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This paper describes in-plane microactuators fabricated by standard microsensor materials and processes that can generate forces up to about a milli-newton. They operate by leveraging the deformations produced by localized thermal stresses. Analytical and finite element models of device performance are presented along with measured results of fabricated devices using electroplated Ni, LPCVD polysilicon, and p/sup ++/ Si as structural materials. A maskless process extension for incorporating thermal and electrical isolation is outlined. Test results show that static displacements of /spl ap/10 /spl mu/m can be achieved with power dissipation of /spl ap/100 mW, and output forces >300 /spl mu/N can be achieved with input power <250 mW. It is also shown that cascaded devices offer a 4/spl times/ improvement in displacement. The displacements are rectilinear, and the output forces generated are 10/spl times/-100/spl times/ higher than those available from other comparable options. This performance is achieved at much lower drive voltages than necessary for electrostatic actuation, indicating that bent-beam thermal actuators are suitable for integration in a variety of microsystems.