Pneumatic Prime Movers

  • Tim SwiftEmail author
Reference work entry


Despite the significant investment in humanoid robotics over the last two decades, the bulk of the research into potential methods of actuation has been limited to two main avenues: electromechanical and hydraulic actuation. Pneumatic actuation presents a unique alternative to these conventional systems but comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. While still not widely adopted within the robotics community, the inherent compliance and favorable power-to-weight ratios of pneumatic actuators have attracted a renewed interest in the potential of pneumatically powered robots. Compliance, which comes from compressibility of the air cavity within the pneumatic actuator, is especially attractive for safer and more adaptive interaction between robots and their environment, including with humans and other fragile systems. Pneumatic actuation is not a new actuation method as it has long been the default driver of industrial automation applications. As such, designers have been well aware of pneumatic actuation and its potential benefits. However, a variety of factors have limited its widespread application.


  1. 1.
    B. Hannaford, J.M. Winters, C. Chou, P. Marbot, The anthroform biorobotic arm: a system for the study of spinal circuits. Ann. Biomed. Eng. 23, 399–408 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    D. Winter, Biomechanics and Motor Control of Human Movement, 3rd edn. (Wiley, Hoboken, 2005)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    F. Daerden, D. Lefeber, Pneumatic artificial muscles: actuators for robotics and automation. Eur. J. Mech. Environ. Eng. 47, 10–21 (2000)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Y Sun, Y Song, J Paik. Characterization of silicone rubber based soft pneumatic actuators, in International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Karlsruhe, 2013Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    R. Deimel, B. Oliver. A compliant hand based on a novel pneumatic actuator, in International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Karlsruhe, 2013Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    S. Sanan, P.S. Lynn, S.T. Griffith, Pneumatic torsional actuators for inflatable robots. J. Mech. Robot. 6(3), 031003–031003-7 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    S. Sanan, Soft robots for safe physical human interaction. Ph.D. dissertation, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, 2013Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Roam RoboticsSan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations