A Fluidic Relaxation Oscillator for Reprogrammable Sequential Actuation in Soft Robots
Despite exciting developments in soft robotics, fully autonomous systems remain elusive. Fluidic circuits could enable fully embedded control of soft robots without using electronics. In this work, we introduce a simple and compact soft valve with intentional hysteresis, analogous to an electronic relaxation oscillator. By integrating the valve with a soft actuator, we transform a continuous inflow to cyclic activation. Importantly, we show that our circuits can activate up to five actuators in various sequences and that we can physically reprogram the activation order by varying the (initial) conditions in the fluidic circuit. Moreover, we show the feasibility of our approach under more realistic conditions by building a four-legged robot. Our work paves the way toward fully autonomous soft robots that can interact with their environment to reprogram their behavior, e.g., to trigger targeted drug release inside our body or to change gait to move past obstacles.