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The proposed paper discusses the design and characterization of a soft miniature Magneto-Rheological (MR) shock absorber. In particular, the final application considered for the insertion of the designed devices is a controllable variable stiffness sole for patients with foot neuropathy. Such application imposes particularly challenging constraints in terms of miniaturization (cross-sectional area ≤ 1.5 cm2, height ≤ 25 mm) and high sustainable loads (normal loads up to 60 N and shear stresses at the foot/device interface up to 80 kPa) while ensuring moderate to low level of power consumption. Initial design considerations are done to introduce and justify the chosen novel configuration of soft shock absorber embedding a MR valve as the core control element. Successively, the dimensioning of two different MR valves typologies is discussed. In particular, for each configuration two design scenarios are evaluated and consequently two sets of valves satisfying different specifications are manufactured. The obtained prototypes result in miniature modules (external diam. ≤ 15 mm, overall height ≤ 30 mm) with low power consumption (from a minimum of 63 mW to a max. of 110 mW) and able to sustain a load up to 65 N. Finally, experimental sessions are performed to test the behaviour of the realized shock absorbers and results are presented.
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