potential cable snap, pinch points, and sharp edges.


    FEA Analysis

    2017 WearableFEA.png

    To confirm adequate strength of the redesigned shaft before machining a finite element analysis was preformed using SolidWorks. Force values calculated for the cable tensions and end terminations were applied to the model to simulate the actual forces of the device, as seen on the left. The final shaft design accepted a safety factor of 2 at critical loading points.

    Force Mapping

    2017 WearableShoulderTest.jpg

    After modifications were made to the arm a final test of the shoulder forces was completed, results can be seen on the left. The thick lines represent the desired torques while the thin lines represent the actual values. As can be seen at most angle the values are still below the desired forces, but are closer than they had been all year. We believe this could be due to the friction within the system. However, our modifications did slightly lower the hysteresis within the system.

    Team Information

    Picture Bio Discipline
    2016 WearableMobileArmSupport Tony2.jpg Tony Branz:

    Tony is a senior at the University of Idaho and plans to graduate with a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering in May of 2017. After he graduates he plans to return to school to pursue a masters in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on robotic systems. Outside of his class time he spends his days playing volleyball, basketball, or golf and spending time with friends and family. His team responsibility is creating agendas and leading the development of the pulley board system.

    Mechanical Engineering
    2016 WearableMobileArmSupport Carter.jpg Carter Drake:

    Carter is a senior ME undergrad at the University of Idaho, originally from small town Southern Iowa. Prior to attending college he served for 5 years in the Coast Guard as a machinery technician in Yorktown, VA, Seattle, WA, and Attu Island, AK. After graduating he plans to find a job as a product or design engineer, preferably in research and development. Carter enjoys spending time with family and friends, wrenching on anything, cooking, tinkering, inventing, hunting, and fishing. His team responsibilities include budget tracking, technical and machine shop support.

    Mechanical Engineering
    2016 WearableMobileArmSupport Kylo.jpg Kylo Murray-Gann:

    Kylo is a senior Mechanical Engineer at the University of Idaho and plans to graduate in May 2017. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). He has lived in Western Washington all his life, currently living in Roy, WA. Hobbies include sheepdog herding, video and photo editing, watching movies, and playing video games. His team responsibility is keeping track of the schedule/action items and running tests on the arm.

    Mechanical Engineering
    2016 WearableMobileArmSupport Jace2.jpg Jace Courtright:

    Jace is currently a senior pursing a bachelors of science in mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho with the intent to graduate in May 2017. His plans after college are still undecided but he hopes to attend graduate school after a couple of years of industry experience through numerous possible outlets. His hobbies include numerous sports and activities most notable of which being Ultimate Frisbee through the University of Idaho club team and skiing with friends and family during the winter. Jace’s primary duties to the team include but are not limited to: meetings recorder, arm disassembly/reassembly, and primary arm friction testing.

    Mechanical Engineering
    2016 WearableMobileArmSupport Parker.jpg Parker Hill:

    Parker is currently a Senior in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Idaho. He plans to graduate with his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering in May 2017 and to pursue his Master’s Degree starting in the fall of 2017. He has lived in northern Idaho all of his life and enjoys most sports, most of all baseball. His team responsibilities include assisting with Pulley-board design and running tests on the arm.

    Mechanical Engineering

    Documents Archive


    Fall Project Timeline

    Spring Project Timeline