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Error detection using pneumatic logic

Shane HoangMabel ShehadaZinal Patel ...+3 William H. Grover
Jan 2024
Pneumatic systems are common in manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, robotics, and many other fields. Failures in these systems can have very serious consequences, particularly if they go undetected. In this work, we present an air-powered error detector device that can detect and respond to failures in pneumatically actuated systems. The device contains 21 monolithic membrane valves that act like transistors in a pneumatic logic "circuit" that uses vacuum to represent TRUE and atmospheric pressure as FALSE. Three pneumatic exclusive-OR (XOR) gates are used to calculate the parity bit corresponding to the values of several control bits. If the calculated value of the parity bit differs from the expected value, then an error (like a leak or a blocked air line) has been detected and the device outputs a pneumatic error signal which can in turn be used to alert a user, shut down the system, or take some other action. As a proof-of-concept, we used our pneumatic error detector to monitor the operation of a medical device, an intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) device commonly used to prevent the formation of life-threatening blood clots in the wearer's legs. Experiments confirm that when the IPC device was damaged, the pneumatic error detector immediately recognized the error (a leak) and alerted the wearer using sound. By providing a simple and low-cost way to add fault detection to pneumatic actuation systems without using sensors, our pneumatic error detector can promote safety and reliability across the wide range of pneumatic systems.
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