FlowIO Taps an Adafruit Feather Sense for Pneumatic Control of Soft Robots

FlowIO is a modular pneumatic development system that provides sensing, actuation, and control for soft robotics and programmable materials.

Cabe Atwell
3 years agoRobotics

An MIT Media Lab team designed FlowIO as a modular, miniature pneumatics development platform for control, actuation, and sensing of soft robots and programmable materials.

FlowIO features a primary module with five pneumatic ports and provides a series of pneumatic actions, including inflation, vacuum, release, pressure hold, pressure sense, and variable flow rate. Its main module is also equipped with seven normally-closed solenoid valves in a manifold configuration, two for inlet and outlet, and five for the pneumatic I/O ports. Functions are controlled via an Adafruit Feather Sense (nrf52840) with Bluetooth Low Energy capabilities and several sensors, like a 9-DoF IMU, altimeter, and light sensor.

The main driver PCB packs a magnetic connector with four pins for connection to the pump module, a power button with a programmable auto-off timer, and a 14-pin GPIO header with I2C, SPI, UART, and analog I/O pins. There's a 500mAh LiPo battery on the opposite side for power, which is rechargeable via a USB port. The FlowIO system contains various expansion modules for increased functionality that connect using the main module’s GPIO header or over Bluetooth, which includes a pump that can provide different pressures and flow rates. It has its own LiPo battery and driver board housed in a snap-fit 3D printed enclosure as well.

The FlowIO platform can be used with accessories to make it more versatile, such as a strap that allows the system to be used as a wearable for assistive applications. The engineers have even designed a Lego-compatible enclosure for use in Lego projects. They’ve uploaded the enclosure files onto the FlowIO website; users can tailor them to suit specific projects. Interestingly, the team has developed a web-based GUI that runs on Google Chrome so that projects can be accessed from anywhere. They’ve also developed multiple APIs that are compatible with Arduino, JavaScript, and Python.

Latest articles
Sponsored articles
Related articles
Latest articles
Read more
Related articles