Splinting techniques are widely used in medicine to inhibit the movement of arthritic joints. Studies into the effectiveness of splinting as a method of pain reduction have generally yielded positive results, however, no significant difference has been found in clinical outcomes between splinting types. Tactile sensing has shown great promise for the integration into splinting devices and may offer further information into applied forces to find the most effective methods of splinting. Hall effect-based tactile sensors are of particular interest in this application owing to their low-cost, small size, and high robustness. One complexity of the sensors is the relationship between the elastomer geometry and the measurement range. This paper investigates the design parameters of Hall effect tactile sensors for use in hand splinting. Finite element simulations are used to locate the areas in which sensitivity is high in order to optimise the deflection range of the sensor. Further simulations then investigate the mechanical response and force ranges of the elastomer layer under loading which are validated with experimental data. A 4 mm radius, 3 mm-thick sensor is identified as meeting defined sensing requirements for range and sensitivity. A prototype sensor is produced which exhibits a pressure range of 45 kPa normal and 6 kPa shear. A proof of principle prototype demonstrates how this can be integrated to form an instrumented splint with multi-axis sensing capability and has the potential to inform clinical practice for improved splinting.
Hall effect sensor, calibration, force sensors, hand splint, hyperelastic elastomer, magnetic field, silicone rubber, soft sensing, tactile sensors