31 innovations

Inflatable robot arm

Famous robot producer, iRobot, is developing an inflatable robot arm. Essentially, there are air-tight plastic bags inside a skin made of a non-elastic constraining fabric. Air is pumped into the bags which gives the arm volume and shape. Then as the bags reach the fabric skin, they can't expand any more, and that's what gives the arm rigidity. Movement and manipulation are controlled by a series of cables that run through the inside and act as tendons. Servos at the arm's joints take slack in and out of the cables, which create motion, or "tendon actuated articulation."

So, why do this when PackBots have arms that work very well already?

  • It offers a significant reduction in weight. 
  • It allows the bot to pack down much, much smaller. 
  • It has much higher strength-to-weight ratio than a traditional arm. 
  • You can customize the compliance of the arm.
  • It's much, much cheaper to make.

Source: gizmodo.comAdded: 23 August 2012