Transducers for spatial plantar force measurements have numerous applications in biomechanics, rehabilitation medicine, and gait analysis. In this work, the design of a novel, tri-axial transducer for plantar force measurements was presented. The proposed design could resolve both the normal and the shear forces applied at the foot's sole. The novelty of the design consisted in using a rotating bump to translate the external loads into axial compressive forces which could be measured effectively by conventional pressure sensors. For the prototype presented, multilayer polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) thin-film capacitive stacks were manufactured and used as sensing units, although in principle the design could be extended to various types of sensors. A quasi-static analytic solution to describe the behavior of the transducer was also derived and used to optimize the design. To characterize the performance of the transducer, a 3 cm diameter, 1 cm tall prototype was manufactured and tested under various combination of shear and normal loading scenarios. The tests confirmed the ability of the transducer to generate strong capacitive signals and measure both the magnitude and direction of the normal and shear loads in the dynamic range of interest.
Keywords: PDMS; diagnostic; gait analysis; plantar force; pressure; sensor; shear; transducer.