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Integration of pneumatic technology in powered mobility devices

: Daveler, B.; Wang, H.; Gebrosky, B.; Grindle, G.G.; Schneider, U.; Cooper, R.A.


Topics in spinal cord injury rehabilitation 23 (2017), Nr.2, S.120-130
ISSN: 1082-0744
ISSN: 1945-5763
Fraunhofer IPA ()

Advances in electric motors, electronics, and control systems have enhanced the capability and drivability of electric power mobility devices over the last 60 years. Yet, battery technologies used in powered mobility devices (PMDs) have not kept pace. Recent advances in pneumatic technology, primarily the high torque, low speed design of rotary piston air motors, directly align with the needs of PMD. Pneumatic technology has advantages over battery-powered technology, including lighter weight, lower operating costs, decreased environmental impact, better reliability, and increased safety. Two prototypes were created that incorporated rotary piston air motors, high-pressure air tanks, and air-pressure regulators. Prototype 1 was created by modifying an existing electric PMD. Range tests were performed to determine the feasibility of pneumatic technology and the optimal combination of components to allow the longest range possible at acceptable speeds over ideal condition s. Using a 1.44 L air tank for feasibility testing, prototype 1 was capable of traveling 800 m, which confirmed the feasibility of pneumatic technology usage in PMDs. Prototype 2 was designed based on the testing results from prototype 1. After further optimization of prototype 2, the average maximum range was 3,150 m. Prototype 2 is up to 28.3% lighter than an equivalent size electric PMD and can be fully recharged in approximately 2 minutes. It decreases the cost of PMDs by approximately 1,500, because batteries do not need to be replaced over the lifetime of the device. The results provide justification for the use of pneumatic technology in PMDs.