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New Mobility for the Disabled - EMC Design, Troubleshooting and Training for Complex Robotic Systems

A breakthrough personal mobility product, many years in the making, has recently been introduced for the disabled community – the Independence™ IBOT™ 3000 Mobility System from Independence Technology a division of Johnson & Johnson®. Lee Hill and Randal Vaughn of SILENT played a very essential role in its development.

The IBOT is a dynamically stabilized mobility system that can climb or descend stairs, negotiate curbs as high as 4 inches, travel smoothly on uneven terrain and comfortably lift the occupant into a vertical position for a face-to-face conversation in a social gathering. The IBOT allows far more personal mobility than conventional wheelchairs and constitutes a new category in the medical products industry.

The technology behind IBOT is characterized by complex systems integration. These systems which are comprised of gyroscopes, on-board sensors, redundant computer systems and advanced robotics, must meet stringent FDA requirements for the utmost in operational safety. The IBOT's three computers work simultaneously to guarantee continuous availability in the event of a processor or sensor failure.

DEKA Research and Development spearheaded the development program. Mike Ambrogi, General Manager and Tom Soldau, Lead Electrical Engineer, decided it would be smart business to bring in an EMI expert to work with the design team. They commissioned Lee Hill and Randal Vaughn of SILENT.

As EMC and RF design engineers, Lee and Randal served multiple roles. Lee primarily assisted with upfront design while Randal was also called upon to troubleshoot an elusive noise problem that occurred during preliminary EMI compliance testing.

Randal worked quickly and efficiently to identify the problem. In less than 24 hours, through a deductive process that methodically checks high probability trouble spots, Randal found several unshielded cables that were responsible for radiating emissions beyond acceptable levels. To corroborate his findings Randal used additional comparative testing to confirm his initial conclusions.

SILENT¹S staff developed a PCB-level solution that was cost effective and elegant. "Lee and Randal were very flexible. They worked collaboratively with the team to make sure the final solution fit within the constraints of our initial design", said Tom Soldau. "The bottom line ­ system EMC testing was completed successfully in two cycles instead of the usual five or six times it took on previous engineering units and manufacturing proceeded on time."

DEKA was delighted and, as a result, Lee was invited to return to deliver a series of educational and training workshops to the entire electrical hardware design team. The workshops included many electrical demonstrations of EMI issues that had been resolved during the development of IBOT, along with substantial question and answers periods. The team learned the key physics of EMC and RF design to help them reach their goals on future programs.

The IBOT is a breakthrough medical device that will help the disabled community experience new freedom and social activities. The machine is beginning its rollout at clinics in the US and Europe. SILENT was a critical factor in its success.

In the words of Mike and Tom, "Lee, Randal and SILENT added immense value to the project and we intend to call upon their talents again for future projects."

New Mobility for the Disabled – EMC Design, Troubleshooting and Training for Complex Robotic Systems at DEKA Research

Phone: (603) 578-1842   email:

Worldwide providers of EMC design, troubleshooting, and education services for the reduction of EMI and electrical noise