The control board is intended to be as modular and reconfigurable as possible, so that users can modify it to suit their particular design needs. This documentation will cover the fabrication and operation of a control board for pneumatic (air-operated) systems. The same guidelines will apply for a hydraulic (water-operated) control board, however it will need to use different components (discussed below).
The board consists of:
- A miniature diaphragm pump as the air source, which can provide up to 30 psi of pressure.
- Solenoid valves which can direct the flow of air in the system.
- Pressure sensors which can provide feedback on the behavior of the system.
- A microcontroller (Arduino Mega), which enables users to interface with the hardware using their own computer via a USB cable (serial port) connection. Users can control various components or get sensor readings in this way, and write programs that use these elements for more advanced control of soft actuators.
- Switches and MOSFETs that can control the opening and closing of the solenoid valves.
- Rotary potentiometers ("pot") that control the pressure in the system (each controls the pressure in one channel).
- A breadboard to allow components to be added to the system.
- Power jacks.
- Various connectors, fixtures, and tubing.
The base structure of the control board is a sheet of acrylic with a laser-cut "pegboard" design (the white board in the above image), which makes it easy to reconfigure, add, or remove board components. Most of the components are mounted to laser-cut acrylic parts (the red pieces in the above image) which help to organize the board and also make reconfiguring the system easier.
On the next page, we discuss some options and alternatives for modifying the board to best suit your needs.