Researchers have created an innovative vacuum-powered soft pneumatic actuator (V-SPA) that can be quickly assembled into a variety of multifunctional robots. Now, it’s possible to create soft robots capable of picking up objects, moving around the floor, or crawling up the wall. And, the robots can be built in within a matter of hours.
“Our prototype units have already demonstrated thousands of cycles (after days of continuous use) and have required very little repair over their lifespan, suggesting they could be used with little change as part of a commercial soft robotics kit,” says Jamie Paik, Founder and Director of the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL).
Flexible and soft robotic parts are highly desired because humans are more comfortable interacting with them and they are easier to manipulate than hard, inflexible robots. Many flexible robotic parts use inflation (positive air pressure) to stretch and bend. However, the V-SPA uses negative pressure — i.e., vacuum — which more closely mimics the motion and contraction of biological muscle. And, this new actuator is much easier and faster to fabricate than the few existing vacuum-driven...
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