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Improving the design of soft, assistive wearables

Swatches | July 1, 2022 | By:

Scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have devised a scalable pipeline to computationally design and digitally fabricate soft pneumatic actuators. Called “PneuAct,” it has resolved the challenge with soft robotics, which have required manual design and fabrication. 

PneuAct uses a machine knitting process, which operates autonomously. A human designer specifies the stitch and sensor design patterns in software to program how the actuator will move, and it can then be simulated before printing. The textile piece is fabricated by the knitting machine, which can be fixed to an inexpensive, off-the-shelf rubber silicone tube to complete the actuator. The knitted actuator integrates conductive yarn for sensing, allowing the actuators to “feel” what they touch. 

The team designed several prototypes. The glove, for example, can be worn to supplement finger muscle movement, minimizing the amount of muscle activity needed to complete tasks and motions. This holds potential for those with an injury, limited mobility or experiencing other trauma to the fingers. Source: MIT CSAIL

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