When most people consider using air as a method of movement, the first thought hat usually comes to mind is the use of pneumatics. Although this is the most popular and the one we will primarily
discuss here, there are a few other “windy” options you
may want to consider. We will take a quick look at a
couple, and maybe they will inspire you to come up with a
new concept yourself!
The use of pneumatics provides the prop builder with a
unique set of qualities that are hard to achieve using any
other method of movement. They are able to lift much
heavier loads than servos and can move extremely fast.
Once you start using pneumatics, you will find a variety of
applications where they will be the optimum solution. While
their use may be a bit intimidating initially, harnessing this
power is no mystery.
Many feel there is a steep learning curve required to
harness this elusive power of pneumatics. Do not be
hesitant to give them a try as the basics are fairly
straightforward. Granted, you do need to watch what you
are doing in order to keep things safe. However, mastering
this skill will allow you to accomplish many tasks that may
have previously been impossible for you to do using other
methods. Like any other technique, they are not without
their own set of drawbacks. Pneumatics do require some
extra equipment in the form of an air compressor, hoses,
and fittings, as well as the required electronics necessary to
control it all. There is also the need to deal with the loud
noise of the compressor, along with the blast of air exhaust
that accompanies the use of pneumatics. There are a few
ways to deal with this, and we will cover those later in the
Pneumatics also include the limitation of being either
on or off. Standard cylinders using the traditional setup we
will discuss here lack the proportional control we have
when using servos. There are models available that are
controllable, but those are beyond the scope of this article.
I will add that topic to my list of future projects.
Will I Need to Take Out
a New Loan?
The $64 question always seems to be, “How much will
When building animatronics, it is important to avoid falling into
the trap of always trying to use the same mechanisms and
techniques to solve every build challenge. We all have our
favorite methods, but sometimes you need to implement other
techniques in order to solve a unique problem.
We are often confronted with the need to rapidly move heavy
loads. Servos and motors are not designed for this, so we need
to look for another solution. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the
answer may be blowing in the wind.
By Steve Koci
A Breath of Fresh Air
SERVO 11.2015 47
What Can It Do for Us?