“Prior to this research, we were unable to build fluidic soft robots without independently controlling each actuator via separate input lines and pressure feeds, as well as a complex actuation operation. Now we can embed the functionality of fluidic robots into their design, which makes it much easier to operate. “ Nikolaos Vasios, Ph.D. student at SEAS and first author of the work
It means that this robot has a single input for the air supply and it supplies all the limbs and control systems. You can almost imagine it like these inflatable “skydancers”: If you want the robot to crawl forward, you just have to channel a bit of air into your legs and it starts to move. The air tubes inside the soft robot have different thicknesses to control how fast air moves through the device. Although the same amount of air is always pumped through the individual inlet, the size of the pipes determines how and where the air flows.
Researchers demonstrate the movements of a four-legged, soft robot that you also see in the video. The tubes, which are embedded in the top of the robot, guide the air one by one to each leg and provide for locomotion. In the first tests the robot still needs an external air source and as soon as you will not see a final product. It’s a prototype, but with a lot in mind. If this actually results in a final device, researchers want to use it in areas such as space research, search and rescue systems, biomimetics, medical surgery and rehabilitation. “For the first time, our work presents a strategy for producing easy-to-operate fluidic soft robots based on this well-known phenomenon of viscous flow. With the strategy presented in our work, the operation of fluidic robots will now be easier than ever and make a giant leap towards completely detached and easy-to-use soft robots. “ Katia Bertoldi, Professor of Applied Mechanics at SEAS