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A new design for a dielectric elastomer actuator with geometrically confining reinforcements is presented. The resulting structures enable complex 3-dimentional motion without the need of the membrane prestretch. An in situ imaging system is used to capture the complex deformation pattern to evaluate the surface curvatures. The deformation mode is analyzed analytically using the bi-laminate theory to explore the actuator performance and further develop analytical model amenable for control strategies. A finite element material model is also developed to couple the applied electric field to the resulting deformation. The model is used to analyze more complex deformation patterns. The proposed confining reinforcements would enable the development of flexible wings for agile aerial robotics and compliant continuum robotics, utilizing the proposed deformation mechanisms to provide controllable many degrees of freedom.
Date of Conference: 14-18 May 2012