How to Build Your Own Pneumatic Robot?
Are you planning on building a robot? The first thought is often to use an electric motor, but an excellent alternative is a pneumatic system. These kinds of systems use compressed air, rather than an electric or servo motor, to accomplish the necessary tasks. Pneumatics are often easier to design and assemble than other kinds of systems. They’re also exceptionally precise and require relatively little maintenance. They can, however, be more expensive and require more programming. You also can’t control the speed of the movement as well when using pneumatics but instead, use one or two pre-determined speeds.
Does it sound like pneumatics might be right for your project? Here’s a guide to get you started on using it for your build.
How Pneumatic Systems Work
It can be helpful to understand how pneumatics work before using them to build your robot. A pneumatic system contains five fundamental components:
- A compressor, which uses electricity, gasoline or propane to produce compressed air
- A reservoir for storing the compressed air
- One or more valves, which control the flow of air
- A circuit, which controls the valves
- One or more actuators, which uses the air to perform the desired task
As compressed air moves through this system, so does the energy required to accomplish the task the robot is designed for. The compressor converts the stored energy from the power source into compressed air. Storing the compressed air in the reservoir means you have potential energy. When the circuit causes a valve to open, the compressed air can flow out of the reservoir, moving the actuators. These actuators can take a variety of forms. A robot arm, for example, will have an upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand, all of which are actuators. You can see a visual representation of this in the infographic below. You program these actuators to perform the tasks you need them to depend on what you want your robot to do.
Building Your Robot
To build a pneumatic robot, you need the five basic components mentioned above plus tubing, a pressure switch, a pressure release valve, gauges and push-to-connect fitting which you’ll use to attach all of the parts.
The precise way you put together your robot will depend on your design and what you want your bot to do, but your process will probably go something like the following.
To assemble your robot, connect the compressor to the reservoir, then connect the reservoir to the valves and finally connect the valves to the actuators. Use your tubing to enable the air to flow through all of these parts. Add the pressure relief valve, pressure switch and gauges to the system near the compressor. These components will help regulate the air pressure.
You’ll also need to connect your air compressor to your chosen power source. The circuits that control the valves will need a power source as well. Once your system has power, calibrate it so that it provides the air pressure you need to move your actuator at the desired speed. Of course, you’ll also program your robot to perform the tasks you need it to, using the actuators.
That’s a very basic introduction to creating a pneumatic robot, but you can use these principles no matter what kind of robot you decide to build. There are certainly plenty of possibilities, from robotic fighting arms to flexible robotic snakes, that you can power with pneumatics. Electrically powered robots aren’t your only option — consider using a pneumatic system for your next creation.