Researchers from the University of Freiburg have unveiled a design for 3D printed pneumatic logic gates. Capable of performing Boolean operations, these modules replace electronics, offering a robust alternative for soft-body robots.
The team, led by researcher Stefan Conrad, introduces a design allowing enthusiasts with basic 3D printing skills to create logic modules for controlling soft robots. The modules, easily produced with off-the-shelf 3D printers using standard filaments, feature two pressurized chambers separated by a compressible channel, forming a binary valve. These simple components enable the creation of AND, OR, and NOT gates without the need for electronics.
Falk Tauber, PhD, co-lead of the project, highlighted the versatility of these modules, showcasing their application in a 3D printed robotic walker and an electronics-free drinks dispenser. The robotic walker, controlled by an integrated pneumatic circuit, demonstrated the modules’ flexibility by withstanding the weight of a car driving over it.
The drinks dispenser, a more complex system, incorporates a pneumatic ring oscillator and one-bit memory, utilizing eight pneumatic logic gates. This setup enables the periodic switching of eight independent output signals, showcasing the modules’ adaptability in constructing intricate control systems.
The system operates by sending a LOW signal to the latch’s SET input upon button press, activating a peristaltic pump through an oscillating signal passing the OR gate. The rising water level triggers a weight sensor, causing the latch to receive a LOW signal on its RESET input, deactivating the ring oscillator.
The 3D printed pneumatic logic gates represent a shift in soft robotics, eliminating the need for conventional electronics. This project opens up new possibilities for creating robust and versatile soft robots, marking a crucial step towards a future of electronics-free pneumatic control circuits.
You can read the research paper, titled “3D-printed digital pneumatic logic for the control of soft robotic actuators” in the Science Robotics journal, at this link.
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