Design of a Hybrid SMA-Pneumatic based Wearable Upper Limb Exoskeleton

Alireza Golgouneh, Eric Beaudette, Heidi Woelfle, Bai Li, Niharikha Subash, Amanda Redhouse, Mark Jones, Tom Martin, Michele Lobo, Brad Holschuh, Lucy Dunne

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Upper limb mobility impairments affect individuals at all life stages. Exoskeletons can assist in rehabilitation as well as performing Activities of Daily Living (ADL). Most commercial assistive devices still rely on rigid robotics with constrained biomechanical degrees of freedom that may even increase user exertion. Therefore, this paper discusses the iterative design and development of a novel hybrid pneumatic actuation and Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) based wearable soft exoskeleton to assist in shoulder abduction and horizontal flexion/extension movements, with integrated soft strain sensing to track shoulder joint motion. The garment development was done in two stages which involved creating (1) SMA actuators integrated with soft sensing, and (2) integrating pneumatic actuation. The final soft exoskeleton design was developed based on the insights gained from two prior prototypes in terms of wearability, usability, comfort, and functional specifications (i.e., placement and number) of the sensors and actuators. The final exoskeleton is a modular, multilayer garment which uses a hybrid and customizable actuation strategy (SMA and inflatable pneumatic bladder).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationISWC 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781450384629
StatePublished - Sep 21 2020
Event25th ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers, ISWC 2021 - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: Sep 21 2021Sep 26 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Symposium on Wearable Computers, ISWC
ISSN (Print)1550-4816


Conference25th ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers, ISWC 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Esther Foo, Walter Lee, Ellen Dupler, and Miles Priebe. This work was supported by the US National Science Foundation under grants #1722738, #1722540, and #1722596.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Owner/Author.


  • Soft Exoskeleton
  • Soft robotics
  • Wearable Technology


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