Slow and Soft air.

I will work with pneumatic “soft robotics” powered by consumer bike pumps.

Soft muscles

The basis of soft robotics is addressing various inflating air cells as actuators, a more controlled and complex form of the pneumatic muscle which requires an exoskeleton to guide the direction of its contractions.The current state-of-the-art is using silicone moulding and layering, which IS achievable in a DIY fashion, but a little expensive and specialised.

a walking morphing robot quadraped        – Youtube link

I will attempt to make this new technology more accessible by replicating the functionality with more available materials such as inner tubes, clamps, cable ties etc.

Pneumatic muscles contract inside woven sleeves that contain the pressure and force the bladder to ‘contract’ rather than balloon, therefore becoming more effective actuators. This technique is much older than soft robotics, originating  around the 1950s.

Another reason to call it Soft is that air powered devices have a lot of give- hapticly they interact in a soft, bouncy fashion allowing humans to handle and influence their movements easily- not like motorised or mechanic acuators.

The “slow” component is that the powersource is not a compressor or high pressure tanked air but small mechanical pumps, to be tested on motors, but in the future perhaps wind, water or pedal driven. This means the desired pressure will be reached slowly and lost quickly- an interesting technical challenge.


The machanical nature of this technology and the fact that it floats may lead to water based designs, or rough terrain ‘bouncing’ modalities.

Mars rover “curiosity”  landing system

The russian Luna 9 lander used airbags for its soft-landing

Released air may be utelised for sounds

<DIY Airhorn design>

Tim Hawkinsons UberOrgan



A ball valve

<Flap valve design>

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