A Soft mechatronic microstage mechanism based on electroactive polymer actuators
Smart actuators have a considerable potential to articulate novel mechanisms and mechatronic devices inspired from biological systems. Electroactive polymer actuators (EAPs), as a class of smart and soft actuators, are ideal candidates for bioinspired mechatronic applications due to their compliance and built-in actuation ability originating from the material they are made of. In this paper, we report on a soft mechatronic mechanism, like a positioning stage, fabricated from bending-type EAP actuators as a one-piece fully compliant mechanism inspired from twining structures in nature. We have employed a quasi-static finite-element model combined with a soft robotic kinematic model to estimate the mechanical output of the soft mechatronic mechanism as a function of a single electrical input. Experiments were conducted under a range of electrical step inputs (0.25-1 V) and sine-wave inputs with various frequencies to validate the models. Experimental and simulation results show that this electrically stimulated soft mechatronic mechanism generates a linear displacement as large as 1.8 mm under 1 V out of its fabrication plane like a lamina emergent mechanism, while its bioinspired spiral parts bend and twine. This fully compliant and compact mechanism can find a place in optics as a microstage and/or an optical zoom mechanism.