Scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have devised a scalable pipeline to computationally design and digitally fabricate soft pneumatic actuators called “PneuAct.” PneuAct uses textile pieces -fabricated on a knitting machine- which can be fixed to an inexpensive, off-the-shelf rubber silicone tube, to create an actuator.
The knitted actuator integrates conductive yarn for sensing, allowing the actuators to "feel" what they touch. The team cooked up several prototypes spanning an assistive glove, a soft hand, an interactive robot, and a pneumatic walking quadruped.
Their prototypes, which, by using yellow fabric look a little bit like banana fingers, spanned an assistive glove, a soft hand, an interactive robot, and a pneumatic quadrupedal robot.
Lead researcher Yiyue Luo: “Soft pneumatic actuators are intrinsically compliant and flexible, and combined with intelligent materials, have become the backbone of many robots and assistive technologies — and rapid fabrication with our design tool can hopefully increase ease and ubiquity.”