Special Issue "Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation"

A special issue of Actuators (ISSN 2076-0825).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2022) | Viewed by 27957

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Alessio Merola
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Università degli studi Magna Graecia di Catanzaro, Catanzaro, Italy
Interests: biomechatronics; human-robot interaction control; soft robotics; biomimetic actuators; nonlinear systems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the Special Issue “Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation” to be published in Actuators (Scopus CiteScoreTM 2018: 2.80, rank Q1 in "Control and Optimization").

Pneumatic actuation is a valuable and preferred alternative adopted in several control and automation systems for manufacturing and logistic processes, as well as for bio-robotic applications. Pneumatics as the main motion power source offers some important advantages in terms of a low weight-to-power ratio and safety; the latter is most relevant to the emerging field of cooperative robotics where a controlled and safe interaction between a human operator and pneumatic robot, other than the soft manipulation of delicate objects, can be guaranteed.

The Special Issue covers both theoretical and experimental challenges involved in the design, realization, and control of pneumatic actuators for all relevant applications of robotics, automation, and control engineering.

Dr. Alessio Merola
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Pneumatic actuation
  • Pneumatic control systems
  • Fluidic actuators
  • Soft robotics
  • Compliant actuators

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Nonlinear Extended Observer-Based ADRC for a Lower-Limb PAM-Based Exoskeleton
Actuators 2022, 11(12), 369; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11120369 - 08 Dec 2022
Viewed by 511
Abstract
In lower-limb rehabilitation systems, exoskeleton robots are one of the most important components. These robots help patients to execute repetitive exercises under the guidance of physiotherapists. Recently, pneumatic artificial muscles (PAM), a kind of actuator that acts similarly to human muscles, have been [...] Read more.
In lower-limb rehabilitation systems, exoskeleton robots are one of the most important components. These robots help patients to execute repetitive exercises under the guidance of physiotherapists. Recently, pneumatic artificial muscles (PAM), a kind of actuator that acts similarly to human muscles, have been chosen to power the exoskeleton robot for better human–machine interaction. In order to enhance the performance of a PAM-based exoskeleton robot, this article implements an active disturbance rejection control (ADRC) strategy with a nonlinear extended state observer (NLESO). Moreover, the stability of the closed-loop system is proved by Lyapunov’s theory. Finally, the experimental results show that with the proposed control strategy, the rehabilitation robot can effectively track the desired trajectories even when under external disturbance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Article
Design, Computational Modelling and Experimental Characterization of Bistable Hybrid Soft Actuators for a Controllable-Compliance Joint of an Exoskeleton Rehabilitation Robot
Actuators 2022, 11(2), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11020032 - 22 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2363
Abstract
This paper presents the mechatronic design of a biorobotic joint with controllable compliance, for innovative applications of “assist-as-needed” robotic rehabilitation mediated by a wearable and soft exoskeleton. The soft actuation of robotic exoskeletons can provide some relevant advantages in terms of controllable compliance, [...] Read more.
This paper presents the mechatronic design of a biorobotic joint with controllable compliance, for innovative applications of “assist-as-needed” robotic rehabilitation mediated by a wearable and soft exoskeleton. The soft actuation of robotic exoskeletons can provide some relevant advantages in terms of controllable compliance, adaptivity and intrinsic safety of the control performance of the robot during the interaction with the patient. Pneumatic Artificial Muscles (PAMs), which belong to the class of soft actuators, can be arranged in antagonistic configuration in order to exploit the variability of their mechanical compliance for the optimal adaptation of the robot performance during therapy. The coupling of an antagonistic configuration of PAMs with a regulation mechanism can achieve, under a customized control strategy, the optimal tuning of the mechanical compliance of the exoskeleton joint over full ranges of actuation pressure and joint rotation. This work presents a novel mechanism, for the optimal regulation of the compliance of the biorobotic joint, which is characterized by a soft and hybrid actuation exploiting the storage/release of the elastic energy by bistable Von Mises elastic trusses. The contribution from elastic Von Mises structure can improve both the mechanical response of the soft pneumatic bellows actuating the regulation mechanism and the intrinsic safety of the whole mechanism. A comprehensive set of design steps is presented here, including the optimization of the geometry of the pneumatic bellows, the fabrication process through 3D printing of the mechanism and some experimental tests devoted to the characterization of the hybrid soft actuation. The experimental tests replicated the main operating conditions of the regulation mechanism; the advantages arising from the bistable hybrid soft actuation were evaluated in terms of static and dynamic performance, e.g., pressure and force transition thresholds of the bistable mechanism, linearity and hysteresis of the actuator response. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Article
Design and Control of an Inflatable Spherical Robotic Arm for Pick and Place Applications
Actuators 2021, 10(11), 299; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10110299 - 11 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1985
Abstract
We present an inflatable soft robotic arm made of fabric that leverages state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, leading to a robust and reliable manipulator. Three bellow-type actuators are used to control two rotational degrees of freedom, as well as the joint stiffness that is coupled [...] Read more.
We present an inflatable soft robotic arm made of fabric that leverages state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, leading to a robust and reliable manipulator. Three bellow-type actuators are used to control two rotational degrees of freedom, as well as the joint stiffness that is coupled to a longitudinal elongation of the movable link used to grasp objects. The design is motivated by a safety analysis based on first principles. It shows that the interaction forces during an unexpected collision are primarily caused by the attached payload mass, but can be reduced by a lightweight design of the robot arm. A control allocation strategy is employed that simplifies the modeling and control of the robot arm and we show that a particular property of the allocation strategy ensures equal usage of the actuators and valves. The modeling and control approach systematically incorporates the effect of changing joint stiffness and the presence of a payload mass. An investigation of the valve flow capacity reveals that a proper timescale separation between the pressure and arm dynamics is only given for sufficient flow capacity. Otherwise, the applied cascaded control approach can introduce oscillatory behavior, degrading the overall control performance. A closed form feed forward strategy is derived that compensates errors induced by the longitudinal elongation of the movable link and allows the realization of different object manipulation applications. In one of the applications, the robot arm hands an object over to a human, emphasizing the safety aspect of the soft robotic system. Thereby, the intrinsic compliance of the robot arm is leveraged to detect the time when the robot should release the object. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Article
Machine-Knitted Seamless Pneumatic Actuators for Soft Robotics: Design, Fabrication, and Characterization
Actuators 2021, 10(5), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10050094 - 30 Apr 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 4239
Abstract
Computerized machine knitting offers an attractive fabrication technology for incorporating wearable assistive devices into garments. In this work, we utilized, for the first time, whole-garment knitting techniques to manufacture a seamless fully knitted pneumatic bending actuator, which represents an advancement to existing cut-and-sew [...] Read more.
Computerized machine knitting offers an attractive fabrication technology for incorporating wearable assistive devices into garments. In this work, we utilized, for the first time, whole-garment knitting techniques to manufacture a seamless fully knitted pneumatic bending actuator, which represents an advancement to existing cut-and-sew manufacturing techniques. Various machine knitting parameters were investigated to create anisotropic actuator structures, which exhibited a range of bending and extension motions when pressurized with air. The functionality of the actuator was demonstrated through integration into an assistive glove for hand grip action. The achieved curvature range when pressurizing the actuators up to 150 kPa was sufficient to grasp objects down to 3 cm in diameter and up to 125 g in weight. This manufacturing technique is rapid and scalable, paving the way for mass-production of customizable soft robotics wearables. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Article
An Adaptive Neuro-Fuzzy Control of Pneumatic Mechanical Ventilator
Actuators 2021, 10(3), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10030051 - 06 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2313
Abstract
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It mainly affects the respiratory system and can lead to the death of the patient. The motivation for this study was the current pandemic situation and general deficiency of emergency mechanical ventilators. The [...] Read more.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It mainly affects the respiratory system and can lead to the death of the patient. The motivation for this study was the current pandemic situation and general deficiency of emergency mechanical ventilators. The paper presents the development of a mechanical ventilator and its control algorithm. The main feature of the developed mechanical ventilator is AmbuBag compressed by a pneumatic actuator. The control algorithm is based on an adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system (ANFIS), which integrates both neural networks and fuzzy logic principles. Mechanical design and hardware design are presented in the paper. Subsequently, there is a description of the process of data collecting and training of the fuzzy controller. The paper also presents a simulation model for verification of the designed control approach. The experimental results provide the verification of the designed control system. The novelty of the paper is, on the one hand, an implementation of the ANFIS controller for AmbuBag pressure control, with a description of training process. On other hand, the paper presents a novel design of a mechanical ventilator, with a detailed description of the hardware and control system. The last contribution of the paper lies in the mathematical and experimental description of AmbuBag for ventilation purposes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Article
Control of Rotary Inverted Pendulum by Using On–Off Type of Cold Gas Thrusters
Actuators 2020, 9(4), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/act9040095 - 27 Sep 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 4980
Abstract
This article describes the control of a rotary inverted pendulum utilizing on–off-type cold gas thrusters as the actuators, which have high similarities with thruster actuated spacecrafts with slosh dynamics. The study is completed in three phases. Firstly, a Pulse Width Modulator (PWM) design [...] Read more.
This article describes the control of a rotary inverted pendulum utilizing on–off-type cold gas thrusters as the actuators, which have high similarities with thruster actuated spacecrafts with slosh dynamics. The study is completed in three phases. Firstly, a Pulse Width Modulator (PWM) design method is utilized to obtain quasi-linear thrust output from the on–off-type thrusters. Then, a single axis angle controller is designed and tested on the setup along with the PWM scheme. Finally, a pendulum is connected to the other end of the platform and a rotary inverted pendulum (Furuta Pendulum) is constructed. In this way, an inherently unstable, under-actuated, on–off driven system is obtained. For the swing-up motion of the pendulum, an energy-based method is employed. Balancing of the pendulum is achieved by an observer-based state feedback controller under small angle assumption and quasi-linear outputs from the PWM driven thrusters. All of these control methodologies are realized on a real-time target machine. The pendulum is stabilized in seven seconds after five swings, which is comparable to the systems with electric motors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Article
A Miniature 3D Printed On-Off Linear Pneumatic Actuator and Its Demonstration into a Cartoon Character of a Hopping Lamp
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040072 - 17 Oct 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 8739
Abstract
Although 3D printing has been extensively used to create passive machines and mechanisms, 3D printing of actuators is a relatively new concept. 3D printing of actuators allows greater customization, accelerates the design and development, and consequently saves time and money. We present the [...] Read more.
Although 3D printing has been extensively used to create passive machines and mechanisms, 3D printing of actuators is a relatively new concept. 3D printing of actuators allows greater customization, accelerates the design and development, and consequently saves time and money. We present the design and fabrication of a 3D printed, miniature size, double-acting, On-Off type, linear pneumatic actuator. The actuator has an overall length of 8 cm, a bore size of 1.5 cm, and a stroke length of 2.0 cm. The overall weight is 12 gm and it generates a peak output power of 2 W when operating at an input air pressure of 40 psi ( 275.79 kPa). This paper demonstrates novel methods to solve the challenges that arise during fabrication that include: (1) chemical post-processing to achieve airtight sealing and a smooth surface finish, (2) strategic placement of a metallic part within 3D printed plastic for higher strength, (3) design of an airtight seal between the cylinder and piston head, (4) chemical bonding of printed parts using adhesive, and (5) use of a lubricant to reduce friction and improve force generation. The power-to-weight ratio of our actuator is comparable to that of high-end commercial actuators of similar size. The utility of the actuator is demonstrated in a series of jumping experiments with the actuator and by incorporating the actuator into a hopping robot inspired by Disney/Pixar Luxo lamp. We conclude that 3D printed pneumatic actuators combine the high power of pneumatics with the low weight of plastics, and structural strength through the selective placement of metal parts, thus offering a promising actuator for robotic applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Review

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Review
A Review on the Development of Pneumatic Artificial Muscle Actuators: Force Model and Application
Actuators 2022, 11(10), 288; https://doi.org/10.3390/act11100288 - 09 Oct 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1175
Abstract
Pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs) are soft and flexible linear pneumatic actuators which produce human muscle like actuation. Due to these properties, the muscle actuators have an adaptable compliance for various robotic platforms as well as medical applications. While a variety of possible actuation [...] Read more.
Pneumatic artificial muscles (PAMs) are soft and flexible linear pneumatic actuators which produce human muscle like actuation. Due to these properties, the muscle actuators have an adaptable compliance for various robotic platforms as well as medical applications. While a variety of possible actuation schemes are present, there is still a need for the development of a soft actuator that is very light-weight, compact, and flexible with high power-to-weight ratio. To achieve this, the development of the PAM actuators has become an interesting topic for many researchers. In this review, the development of the different kinds of PAM available to date are presented along with manufacturing process and the operating principle. The various force models for artificial muscle presented in the literature are broadly reviewed with the constraints. Furthermore, the applications of PAM are included and classified based on the fields of biorobotics, medicine, and industry, along with advanced medical instrumentation. Finally, the needful improvements in terms of the dynamics of the muscle are discussed for the precise control of the PAMs as per the requirements for the applications. This review will be helpful for researchers working in the field of robotics and for designers to develop new type of artificial muscle depending on the applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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