Movement and strength with pneumatic textiles
The issue of energy saving has become key in our lives, and for creating a future responsibly modern lightweight design is indispensable. The Institute of Textile Technology and Process Engineering ITV is investigating a promising new approach: pneumatic textile actuators
These drive elements are light and yet develop significant strength while ensuring movement. The actuators are manufactured in one piece according to Jacquard web technology, whereby each yarn is individually embedded in the textile via computer control. In this way, single and double-layered fabric constructions with integrated chamber structures are created. These basic elements are airtight laminated and cut out with a laser.
By filling these chamber structures with air, it is possible to generate strength and movement and even motion sequences depending on the chamber internal pressure.
At Techtextil 2015 an automated “drummer” was used to show how pneumatic textiles create movement.
New studies show that compressed air usage in the industry is responsible for up to 20% of operational energy costs. Many companies try to reduce these by using economical, computer-optimized and well-maintained compressed air systems. The technology of pneumatic textiles is pursuing a revolutionary approach here. Unlike traditional pneumatic technology, the textiles operate in the so-called low-pressure area and often require only an energy-efficient 1 bar overpressure.
Conventional systems, however, operate with a control pressure of 2 bars and an operating pressure of 5-6 bars. The energy saving potential is tremendous. Less than half of the pressure that is usually required for adjusting movements is sufficient for dynamic systems with pneumatic textile actuators. Yet these actuators create a lot of strength. In comparison with conventional pneumatic drives, comparable force can be generated with more than 30 times lower weight. A 20×20 cm large textile actuator, which can generate up to 3.5 kN tensile force, weighs approximately 54 g, including all connection elements. This opens up a host of new possibilities. Due to the geometric variability, almost all actuator sizes can be realized. As the actuators are very light, they can be used in many applications. It is possible to generate meter-long elements in architecture for roof and facade structures as well as additional elements on industrial robots, offering additional functionalities even when away from the pivot. In addition, pneumatic textiles can take on additional functions through sensory structures integrated directly during the weaving process. In this way, intelligent systems are created that are able to measure pressures, humidity and recognize approximations. As they are integrated in modern computer technology, these systems are ideally geared for the future. In ITV’s laboratories these lightweight, energy saving, textile actuators of the future are already being developed, built, and measured today. All the important features of the new actuators like tensile force, durability, tightness and actuator characteristic can be determined there and ensure that a sustainable future does not run out of air.