Pouch Motors: Printable/Inflatable Soft Actuator

We propose a new family of fluidic soft actuators called Pouch Motors. The pouch motor actuators are designed to create printable actuators for enhancing mass-fabrication of robots from sheet materials using easily accessible tools. The pouch motor consists of one or more gas-tight bladders fabricated by heat bonding. We developed a method for creating two types of actuators from inflatable pouches: the linear pouch motor and the rotational pouch motor.

We develop planar pneumatic actuators for origami structural robots called pouch motors.

Pouch motors actuate motions with its shape change during inflation. The actuation modes can be categorized into linear actuations and rotational actuation. In linear actuation, a multi-unit pouch is attached to two structural components on two sides. The shrink in length during inflation "pulls"  the motion. In rotational actuation, a single unit pouch is attached to a hinge on its back. The curving of the face during inflation "rotates" the hinge.

Pouch motors can be easily fabricated with thermal bonding processes. We developed two fabrication processes: heat stamping and heat drawing. In heat stamping, a pouch or a pouch system is made all at once by stamping with a heated block. In heat drawing, a CNC machine takes numerial control codes and makes pouches. The second method is more noteworthy. Thanks to a collaboration with Rus's group, we have an algorethem that takes origami joint locations and automatically generate codes of the design of pouches for the CNC heat drawing machine.

To enrich human computer interaction on everyday objects, we developed two types of modular pouches called sticker actuators and tape actuators. 


As of September 2014, the future goals of this project is:

1. a new thermally actuating mechanism for pouch motors

2. integrating flexible sensors to pouch motors for better control [collaboration]

3. devlop a new composite material that is ready to self-fold and self-actuate [collaboration]


Paper accpeted:

[International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2014] Pouch Motors: Printable/Inflatable Soft Actuators for Robotics

Paper submitted:

[Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference 2015] Sticky Actuator: Free-Form Planar Actuators for Animated Objects

[International Journal of Robotics Research] Pouch Motors: Printable Soft Actuators Integrated with Computational Design