Summer 2021 - Spring 2022
Independent project

#Soft Robotics
#Material Science

#Toolkit
#Education 


PneuBots


PneuBots is a modular soft robotics construction kit consisting of seven types of self-foldable segments with high tensile strength, three types of pneumatic connectors and splitters, and a custom-designed box. The kit enables various assemblies to be made with the modular pieces, allowing creators to explore the world of soft robotics in playful ways. When combined with a FlowIO device, PneuBots allows seamless programmability of the different assemblies, enabling artists, designers, engineers, and makers to create dynamic, shape-changing, and interactive works that can be used for education, storytelling, dynamic art, or expression of affect and gratitude.



Harvard Venture Capital, Cambridge, MA
13K Grand Fund, Sep 2021

CHI 2022 Accepted paper



Design
Four hinge types (inner patterns) were used to achieve different bending behaviors: linear, diagonal, diamond, and wide diamond. A module with a linear pattern has a 5mm gap in the middle of each straight line, which causes axial contraction during actuation. As the volume of the inflatable increases, the length of the linear pattern gap decreases and the height increases. The diamond shape-hinge serves as the bending angle control. The seam will continue to curve, and the hinge continue to bend, until the volume in the inflat-able is maximized. Lastly, the diagonal pattern with a 5mm gap serves as the curling control, which is useful for changing the orientation of connected modules. Seven PneuBots modules with different actuation behaviors - including shrinking, curling and bending - were designed. Two of those modules, the star-shaped and triangle- shaped, don’t have any hinges and thus have no folding action under actuation.

Fabrication




Package Design



Applications
The PneuBots kit was preliminarily distributed to graduate students from backgrounds in architecture, enginering, and education, who were then tasked with experimenting and brainstorming possible uses for the modular blocks. For most users, this was their first exposure to soft robotics, and in the process, they learned about pneumatic control, actuation patterns, and heat-sealing fabrication. Our preliminary evaluation with the students showed that PneuBots enabled them to playfully create projects including a rolling robot, a wearable device, a gripper with two arms, and several artistic creations.