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A variable stiffness dielectric elastomer actuator based on electrostatic chucking

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Abstract

Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) are one type of promising artificial muscle; however, applications of bending-type DEA for robotic end-effectors may be limited by their low stiffness and ability to resist external loads without buckling. Unimorph DEA can produce large out-of-plane deformation suitable for use as robotic end effectors; however, design of such actuators for large displacement comes at the cost of low stiffness and blocking force. This work proposes and demonstrates a variable stiffness dielectric elastomer actuator (VSDEA) consisting of a plurality of unimorph DEA units operating in parallel, which can exhibit variable electrostatic chucking to modulate the structure's bending stiffness. The unimorph DEA units are additively manufactured using a high-resolution pneumatic dispenser, and VSDEA comprising various numbers of units are assembled. The performance of the DEA units and VSDEA are compared to model predictions, exhibiting a maximum stiffness change of 39.2×. A claw actuator comprising two VSDEA and weighing 0.6 grams is demonstrated grasping and lifting a 10 gram object.

Graphical abstract: A variable stiffness dielectric elastomer actuator based on electrostatic chucking

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Publication details

The article was received on 17 Mar 2017, accepted on 07 Apr 2017 and first published on 10 Apr 2017


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM00546F
Citation: Soft Matter, 2017, Advance Article
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    A variable stiffness dielectric elastomer actuator based on electrostatic chucking

    H. Imamura, K. Kadooka and M. Taya, Soft Matter, 2017, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/C7SM00546F

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