Fabrication of micro-scale DEAs could benefit many fields including micro-robots, micro-optical systems besides reducing the driving voltage from kV scale to possibly sub-100V range. In an earlier study, proof of concept fabrication methods for PDMS-based fiber-like micro-sized stacked dielectric elastomer actuators were introduced. This study tried to optimize the fabrication process by investigating the effect of different fabrication approaches and different design geometries on the performance of micro-sized DEAs. Micro-sized DEAs with different geometrical parameters were fabricated. Several fabrication steps were modified and the effectiveness of the new fabrication steps and parameters were investigated.
Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) are one of the best candidate materials for next generation of robotic actuators, soft sensors and artificial muscles due to their fast response, mechanical robustness and compliance. However, high voltage requirements of DEAs have impeded their potential to become widely used in such applications. In this study, we propose a method for fabrication of silicon based multilayer DEA fibers composed of microlevel dielectric layers to improve the actuation ratios of DEAs at lower voltages. A multi-walled carbon nanotube - polydimethylsiloxane (MWCNT/PDMS) composite was used to fabricate mechanically compliant, conductive parallel plates and electrode connections for the DEA actuators. Active surface area and layer thickness were varied to study the effects of these parameters on actuation ratio as a function of applied voltage. Different structures were fabricated to assess the flexibility of the fabrication method for specific user-end applications.