Why use compliant materials?
While traditional rigid design materials like steel and aluminum generally have much higher yield strength than compliant materials they are also heavier and more expensive to manufacture. As a result, robot manipulators are either heavy or expensive relative to their payload. When material strength is normalized by mass and cost, compliant materials like high strength polymers offer better performance than their rigid counterparts. By understanding how to design with and control these materials we can produce manipulators that rival current options in payload and reach for 1/10th the weight and cost.
Using pressurized fluid to provide both actuation and structure greatly simplifies the system in both production and operation. The positive internal pressure resists buckling modes of the compliant material and evenly distributes stresses throughout the structure. Motion is created through material deformation while the active fluid is transported freely throughout the internal volumes. As a result, drive trains, motors, bearings, shafts, and sliding surfaces are eliminated, leading the way for robots with high degrees of freedom at comparatively low part count.
What type of performance are they capable of?
Pneubotics trade off accuracy for compliance giving them superior ability to interact with their surroundings. Large forces can be created by controlling differential pressure in the actuation chambers giving Pneubotics human-like performance capabilities.
What are the benefits of low inertia?
The light weight of Pneubotic systems make them ideal suited for mobile platforms where the weight of traditional arms may destabilize the vehicle. Speed and efficiency also benefit as less work has to be done to accelerate the arm mass. As a result, Pneubotics are safer than traditional manipulators because less kinetic energy is carried by the arm during motion minimizing impact forces in the event of a collision.