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Title: Programmable soft valves for digital and analog control
In soft devices, complex actuation sequences and precise force control typically require hard electronic valves and microcontrollers. Existing designs for entirely soft pneumatic control systems are capable of either digital or analog operation, but not both, and are limited by speed of actuation, range of pressure, time required for fabrication, or loss of power through pull-down resistors. Using the nonlinear mechanics intrinsic to structures composed of soft materials—in this case, by leveraging membrane inversion and tube kinking—two modular soft components are developed: a piston actuator and a bistable pneumatic switch. These two components combine to create valves capable of analog pressure regulation, simplified digital logic, controlled oscillation, nonvolatile memory storage, linear actuation, and interfacing with human users in both digital and analog formats. Three demonstrations showcase the capabilities of systems constructed from these valves: 1) a wearable glove capable of analog control of a soft artificial robotic hand based on input from a human user’s fingers, 2) a human-controlled cushion matrix designed for use in medical care, and 3) an untethered robot which travels a distance dynamically programmed at the time of operation to retrieve an object. This work illustrates pathways for complementary digital and analog control of soft robots using a unified valve design.  more » « less
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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