28 March 2011 Flexidrive: a soft artificial muscle motor
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Abstract
We use our thumbs and forefingers to rotate an object such as a control knob on a stereo system by moving our finger relative to our thumb. Motion is imparted without sliding and in a precise manner. In this paper we demonstrate how an artificial muscle membrane can be used to mimic this action. This is achieved by embedding a soft gear within the membrane. Deformation of the membrane results in deformation of the polymer gear and this can be used for motor actuation by rotating the shaft. The soft motors were fabricated from 3M VHB4905 membranes 0.5mm thick that were pre-stretched equibiaxially to a final thickness of 31 μm. Each membrane had polymer acrylic soft gears inserted at the center. Sectors of each membrane (60° sector) were painted on both sides with conducting carbon grease leaving gaps between adjoining sectors to avoid arcing between them. Each sector was electrically connected to a power supply electrode on the rigid acrylic frame via narrow avenues of carbon-grease. The motors were supported in rigid acrylic frames aligned concentrically. A flexible shaft was inserted through both gears. Membranes were charged using a step wave PWM voltage signal delivered using a Biomimetics Lab EAP Control unit. Both membrane viscoelasticity and the resisting torque on the shaft influence motor speed by changing the effective circumference of the flexible gear. This new soft motor opens the door to artificial muscle machines molded as a single part.
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Iain A. Anderson, Tony Chun Hin Tse, Tokushu Inamura, Benjamin O'Brien, Thomas McKay, Todd Gisby, "Flexidrive: a soft artificial muscle motor", Proc. SPIE 7976, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2011, 79761T (28 March 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.880714; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.880714
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