New Soft Actuator Creates Robots that ‘Breathe’

Not long ago, the team of scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) elaborated new pneumatic soft actuator. It is vacuum-powered, so you can modularly use it for many different robotics apps.

Today, we need to use many elements and components to activate robots. Just imagine how it great will be if robots use our air as a power source. Fortunately, it will happen very soon. Not long ago, the team of scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne elaborated new soft pneumatic actuator. While searching for a short description, you can find out that it is vacuum-powered. This soft actuator is rather diversified and you can modularly use it for different robotics apps. In other words, you can configure it in such a way that robots will do many tasks.

How does it work?

Actually, we get used that usually, robots act with the help of the injection of air into their elements. This phenomenon calls a positive pressure. Speaking about new soft actuator technology, it a bit differs from the old ones. It works on the contrary way, as the air is sucked out of it. This phenomenon calls a negative pressure. It allows robot actuators to be soft and easy in designing and building. This robot actuator is absolutely safe and will not burst under extremal circumstances.

In accordance with Jamie Paik, the lead researcher on this project, these soft building blocks were created to be plug-and-play. It means that you can construct a number of varied robots from the same building blocks. Moreover, you can reconfigure them to do various tasks (to crawl, to grip something, to climb a wall, etc.).

New soft actuator technology helps robots to breathe

You may have heard and read various researches about robotics technology. One of the brightest examples is the project of EPFL scientists. They created a module from several V-SPA actuators. Basically, they reached 3 degrees of movement and presented the efficiency in multiple tasks (such as a multimodal movement, object handling, rigidity installation, gripping, and absorption/adherence to the smooth surface. It shows that with the help of V-SPA actuators, it is possible to reach better results with the higher effectiveness of multiple movements.

Nowadays, scientists try to find out alternative power sources. The point is that while using chemical reactions or vacuums, robots will act even better than those who require electricity. Speaking about the soft actuator, there is such a robot that is powered by vacuum. It can fulfill multiple tasks.

Electrically actuated artificial muscle

One more example is the artificial muscle, which was designed by scientists at MIT CSAIL and Harvard’s Wyss Institute. They used the soft material for the soft actuator. The point is that this artificial muscle is able to lift a big weight. Moreover, they can lift up to 1000 times their own weight. The most interesting thing is that such robots use the air or water as a power source. By the way, you can build an artificial muscle by yourself. You just need to buy some materials (you will spend lesser than $2) and spend 10 minutes. In fact, you can find out many instructions and manual, which will help you to build your tiny robot. This artificial muscle comprises an inner skeleton, which is encircled by fluid or air and is sealed within the skin (you can use many various materials). As a result, you will get a strong artificial muscle.

Every day people create something new. Everyone may have millions of ideas to create something that will make our life easier. The same situation is with soft actuator robotics. Scientists from all over the world try to create robots with an alternative power source (like air or water). Today, there is a new soft actuator technology, which helps robots to breathe. Moreover, the artificial muscle is just the beginning.

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