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Calibration Techniques for Indigenously Developed

GRF Measurement System in comparison to

Standard Reference Tool
Venkateswarlu Gaddam*, Gautam Sharma, Neelesh Kumar, Amod Kumar, S.K.Mahna*
Central Scientific Instruments Organisation, (CSIR) Chandigarh
NIT Kurukshetra, Kurukshetra*

Abstract: Force Plate (FP) is used for measurement of Ground

Reaction Force (GRF). The developed FP is divided into three
main sections; Force Plate (FP), Data Acquisition system (DAQNI) and LabVIEW software. It consists of four potentiometer
based force sensing devices sandwiched between two plates (top
and bottom plates). DAQ-NI is used as an interfacing device
between FP and computer. The purpose of this work is to design
and develop a low cost FP, which can be widely used to measure
vertical ground reaction force (VGRF) of human body while
walking. To obtain precise and accurate measurement of the
VGRF, linear potentiometer is utilized as the main sensing
device. We used springs for supporting the rods in between the
plates, which work as the elastic elements for free movement of
upper plate in vertical direction. Data collected from the FP is
send to a computer through DAQ-NI for further processing and
data analysis with LabVIEW software. Both static and dynamic
calibration methods were conducted with the help of developed
FP. For the static calibration, known loads were placed on the FP
for determination of sensitivity and linearity. Whereas in the
dynamic calibration, data was acquired while walking a person
on the developed FP and the same persons data was acquired by
Kistler FP, which is the available standard reference tool. Both
the readings were compared with each other, then the results
(output voltage, sensitivity) were found that, the output voltage of
the developed FP is nearly double and sensitivity is three times
that of Kistler FP., Type 2812A-04) to analyse the acquired data. The

available standard Kistler FP is shown in Fig 1 (a). Data was
acquired while walking a person on the Kistler FP and it was
observed that the shape of a curve is similar to M which is
shown in Fig 2 (a).
The developed FP (Fig 1(b)) incorporates linear
potentiometer as the sensing device with LabVIEW software
for data analysis [3]. Static and Dynamic calibration were
conducted for the determination of sensitivity and linearity of
the system [2]. An M shape curve from the Developed FP was
observed during the procedure of dynamic calibration as
shown in Fig 2(b).


Kistler FP


developed FP

Fig 1: force plates

Keywords Ground Reaction Force, Force Plate, Calibration.

The most common force acting on the body is the GRF,
which is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the
force that the body exerts on the supporting surface through
the foot [1]. The GRF essentially is the vector summation of the
three reaction forces (Fx, Fy and Fz) resulting from the
interaction between the foot and the ground [1]. But, the study
focuses on the vertical component of GRF (i.e. Fz), which is
considered to be prominent amongst the three components of
the GRF and has importance in the gait analysis, clinical
assessment etc. Force Plates are commonly used in
biomechanics laboratories to measure GRF in the human and
animal locomotion. Force plates being used across the world
are manufactured by AMTI, Bertec and Kistler International.
We are using Kistler FP (Kistler Instrumente AG, type 9286B,
Switzerland) as a standard reference tool in our Gait
laboratory. This FP was developed with piezoelectric sensors
as sensing devices and uses BioWare software (Version

(a) Output from BioWare


output from LabVIEW

Fig 2: VGRF curves of a person


A. Force Plate Design:
Force plate consists of four potentiometers
sandwiched between two brass plates as shown in Fig 1(b).
Each brass plate has a thickness of 4mm.The plates are
supported by six pillars which are further arranged by six
springs. Because of the elasticity property of the springs, it

gets compressed when a person applies certain amount of

force on the FP, and consequently it comes back to its original
position when the force is released. The height and inner
diameter of each spring is 70 mm and 18.5 mm respectively.
When the two plates were attached by bolting the four sensors
to the bottom plate, the overall height becomes 95 mm as
shown in Fig 3(b). Springs and potentiometers have a major
role during the time of calibration work. Potentiometers are
sensing devices which give an output voltage signal when
some amount of force is applied in vertical direction of the

(a)Top view

(b) front view

Fig3.Mechanical drawing in AUTO CAD

B. Experimental setup:
The experimental set-up consists of three main parts
as shown in fig 4: the developed FP, DAQ-NI and computer.
The DAQ-NI is externally power supplied through an adapter.
Each of the four potentiometers draws a voltage of 5V from
the DAQ and their output are connected to the respective
connector locations of DAQ. The output of DAQ-NI was
connected to the computer through a standard USB 2.0 cable,
which has LabVIEW software as the analysing tool.

Fig 4: Complete Experimental set up of Developed FP

C. Calibration work:
Calibration is the validation of specific measurement
techniques and equipment. Simply, calibration is a comparison
between measurements-one of known magnitude or set with
one device and another measurement made in a similar way as
possible with a second device. The purpose of calibration is to
check if the developed FP gives the same measurement
readings as the Kistler FP, thereby checking the repeatability,
sensitivity, linearity of VGRF for the Developed FP. For this
task, calibration work is classified into two types, Static
calibration and Dynamic calibration.
D. Static Calibration Method:
The method of static calibration was again
performed using two approaches. In the first approach, fixed

loads were applied at the centre of the FP to get linearity, and

the resultant signal is in the form of voltage. Initially, no
output signal was obtained below 300N. As the loads were
increased from 301N to 1416N, the output signal i.e. voltage
also increased with increasing load. Data were collected from
the developed FP, and then the corresponding graph was
plotted between output voltage and applied load. A small
degree of non-linearity was seen between input and output
readings. During the calibration process it was found that one
of the springs was bent, which consequently affects the
accurate readings. Even after changing springs non-linearity
occurred in the graph plotted. Because of these flaws we were
skeptic about the performance of the springs, therefore second
approach was applied.
In the second approach, fixed loads were applied at
each corner of the plate. For this, another block diagram was
developed with the help of LabVIEW software to analyse
output voltage from individual sensors and their resultant.
Output from each of the individual sensors and their resultant
are obtained in separate panel to see contribution of the each
sensor. A load of 330N was applied at first corner of the plate
(i.e. first potentiometer). All readings of potentiometers
including the resultant of all sensors were observed. It was
found that the first potentiometer gives higher value of voltage
compared to the rest of the potentiometers. The second and
fourth potentiometer give low voltage values compared to first
and resultant shows an average value. However the third
sensor, which is located diagonal to the first sensor, does not
give any response. This is due to the reason that the upper
plate gets displaced from its original position, thus losing
contact with the sensor. In order to remove this problem of
plate displacement, clamps were fixed on each of the four
sides of the FP.
Similarly, the same load was applied at each corner
of the FP. From the data obtained it was observed that the
sensor where load was applied gives more output voltage
compared to the remaining sensors. Even after applying the
second approach desired results i.e. linearity and sensitivity
were not obtained properly. To get rid of this problem, grids
were drown on butter paper and pasted over the FP. After that
known weights were placed over the symmetrical points of the
developed grids, which help in finding the active region over
the FP.
E. Dynamic Calibration Method:
Dynamic calibration is the main heart of this
development of FP. In this mode of calibration, readings were
taken from the developed FP and then from available standard
reference tool, i.e. Kistler FP. After acquiring sufficient
amount of readings, data from both FPs were compared with
each other.
In the first approach, readings were collected for a
total number of four healthy human subjects from the
developed FP, wherein a person was asked to walk on the
force plate with their normal walking speed. For acquiring the
data from the FP, a software program was developed in
LabVIEW as shown in Fig.5. The resultant output signal is an
M-shape curve (also known as Dual-Dump) which is used to
measure maximum and minimum peaks of VGRF. Four more
normal-walking trails were performed for the same subject

and the average of all voltage values was calculated.

Similarly, the data was acquired for three more subjects.

Fig 6.Static calibration curve

Fig 7.Dynamic calibration curve

Fig 5: Developed LabVIEW program for VGRF measurement

In the second approach, developed FP and Kistler FP

were arranged along the walkway, and then data was acquired
simultaneously from both the FPs. On comparing the readings
from the two FPs it was found that the output voltage of the
developed FP was nearly double (Fig 8) and sensitivity was
three times that of Kistler FP as shown in Table 1 . Graphs
were plotted for both the data sets of force plates (Fig.8) and
better output (linearity and sensitivity) was obtained with this
Fig8. Comparison of both the plates
Range of
Weight (kg)


Sensitivity of
Kistler FP


Sensitivity of
Developed FP


Table 1: Sensitivity comparison of both plates

The static calibration curve drawn between known
applied load and output voltage is shown in Fig 6. It is
observed that a small degree of non-linearity occurred due to
imbalance of applied loads and springs. Dynamic calibration
curve was obtained by plotting the data of subjects with
respect to output voltage (Fig 7). The curve thus obtained was
not perfectly linear but a fair amount of sensitivity was
observed as compared with Kistler FP. A curve depicting the
integration of both the FPs i.e. Developed and Kistler was also
drawn (Fig.8). The output voltage of Developed FP was found
out to be double than that of Kistler FP.


In the field of Biomechanics, force plate is regarded
as one of the most important devices to evaluate various gait
parameters. The research study aims at the development of a
force plate for clinical as well as Gait Laboratory use. The
present study, which involved the evaluation of the VGRF (Mshape curve), showed that the shape of GRF is similar as seen
on Bioware software of the Kistler FP. Such a force plate is
used to establish a relationship between force and load. As of
now, this research work has been done with the aim of
determining the relationship between voltage and load. The
future work focuses on the conversion of an output voltage
into force.
The developed FP can also be used for measurement
of symmetry index. For the accurate measurement of
symmetry between the lower limbs two force plates are
needed. For this reason another force plate is being developed
on the same lines. This developed FP is inexpensive as
compared with Kistler FP. Therefore further research studies
involving the use of force plates will prove to be economical.
A set of calibration experiments were conducted to
evaluate the overall performance of the developed force plate.
Better results were found for the developed FP as compared to
Kistler force plate from the perspective of sensitivity, linearity,
output voltage and shape of curve.
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[4]. Roland E.S., Hulla M.L., Stover S.M., (2005) Design and demonstration
of dynamometric horseshoe for measurinh ground reaction loads of horses
during racing conditions. Journal of Biomechanics 38 : pg 2102-2112

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