How to Build Your Own Pneumatic Robot

If you’re planning on building your own robot, pneumatics can be a great alternative to an electric motor.

Pneumatics are relatively easy to design and put together, plus they’re lightweight, low-maintenance and quite powerful. A pneumatic system can, however, be more expensive, take up more space and require more programming. While pneumatic power can lead to more fluid and precise movement, but you don’t have as much flexibility in the speed of movement.

Intrigued? Here’s a basic introductory guide for how to build your own pneumatic robot.

How Pneumatics Work

Before you start building a pneumatic robot, it can be helpful to have a basic understanding of how pneumatics work.

How a Pneumatic Robot Arm Works

A pneumatic system controls the movement of compressed air, like an electronic system control the flow of electrons. This air movement controls the movement of the robotic part.

A pneumatic system needs five main parts to work:

  1. The compressor, which produces compressed air using electricity, gasoline or propane.
  2. The reservoir, which stores the compressed air
  3. The valves, which manage the air flow
  4. The circuits, which control the valves
  5. The actuator, which uses the air to accomplish the desired task

What You’ll Need

Here are the basic supplies you’ll need for your pneumatic robot.

  • A compressor.
  • A solid state relay (SSR), which you’ll use to control the compressor, this needs to be rated for the maximum current of the compressor.
  • A pressure relief valve, which connects to the compressor and releases air if the pressure gets too high
  • A pressure switch, which senses the air pressure and allows your software to turn off the compressor when it passes a certain threshold
  • Air tanks, which will act as reservoirs for the compressed air
  • Regulators, which limit the pressure sent to the pneumatic cylinders
  • Gauges, which tell you the air pressure in the system
  • Solenoid Valves (electrically controlled valves)
  • Push-to-connect fittings, which you’ll use to connect all of the components together
  • Tubing, through which the air will flow
  • Pneumatic cylinders, which are the components that the pneumatic system controls to accomplish the task (actuators)
  • A suitable microcontroller or control system
  • I/O board for the above that can drive the relay and solenoid valves and read the sensors. An open collector driver would work well for the SSR and valves.

Setting Up Your Pneumatic System

Once you have all of your parts, you can start setting up the pneumatic system that will control your robot.

First, connect your compressor to your relay using an appropriate fuse. Attach the supply side of the solid state relay to your power distribution board. Then, connect the control wires from the relay to an output port on your I/O board.

Next, use your push-to-connect fittings to connect the parts together.

Connect a piece of tubing from the compressor to a T-connector. On one end of this connect the pressure relief valve and the other to an air tank. From the other end of your air tank, attach a second T-connector, to this connect the pressure gauge. To the other side of the second T-connector you can connect a tube to the regulator which you should ensure is closed.

Now, everything is connected, and it’s time to calibrate the system. Turn the compressor on and watch the gauge. When the gauge reads 120psi, turn the system off. Adjust the bolts of the pressure relief valve until it starts to release air.

Next, you’ll connect a line into your actuators. From the output of the regulator use T-connectors to attach a second gauge and the pressure sensor. Next connect up a solenoid valve. Finally, connect this valve to a cylinder. When you turn on the compressor, the cylinder will extend as long as the bottom tube on the valve is receiving air. If you configure it so that the valve is receiving air from the top, it will contract instead.

Wire up your solenoid valve and pressure sensor to the I/O board.

You can then program your robot based on what you want it to do when moving the cylinder.

If you want to run all your cylinders at the same pressure then hook further valves to the output of the regulator.

If you need to run different pressures then you will need further regulators which you can connect to the output of the first. Typically, you attach the pressure lines in order of descending pressure.

Your Pneumatic Robot

The details of the process will differ depending on the purpose of your robot and the exact equipment you use, but that’s the basics of how to make your own pneumatic robot. Once, you complete the above steps, your robot is ready to go, and you can continue adjusting it according to what you want to use it for.

About the Author

This post was created by Emily with the Rainmaker Collective, an influencer-driven network created by bloggers for bloggers.

One thought on “How to Build Your Own Pneumatic Robot

  1. A nice look at pneumatic systems by James

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