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9 April 2010 Biomimetic control for DEA arrays
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Arrays of actuators are ubiquitous in nature for manipulation, pumping and propulsion. Often these arrays are coordinated in a multi-level fashion with distributed sensing and feedback manipulated by higher level controllers. In this paper we present a biologically inspired multi-level control strategy and apply it to control an array of Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEA). A test array was designed consisting of three DEA arranged to tilt a set of rails on which a ball rolls. At the local level the DEA were controlled using capacitive self-sensing state machines that switched the actuator off and on when capacitive thresholds were exceeded, resulting in the steady rolling of the ball around the rails. By varying the voltage of the actuators in the on state, it was possible to control the speed of the ball to match a set point. A simple integral derivative controller was used to do this and an observer law was formulated to track the speed of the ball. The array demonstrated the ability to self start, roll the ball in either direction, and run at a range of speeds determined by the maximum applied voltage. The integral derivative controller successfully tracked a square wave set point. Whilst the test application could have been controlled with a classic centralised controller, the real benefit of the multi-level strategy becomes apparent when applied to larger arrays and biomimetic applications that are ideal for DEA. Three such applications are discussed; a robotic heart, a peristaltic pump and a ctenophore inspired propulsion array.
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Benjamin O'Brien, Todd Gisby, Sheng Q Xie, Emilio Calius, and Iain Anderson "Biomimetic control for DEA arrays", Proc. SPIE 7642, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2010, 764220 (9 April 2010);

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