Biorobotics - Build Your Own Robotic Air Muscle Actuator

An air muscle is a simple pneumatic device developed in the 1950's by J.L. McKibben. Like biological muscles, air muscles contract when activated. Robotists find it interesting that air muscles provide a reasonable working copy of biological muscles. So much so that researchers can use a human skeleton with air muscles attached to the skeleton at primary biological muscle locations to study biomechanics and low level neural properties of biological muscles. (See Internet sources)

SIN-COS Compass Resolution

This feature is utilized by the research in many "Bio-Robotics" projects institute by numerous researchers. In published papers air muscles are also referred to as; McKibben Air Muscles, McKibben Pneumatic Artificial Muscle, Rubbertuator and as I refer to them simply as air muscle(s).


Air muscles have applications in robotics, biorobotics, biomechanics, artificial limb replacement and industry. The principle reasons experimenters and hobbyists will like air muscles are ease of use (as compared to standard pneumatic cylinders) and simple construction. Air muscles are soft, lightweight and compliant, have a high power to weight ratio (400:1), can be twisted axially and used on unaligned mounting and provide contractive force around bends, (see robot wars near the end of this article). Air muscles may also be used underwater.

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