Pneumatic devices require tight tolerances to keep them leak-free. Specialized companies offer various off-the-shelf devices, while these work well for many applications, there are also situations where custom design and production of pneumatic parts are desired. Cost efficiency, design flexibility, rapid prototyping, and MRI compatibility requirements are reasons why we investigated a method to design and produce different pneumatic devices using a laser cutter from acrylic, acetal, and rubber-like materials. The properties of the developed valves, pneumatic cylinders, and stepper motors were investigated. At 4-bar working pressure, the 4/3-way valves are capable of 5-Hz switching frequency and provide at most 22-L/min airflow. The pneumatic cylinder delivers 48 N of force, the acrylic stepper motor 30 N. The maximum switching frequency over 6-m long transmission lines is 4.5 Hz, using 2-mm tubing. A MRI-compatible robotic biopsy system driven by the pneumatic stepper motors is also demonstrated. We have shown that it is possible to construct pneumatic devices using laser-cutting techniques. This way, plastic MRI-compatible cylinders, stepper motors, and valves can be developed. Provided that a laser-cutting machine is available, the described pneumatic devices can be fabricated within hours at relatively low cost, making it suitable for rapid prototyping applications.
- Laser cutting