Air muscles are simple pneumatic devices that have high potential to be used as robotic manipulators, as they have a behavior similar to biological motors or muscles. Hence, they have a wide range of potential applications in areas such as robotics, bio-robotics, biomechanics, and artificial limb replacements. In addition to the similarity to biological muscle, air muscles have the advantages of good power-to-weight ratio, being compliant, and low cost. This thesis primarily quantifies the relationship between velocity of contraction of air muscles and the force applied on it, which is a key characteristic of biological skeletal muscle. First, an experimental test rig was used to measure the velocity of contraction of air muscles as a function of applied force, supply pressure, and supply volumetric flow rate. Second, a theoretical model is proposed to quantify the relationship between the velocity of contraction and force applied on it and to explain the experimental results.

Three air muscles having different lengths and diameters were tested for loads ranging from 0 to 6 kg at 20 psi, 40 psi and 60 psi at two different flow rates. All three air muscles were made up of latex tubing sheathed with the Techflex, FlexoPet braided sleeve. The primary air muscle was 5 inches long, with the diameter of the inner tube measuring 3/4 of an inch. The second muscle had half the length (2.5 inches) and was the same diameter as the primary air muscle. The third air muscle was the same length as the first (5 inches long), but half of the diameter (3/8 of an inch). The velocity of the contraction was measured with the help of the linear potentiometer.

Both the theoretical model and the experimental results found that as the force applied on the air muscles is increased, maximum length of contraction and velocity of contraction decrease. Both model and experiment showed that the velocity of contraction increases as a function of both pressure and volume flow rate.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Pneumatic machinery--Testing

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Mechanical Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)


Steven Day

Advisor/Committee Member

Kathleen Lamkin-Kennard

Advisor/Committee Member

Wayne Walter


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at TJ950 .P42 2016


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes