A Low-Friction Passive Fluid Transmission and Fluid-Tendon Soft Actuator

Project Members

Jessica Hodgins (Disney Research Los Angeles, Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Peter Whitney (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Matt Glisson (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Eric Brockmeyer (Disney Research Pittsburgh)


We present a passive fluid transmission based on antagonist pairs of rolling diaphragm cylinders. The transmission fluid working volume is completely sealed, forming a closed, passive system, ensuring input-output symmetry and complete backdrivability. Rolling diaphragm-sealed cylinders provide leak-free operation without the stiction of a traditional sliding seal. Fluid pressure preloading allows for bidirectional operation and also serves to preload the gears or belts in the linear-to-rotary output coupler, eliminating system backlash end-to-end. A prototype transmission is built and tested for stiffness, bandwidth, and frictional properties using either air or water as working fluids. Torque transmission is smooth over the entire stroke and stiction is measured to be one percent of full-range torque or less. We also present a tendon-coupled design where the rolling diaphragm is inverted from its normal orientation; this design does not require shaft support bushings, tolerates misalignment, and can be made out of substantially soft materials. Actuator units and a passive transmission are demonstrated using this new soft cylinder design.



A Low-Friction Passive Fluid Transmission and Fluid-Tendon Soft Actuator
September 14, 2014
IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2014
Paper File [pdf, 2.71 MB]

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