We report on an actuator based on dielectric elastomers that is capable of antagonistic actuation and passive folding. This actuator enables foldability in robots with simple structures. Unlike other antagonistic dielectric elastomer devices, our concept uses elastic hinges to allow the folding of the structure, which also provides an additional design parameter. To validate the actuator concept through a specific application test, a foldable elevon actuator with outline size of 70 mm × 130 mm is developed with angular displacement range and torque specifications matched to a 400-mm wingspan micro-air vehicle (MAV) of mass 130 g. A closed-form analytical model of the actuator is constructed, which was used to guide the actuator design. The actuator consists of 125-μm-thick silicone membranes as the dielectric elastomers, 0.2mm-thick fiberglass plate as the frame structure, and 50-μm-thick polyimide as the elastic hinge. We measured voltage-controllable angular displacement up to ±26° and torque of 2720 mN · mm at 5 kV, with good agreement between the model and the measured data. Two elevon actuators are integrated into the MAV, which was successfully flown, with the foldable actuators providing stable and well-controlled flight. The controllability was quantitatively evaluated by calculating the correlation between the control signal and the MAV motion, with a correlation in roll axis of over 0.7 measured during the flights, illustrating the high performance of this foldable actuator.
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Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs), a soft actuator technology, hold great promise for biomimetic underwater robots. The high-voltages required to drive DEAs can however make them challenging to use in water. This paper demonstrates a method to create DEA-based biomimetic swimming robots that operate reliably even in conductive liquids. We ensure the insulation of the high-voltage DEA electrodes without degrading actuation performance by laminating silicone layers. A fish and a jellyfish were fabricated and tested in water. The fish robot has a length of 120 mm and a mass of 3.8 g. The jellyfish robot has a 61 mm diameter for a mass of 2.6 g. The measured swimming speeds for a periodic 3 kV drive voltage were 8 mm/s for the fish robot, and 1.5 mm/s for the jellyfish robot.
We demonstrate here a configuration of soft actuator which has several features such as, being completely soft, simple, thin, foldable, and stretchable while having uni/bidirectional bending actuation. Theoretically the actuation can be extended to multidirectional. We used Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEA) as a base actuation mechanism, and molded PDMS was used as a substrate of the device.
A highly versatile soft gripper that can handle an unprecedented range of object types is developed based on a new design of dielectric elastomer actuators employing an interdigitated electrode geometry, simultaneously maximizing both electroadhesion and electrostatic actuation while incorporating self-sensing. The multifunctionality of the actuator leads to a highly integrated, lightweight, fast, soft gripper with simplified structure and control.