A novel bending microactuator with integrated flexible electro-rheological microvalves using an alternating pressure source for multi-actuator systems
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This paper presents a novel bending microactuator with integrated flexible electro-rheological microvalves (FERVs) using an alternating pressure source for multi-actuator systems. The proposed bending microactuator is a fluidic elastomer actuator that has two fluidic chambers inside and can bend with the chamber pressures controlled by the integrated FERVs, each of which has a flexible structure and changes a flow of electro-rheological fluid (ERF) through its viscosity change due to an applied electric field. The utilization of the FERVs in the actuator reduces the overall size, while the benefits of the alternating pressure source are reduction of the number of pipes in a multi-actuator system and removal of the fluid reservoir tank. The mathematical models were demonstrated and utilized for optimizing and designing the dimensions of the actuator to obtain the maximum bending angle, the fast response, and the highest output force. The designed actuator was successfully fabricated using MEMS technologies and experiments were conducted to investigate the bending angle and the response time of the successfully fabricated actuator. The results showed good agreement between the experimental results and the simulation results, which proved the validity of the proposed models. Comparing with the previously proposed microactuator with an FERV, the proposed actuator had 4.5 times larger bending angle. From the results, the optimized actuator showed the feasibility for use in e.g. micro gripper application.
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