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Development of a Transformable Wheel Actuated by Soft Pneumatic Actuators

Sung-Sik Yun, Jun-Young Lee, Gwang-Pil Jung, and Kyu-Jin Cho*
International Journal of Control, Automation, and Systems, vol. 15, no. 1, pp.36-44, 2017

Abstract : "Small mobile robots with transformable wheels have recently emerged thanks to their increased mobility and maneuverability. When a high payload is applied to these robots, however, wheel transformation becomes difficult because they must directly overcome the payload’s weight. In this paper, we propose a wheel that can be transformed from its starting circular shape (radius, 56 mm) to a wheel with three legs (radius, 99 mm) under a high payload with low operating force. The key design principle of this wheel is to kinematically decoupled legs and passive locking. Its legs are kinematically decoupled but operated by a single air pump using a pneumatic channel connected to soft pneumatic actuators installed at each leg. Application of pressure causes the legs to behave like a coupled system through the pneumatic channel. With pressurization, the two legs that are not in contact with the ground easily emerge from body, and the leg in contact with the ground emerges once the wheel rotates. Once emerged, each leg is supported by a rigid pawl instead of by the soft pneumatic actuators. This setup enables the legs to be transformed independently with low air pressure, even under high payloads. It reduces system weight and the energy required to maintain the transformed shape. This legged wheel can overcome obstacles up to 2.9 times the radius of the wheel in its circular form, and wheel transformation can be accomplished with 85 kPa air pressure for payloads up to 1115 g."

Keyword : Soft actuators, soft pneumatic actuators, transformable wheel.

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