Archive for the ‘Bionics’ Category

1971 – A computer controlled multi-task powered exoskeleton for paraplegic patients – Jack George Grundmann / Ali Seireg (American)

University of Wisconsin-Madison Mechanical Engineering Professor Ali Seireg achieved worldwide recognition for his work in mechanical and biomedical engineering design. Among his advances, he was first to develop a mathematical model of the entire human musculoskeletal system that could predict the muscle and joint forces and interactions, given a motion input. In the early 1970s, he performed pioneering research on using powered exoskeletons to help disabled people rehabilitate and walk. Here are a few iterations of Seireg's "walking machines," and his demonstration of their use.

Ali Seireg was the supervising Professor, but the exoskeleton was built by Jack George Grundmann.

Source: The Wisconsin Engineer – Volume 77, Number 2 (November 1972)

Everyone Should Walk by Steve Sanborn
Caption: Jack Grundmann is shown above wearing the walking device he constructed under the guidance of Prof. Seireg of the Mechanical Engineering Department.
During the 1971 Engineering Exposition people on this campus were exposed for the first time to a walking device.  This device was a three legged robot powered by compressed air. Actually it was not a complete robot but only the walking portion, just the legs.
  The mechanism was constructed to be a model, a mechanical analog of a walking human. It could have been built with only two legs rather than three, but since it weighed 260 pounds it would have damaged easily if tipped over. The third leg provided extra stability.
  Since this original prototype was constructed, a new two legged model has been built. The new model differs considerably from the prototype in many respects. The two legged model is powered by AC current rather than compressed air. Unlike the prototype, the present model is actually worn by a human. This was the goal of the design project, to create a device that would give a person that was unable to use his legs, the ability to walk again. The project is by no means completed. More work has to be done in designing and constructing the third model. Presently Jack Grundmann is testing and altering the second model so as to incorporate new ideas into the third mechanism.
As was mentioned, the first prototype was operated with compressed air. This model was consequently bulky and awkward. Model II is operated by what is described as a puppet system. Cables extend from cams, located in a pack, down the body to the individual joints in which they control. The pack is mounted

Caption: Shown above is the original three legged walking machine.

Caption: This side view shows the long cables extending from the cams in the pack to the joints of the device.

on the shoulder of the person wearing the mechanism. Supports extend from the frame of the mechansim to the pack so that the heavy weight of the device is not felt by the wearer. Within the pack are the six cams that pull the cables causing the person to walk. These cams were designed to cause the joints to move almost exactly the way a normal human moves.
  Ultimately it is desired to make a system that will allow a person that can no longer use his legs to walk forward, backward, turn, sit, stand and walk up and down stairs. Also, the device should be cosmetic. This means that it should be possible to cover the mechanism and its suspension system with normal clothing apparel.
  Model II can only walk forward, Model III will be able to preform all these tasks. Model III will not be supported by bulky metal braces and tubes as were previous models. Instead, plastics and fiberglass will be incorporated as structural supports. To replace the bulky joints, electronic servo mechanisms will be employed. The use of electronics will allow a number of mini-programs to be place in a very small computer, carried by the person using the device. Each program would cause the mechanism to move, initating the motions a human makes. The programs would be turned on and off by the person wearing the device. There would be one program for each sequence of movements such as walking or for sitting.
  Very little has been done in the past three centuries in the area of prosthesis. The plastic leg of today is nothing more than an adaptation of the wooden leg of the seventeenth century. It is unfortunate that the technology of today has not been applied sooner to help paralized people walk again.
  This attempt at the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering requires the encouragement and support of all people concerned with restoring the ability to walk to those who can not.


Kaiser Chair of Mechanical Engineering Ali Seireg was best known for his research on biomechanics, or treating the human body as a machine. He taught in the College of Engineering for 31 years before his retirement in 1997 and maintained a presence on campus until his death in 2002. He authored seven books and more than 300 papers, edited two journals for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and created a “walking-machine” for paraplegics, which was exhibited at the Seattle World’s Fair and the History of Medicine and Science Museum in London. He was an award-winning educator and internationally recognized engineer.

See other early Teleoperators, Exoskeletons and Industrial Robots here.

1976 – Pneumatic Exoskeleton Prosthesis – Pierre Rabischong (French)

Revolutionizing Techniques of Orthosis and Prosthesis
Professor Pierre Rabischong of the Montpellier Propara Centre watches as a female patient and her physical therapist use a machine developed by Professor Rabischong. This machine allows the patient in rehabilitation to maintain her balance while inciting her muscles to move. The system functions according to the master-slave concept. The physical therapist makes the movements first and the machine transfers them to the patient's machine, who then follows.
Stock Photo ID: 42-17253903
Date Photographed: 01 September 1983
Credit: © Eric Preau/Sygma/Corbis

Figure 4.4.2.(2) Active modular orthesis for lower limbs (OMAMI) (Rabischong, INSERM, France, 1983): 1 and 2, potentiometers for the master orthesis, worn by the patient; 3 and 4, slave hydraulic actuators for the patient. Contention on the segments is ensured by the presence of inflatable pieces reinforced with strips of composite material (carbon fibre). The hydraulic system was produced by Renault, the orthesis by Aerazure. The kinematic walking model, developed by the Automation and Microelectronics Laboratory, Montpellier (LAMM) is intended to be used and to give the
patient greater autonomy. Photo courtesy of INSERM ASSISTED WALKING
Following on from the work of Tomovic the Yugoslav, Rabischong applied the problem of assistance to those with paralysis of the lower limbs using a motorized orthesis. His original idea (Rabischong et al., 1978; Hill, 1976-1) consisted of controlling the orthesis by unilateral positional servocontrol using two exoskeleton legs worn by the patient [see Figure 4.4.2.(2)]. The second version, currently being used experimentally, is hydraulically powered and was produced by Renault. This system is highly promising for training limbs; the extension towards autonomy on the basis of a kinematic computer model of walking is envisaged in the long term. The patient would use two walking sticks.

Source: Robot Technology – Vol 3a – Teleoperations and Robotics: Evolution and Development by  Jean Vertut and Philippe Coiffet, 1986.

Patent US3993056

Publication number    US3993056 A
Publication date    Nov 23, 1976
Filing date    Jan 21, 1976
Inventors    Pierre Rabischong, Jean Pierre Louis Bel
Original Assignee    Institut National De La Sante Et De La Recherche Medicale

An orthopaedic appliance which enables paralytics to stand erect has a fabric garment formed in separate pieces to be tightly wrapped around body parts located between joints the pieces having an inflatable support structures in the form of vertical tubes and devices connecting garment pieces located on opposite sides of a body joint in the form of a separate row of rigid parallel pins attached to the inflatable structure each garment piece and a pivot which can be hydraulically or otherwise driven, interconnecting the rows of pins. The inflatable tubes are located in elongate fabric sheaths and the pins are inserted in fabric sheaths defined between the tube sheaths so that when the tubes are inflated they clamp the pins between them.

See also later patent US4169467.

See other early Teleoperators, Exoskeletons and Industrial Robots here.

1926 – Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace) – Fritz Kahn (German-Jew)

Fritz Kahn (1888–1968) was a German-Jewish gynaecologist and science author who developed a sophisticated graphic analogy between anatomy and machinery. His work was widely distributed in Germany until it was banned under the Nazi regime. He continued to publish, relocating to Palestine and Paris before escaping to the USA with the help of Albert Einstein. In a later work from 1943, he describes the relationship between man and machine: “[they] exhibit far-reaching similarities. Both derive their energy from the combustion of carbon, which they obtain from plants. Man, the weaker machine, utilizes fresh plants for fuel, while the locomotive, a stronger machine, uses fossilized plants in the form of coal.”

Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace). Stuttgart, 1926. Chromolithograph. National Library of Medicine.

Kahn’s modernist visualization of the digestive and respiratory system as "industrial palace," really a chemical plant, was conceived in a period when the German chemical industry was the world’s most advanced.

Early info-graphics of the mind drawing influences from the scientific and artistic movements of the time

Cover of David Fishlock's book, Man Modified.

Fritz Kahn (1888-1968).
There is a new book by Taschen on Kahn, based on an earlier exhibition in 2010. See The Times of Israel article here.

See the timeline on Cyborgs and Bionics here.


More Meccano Walking Machines & Robots

Meccano model of GE's Walking Truck designed by Hugh Henry.

All legs are completely rotatable in the same direction.

For a complete set of images see the NZ Meccano web site here.  Thanks Antonio Gual for encouraging  Tony Brown (the author of the Modelplan) who found some pictures of Hugh Henry's original.

(Has anyone built this model? I wouldn't mind getting some more pics and possible Youtube clip of this.)

Walking Steam Boat

Above model by Anthony Burkitt.

The Meccano Steam Boat Construction Set is part of popular the Crazy Inventors series of 5 multi model motorised sets.

You can build 3 different unique models with the 363 wood, metal and plastic parts in the Steam Boat Crazy Inventors Erector Set. Included in the set are a legs with suspensions, an anchor with chain, gears, tools and a character. A 6V motor (requires 4 AA batteries -included) allows the vehicle to really walk.

Other Meccano models:

Konkoly Walking Camel by Gary Higgins

See a selection of Konkoly walking models here. Thanks Antonio Gual for the link.

Mechanical Elephant model 1954.

Mechanical Kangaroo – Gravity walker. 1969.

Man learning to walk on a treadmill.

1913 – Giant Mechanical Mosquito – Dr. Gustav Luchy (Swiss)

During some earlier research on Walking Machines, discovered an article in The Salt Lake Tribune. (Salt Lake City, Utah), March 09, 1913 headlined "The Giant Mechanical Mosquitoes Of Dr. Gustav Luchy." Now that it's come time to write it up, I see that Lyle Zapato's in his blog ZPi has already done a fine job in researching the material. So I will just add the picture and text transcribed here. 


Picture Diagram Illustrating the Inventor's Idea of the Development of the Luchy Machine, Drawn from Sketches of the Small Working Model. The Essential Points of the Invention Can Be Grasped Easily by Study of the Carefully Worked Out Illustration. The Artist Has Shown the Machine at Work in the Antarctic, Boring Through the Ice Cap Down into the Internal Fires of the Earth. While the Inventor Has Suggested the Possibility of Tapping Earth's Heat in This Way, Other Scientists Believe Such a Development Highly Improbable. Not Only Would the Tools Have to Be of Impossible Length and Size, but It Would Not Be Possible to Generate Enough Power to Run Them. Besides, the Internal Fires, When Struck, Would Destroy the Tools Instantly. The Future of the Invention Lies, It Is Believed, in Smaller Machines Which Are Able to Carry Men into Places Inaccessible to Other Means of Conveyance and at the Same Time to Provide Shelter.

Giant Mechanical Mosquitoes to Conquer Nature!

Astonishing Machines Suggested by a Swiss Scientist to Open Up Earth's Remotest Places, and to Make Impossible a Repetition of the Captain Scott Tragedy

Milan, Feb. 20.[1913]

SELF-MOVING mechanisms modelled on the lines of gigantic mosquitoes and designed to enable man to conquer Nature in those places where the climate or the formation of the country make it impossible for him to enter or to remain for any length of time have been invented by Dr. Gustav Luchy, a Swiss scientist. Dr. Luchy, who has been collaborator with the Chevalier Pini, [actually Ing. Guiseppe Pino] the inventor of astonishing machines for exploring the sea bottoms, asserts that if Captain Scott had been equipped with one of his mechanical mosquitoes he could have made his way to the South Pole within a few hours after leaving his base. He also claims that the machines will make impossible any repetition of the Scott tragedy [from 1912], and will enable man to wrest from the Antarctic continent its mineral treasures without exposing their operators to the slightest danger.

Despite man's boasted mechanical progress, his engines of locomotion are singularly limited. The locomotive is dependent upon rails; the automobile demands at least a fairly smooth surface on which to run, and the flying machine as yet lacks efficient carrying power. None of the three is equipped to provide adequate shelter for any length of time in parts of the earth's surface where without shelter man cannot exist. Dr. Luchy's problem was to find a mechanism which could be independent of rails, would not be deterred by obstacles impassable to the automobile, would have practicable carrying power, and would provide shelter to a sufficient number of men for a sufficient length of time to enable them to do whatever they had set out to do.

In the formation of the mosquito he claims he found the combination of leg height with carrying power that he desired. The appearance of the machines in action would recall vividly the appearance of the Fighting Machines of the Martians in H. G. Wells's "War of the World's," a description of which is reprinted on this page. [See original for excerpt under the title "The Weird, 'Living' Machines of the Octopus-Like Martians".]

Only small working models of the mechanical mosquitoes have as yet been made by the inventor, but these seem to be as practicable as the paper plans promised. A large working model forty feet high when the long, articulated legs are fully expended, is now in course of construction. In the body are the engines which, provide its motive power and the quarters for a crew of ten men. The head is nothing more than a huge engine, from which are operated the drills, cutting tools, lifting cranes or whatever it is that is necessary for the work at hand. The inventor has in mind still larger machines built on exactly the same lines. He believes that there is no limit to the size of his mechanisms, and that it will be possible to build a mechanical mosquito big enough to walk through the shallower depths of the ocean, and to be powerful enough to cut through earth's crust to the internal fires—the same plan that has been suggested by the famous astronomer, Camille Flammarion, as a solution of the problem of our future source of energy when our coal beds give out.

The Luchy machines, besides being foreshadowed in Wells's fanciful story, have actual predecessors in travelling stages in use at Whitby, England, for marine work. These machines, the invention of Messrs. W. Hill & Co., are now being used for the construction of concrete breakwaters and similar operations. A description of their simpler mechanism will serve to make a trifle clearer the mode of locomotion of the Luchy machines. The Hill stages have eight legs and feet, four of which are used at a time when in motion. There are two massive steel framework structures, one inside the other, the outer being square, and the inner rectangular, the latter being somewhat smaller than the other. The legs, comprising stout members, which can be moved up and down vertically for a considerable distance, are fitted at the corners of each stage, and are pointed at the lower end to secure a firm grip upon the rocky seabed.

The walking action is secured as follows: The outer frame has its front legs lowered until the spuds (or feet) secure a grip upon the seabed. The legs of the inner stage are then raised to clear all obstructions when the stage is moved for ward the full extent of its travel, which brings it against the forward end of the outer stage, when its legs are lowered to the ground. The legs of the outer stage are now elevated vertically, so that the latter rests upon the former.

The outer stage is now moved forward until the inner stage is brought into contact with the rear end of the outer stage. The legs of the last named are then lowered, those of the inner stage raised, and the same cycle of operation is repeated.

The "walking man" is quite a massive affair. The outer frame is 48½ feet square, and it stands 33 feet high from the bottom of the spuds to the working deck level. The inner stage is 29½ feet by 40¼ feet. The result is that the machine can make a forward stride of about ten feet, while the inner stage can move sideways for about three feet. The feet are raised and lowered by screw gearing driven by electric motors. A complete movement can be effected in fifteen minutes.

It has been found that, with this travelling stage, work can be continued in the roughest weather. Indeed, it was the heavy seas experienced at Peterhead that led to its invention.

The Luchy machines have six articulated legs, three on each side of the body. Each leg ends in a deeply ridged foot, designed to give gripping power and to insure stability. The parts where the legs come from the mechanical body move on ball joints, thus giving free movement in all directions.

A study of the diagram on this page gives more clearly than any written description could, the essential principles of the Luchy invention.

In the Antarctic are enormous fields of mineral wealth. Captain Scott reported great coal beds and evidences of platinum, gold, iron and other useful minerals have been reported by other explorers. The great question has been how to get this mineral wealth away from such a place. The land is frozen and for a great part of the year is swept by terrific blizzards, in which man can hardly live, much less work. But it is claimed for the Luchy invention that several machines, each capable of holding crews of forty or fifty men, could be taken down to the Antarctic land mass. There they could be adjusted and could be effectively worked for the greater part of the year at least.

The boring tools in the head of the mosquitoes can be manipulated entirely from the inside of the machine itself and the body of the mechanism provides perfect shelter against the worst climatic conditions that could be encountered.

The machines will be made of steel and aluminum, and are not inordinately heavy. They are run by the Diesel oil machines, and the problem of fuel is the difficult one. It would be with coal. It will even be possible to use one machine as an operating mechanism and to use several others as carriers for whatever ores or other earth's treasures their crews are after.

For work in deserts, where the only means of access is by caravan, it is thought that the Luchy machines will be extremely useful. They do away with the necessity of erecting elaborate buildings or elaborate fortifications against hostile tribes, and can move easily and swiftly from place to place. They carry their own supplies and their own means of movement, and so are not dependent upon their surroundings.

In tropical countries, where locomotive travel is impeded by the vegetable growth, the machines can be equipped with cutting tools, and could clear a path to whatever point aimed at in a fraction of the time compared to the slow methods now in use.

Finally their use as war engines, as terrible as the fanciful "walking tripods" of Mr. Wells's Martians, is being brought to the attention of the Italian Government.

It is only fair to say that many scientists are skeptical as to the practicability of the machines. They grant that they will have limited use, but doubt if they can be extended to the deep sea wading size predicted by Dr. Luchy. Complexity of parts, weight and the enormous energy needed to run them on a large scale are put forth as arguments against their unlimited use.

Like Zapato, I also cannot find another mention of Dr. Gustav Luchy. Zapato makes a comment assuming Luchy is Italian, be he is Swiss and collaborated with Guiseppe Pino who is an Italian. I've tried searching on variants of Luchy's name, but currently without success.