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Synthesis and Implementation of Advanced Controllers for a Novel Pneumatic Semi-Active Wheelchair Suspension

[+] Author Affiliations
David Smith, Hemanth Porumamilla

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA

Paper No. IMECE2011-63895, pp. 509-516; 8 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 2: Biomedical and Biotechnology Engineering; Nanoengineering for Medicine and Biology
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5488-4
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


Present within the medical literature are numerous studies which indicate the negative effects of the vibration environment encountered by a wheelchair passenger with regard to human health and comfort (Wolf, Cooper, Pearlman, Fitzgerald, & Kelleher, 2007). In the regard, the accelerations due to road variations have been documented to cause numerous health effects in the human body, such as chronic back, increased need for medication and painkillers, and aggravation of the primary disease, thereby illustrating a need for improvement of the vibration environment (Weisman & Huston, 1995). The current state of the art for wheelchair suspensions is very basic with vast majority of wheelchairs having no suspension of any kind (Cooper, Wolf, Fitzgerald, Bonninger, Ulerich, & Ammer, 2003), some that do offer suspensions use simple off-the-shelf components and are not tuned, reducing performance (Wolf, Cooper, Pearlman, Fitzgerald, & Kelleher, 2007) (Hostens, Papaioannou, Spaepen, & Ramon, 2003). This research study was conducted to design and implement a new semi-active suspension system utilizing the combination of purely pneumatic system components comprising of an airspring and an electronically controlled, high-fidelity, electro-mechanical valve to achieve variable pneumatic damping in real time. Three semi-active controller types were designed and tested in this research, viz. Skyhook control, Acceleration driven damping control, and a combined control law using a time domain frequency selector to determine which of the above two laws to choose at any given instant. The evaluation of the vibration environment was analyzed with respect ISO 2631, in order assess the performance of each controller. The three controllers were tested and implemented on the hardware. It was noticed that each of the three semi-active suspensions utilizing the different controllers showed a distinct improvement in the ride quality over the basic wheelchair configurations (Wheelchairs with no suspension) that are widely used. Furthermore, each controller design outperformed the passive suspension (current state-of-the-art) by two orders of magnitude. It was also shown that implementation of a passive suspension was counter-productive to system performance.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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