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Soft robot actuators using energy-efficient valves controlled by electropermanent magnets

Soft robot actuators using energy-efficient valves controlled by electropermanent magnets,10.1109/IROS.2011.6048794,Andrew D. Marchese,Cagdas D. Onal,

Soft robot actuators using energy-efficient valves controlled by electropermanent magnets  
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This paper presents the design, fabrication, and evaluation of a novel type of valve that uses an electropermanent magnet (1). This valve is then used to build actuators for a soft robot. The developed EPM valves require only a brief (5 ms) pulse of current to turn flow on or off for an indefinite period of time. EPM valves are characterized and demonstrated to be well suited for the control of elastomer fluidic actuators. The valves drive the pressurization and depressurization of fluidic channels within soft actuators. Furthermore, the forward locomotion of a soft, multi-actuator rolling robot is driven by EPM valves. The small size and energy-efficiency of EPM valves may make them valuable in soft mobile robot applications. I. INTRODUCTION Soft actuators bring both power and natural fluidity to robots. These actuators offer high power to weight ratio in conjunction with compliance, enabling robots to carefully apply high forces to their environments. Additionally, com- pliance offers inherent adaptability and forgiveness, desirable characteristics in uncertain and dynamic environments. Construction and operation of soft pneumatic actuators are relatively simple and robust. The actuators are made of elastomer films with embedded fluidic channels and operate by the expansion of these compliant channels under pressure (2). There are numerous ways to drive soft actuators in robotic applications. Switching PWM valves have been used in the control of pneumatic rubber actuators (3)(4). Here, PWM input of the valve controls flow to the actuator. Additionally, servo valves have been used in the control of soft fluidic actuators for assistance robots (5) and in locomoting robots (6).
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