Description of Market Need:
A gap exists in the current valve market to provide a proportional flow control mechanism that is small, lightweight, and cost-effective, with prospective uses in fluid applications in wearable assistive and augmenting technologies, robotics, aerospace, medical devices, pneumatic and hydraulic machines, etc.
Description of Approach:
The Compact Robotic Flow Control Valve differs from valves currently on the market in its small size, lightweight, low cost, and capability for proportional flow control. The CRFC Valve is a 3-way 3-position valve and utilizes a servo to implement a choking mechanism that proportionally lessens or widens the inlet opening of the latex tubing through which fluid will flow. The valve uses low-cost materials such as a 3D-printed casing, thin surgical latex tubing, canvas fabric, and a micro servo, and has a total mass of 28 grams. It is effective with affordable and small servo motors due to its high energy efficiency. The estimated average cost of the CRFC valve is around $10.00. A picture of the CRFC Valve prototype is shown in Figure 1.
The CRFC valve can be configured to open or close the fluid tubes by any degree between fully closed and fully open. The degree of opening can be directly controlled by the rotation angle of the servo motor attachment. The motion of this attachment will increase or decrease tension in the strings constricting flow through the fluid tubes. With an increase in tension, the opening size becomes smaller, and with a decrease in tension, the opening gets larger. The fluid flow speed is linearly related to the size of the opening and is, therefore, linearly related to the angle rotation of the servo attachment. This function is demonstrated in Figure 2.
Current solutions are 5 factors larger, 5 factors heavier, and 10 factors more expensive than the disclosed invention.