with OLIVER BUCKLIN and MERAV GAZIT, instructor CHUCK HOBERMAN
PNEU is an air-autonomous pneumatic robot composed of origami-inspired modular units.
Informal robots, such as PNEU, employ compliant materials as well as atypical mechanisms and construction techniques to expand the scope of conventional robotic behavior. Pneumatic robots have an ability to greatly expand and contract their volume (by inflating and deflating). This ability holds a potential for unique robotic behaviors, such as passing through narrow places and avoiding obstacles.
PNEU is assembled from modular units - pneus (the pneumatic units), and cores, and is therefore not restricted to a single configuration or gait. Hardware required to actuate adjacent pneus is housed in the cores.
The configuration of PNEU that we constructed for demonstration has a gait inspired by both the earthworm and the inchworm. Earthworm bodies consist of a series of segments, each with a set of muscles that allows it to expand and contract both radially and in a linear direction parallel to the length of the body. A specific sequence of activating these expansions in a series from one segment to the next moves the earthworm along its length. Inchworms move forward by raising the front end of their body, stretching it forward before lowering it to contact the ground, walking the back end of their body up to meet the front, and repeating. PNEU's demonstrated gait utilizes a series of expanding and contracting units that, when activated in a specific sequence, independently raises each segment above the floor surface, moves it forward, and lowers it to contact the ground again.
External air supply is not required to operate PNEU; all pumps and valves are housed onboard within the core units. Our goal is also to accommodate onboard power but for the purpose of demonstration we utilized an external power supply. Given the modular nature of PNEU's construction, we believe that an appropriately sized power supply could be accommodated within one or more of the cores.
thanks to JONATHAN GRINHAM, DAN AUKES, and KEVIN GALLOWAY