Electroactive polymer (EAPs)-based technologies have shown promise in areas such as artificial muscles, aerospace, medical devices and soft robotics because of large electromechanical actuation at relatively high speed. The promises of EAPs have led us to study EAP-based grippers. The in-plane actuation of P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE) is converted into bending actuation using unimorph configurations, where one passive substrate layer is attached to the active polymer. On-demand segmented folding is harnessed from this pure bending actuation by creating notch samples with an aim to implement them for applications like soft robotics gripper. In this paper, we studied the effect of various design parameters of notched folding actuators to establish a design reference and maximize the actuation performance of EAP based devices. Both finite element analysis (FEA) and micromechanics based analytical study is performed to investigate the effect of actuator parameters on the folding actuation of notched samples. The notched configuration has been analyzed via FEA for the non-uniform deformations and stress-fields. FEA analysis shows the importance of notch positioning to maximize the electromechanical performance. On the other hand, analytical study has proposed a design curve for the selection of proper notch parameters (e.g. notch length and Young’s Modulus) to maximize the actuation performance. Finally, based on the FEA and analytical analysis, a human finger inspired ‘finger-like’ biomimetic actuator is realized by assigning multiple notches to the structure.
Electroactive polymer (EAPs) based technologies have shown promise in areas such as artificial muscles, aerospace, medical and soft robotics. In this work, we demonstrate ways to harness on-demand segmented folding actuation from pure bending of relaxor-ferroelectric P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE) based films, using various design approaches, such as ‘stiffener’ and ‘notch’ based approaches. The in-plane actuation of the P(VDF-TrFE-CTFE) is converted into bending actuation using unimorph configurations, where one passive substrate layer is attached to the active polymer. First, we experimentally show that placement of thin metal strips as stiffener in between active EAPs and passive substrates leads to segmented actuation as opposed to pure bending actuation; stiffeners made of different materials, such as nickel, copper and aluminum, are studied which reveals that a higher Young’s modulus favors more pronounced segmented actuation. Second, notched samples are prepared by mounting passive substrate patches of various materials on top of the passive layers of the unimorph EAP actuators. Effect of notch materials, size of the notches and position of the notches on the folding actuation are studied. The motion of the human finger inspires a finger-like biomimetic actuator, which is realized by assigning multiple notches on the structure; finite element analysis (FEA) is also performed using COMSOL Multiphysics software for the notched finger actuator. Finally, a versatile soft-gripper is developed using the notched approach to demonstrate the capability of a properly designed EAP actuator to hold objects of various sizes and shapes.