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SBIR/STTR

Pneubotics - Membrane-Based Robotics for Remote Material Handling, Phase II

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

We have invented a new class of robotics, called `Pneubotics', that rival current manipulators in payload and reach at 1/10th the weight. Our technology leverages insights into lightweight materials and mass manufacturing to create robots that derive power, structure, and movement from pressurized air. As a result, drive trains, motors, bearings, shafts, sliding surfaces, and excess structural material are eliminated, leading to robots with extremely high strength to weight ratios, inherently human safe operation, and high degrees of freedom at low part count. This transformative new technology has the potential to enable the widespread use of automated handling of material and equipment on missions in low Earth orbit and beyond. The compliant nature of these robotic systems allows them to robustly grasp arbitrarily shaped objects and makes them ideal for operating around sensitive equipment and materials or cooperatively with humans. Similarly, due to their fluidic architecture they can be deflated and stowed for efficient transport. The work described in this phase II SBIR proposal would integrate the component development and analysis performed in Phase I to build and test a full prototype manipulation system. By incorporating optical, internal, and tactile sensors and multi-level controls that take advantage of the unique characteristics of the manipulator and seek out appropriate contact to guide motion rather than avoiding it. By testing the entire prototype system in the field we will demonstrate operation in the ground environment and learn valuable lessons for IVA and EVA applications. More »

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