A Bio-Inspired Compliant Elbow Prosthesis

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Adopting compliant structures holds the potential to enhance the robustness and interaction capabilities of the next generation of bionic limbs. Although researchers have proficiently explored this approach in the design of artificial hands, they devoted little attention to the development of more proximal joints. This work presents a compliant prosthetic elbow prototype called BICEP. The design incorporates compliant cross-axis flexural pivots that connect the upper and lower arm without direct contact between the two links. The actuation architecture, inspired by biological mechanisms, employs one actuator and two tendons to create an agonist-antagonist mechanism. This joint enables rotation along its flexion-extension axis while maintaining flexibility in out-of-plane directions, in a system with an overall weight of 351 g. A preliminary evaluation showcases lifting capacities supporting up to 2500 g, and a maximum speed of 157∘ per second across a 135∘ range of motion. The soft cross-axis flexural pivots exhibit compliant behavior in both the sagittal and transversal planes, enabling a pleasant interaction with the environment and ensuring safe absorption of unintentional impacts.