Towards a deployable satellite gripper based on multisegment dielectric elastomer minimum energy structures
Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs) are an emerging actuation technology which are inherent lightweight and compliant in nature, enabling the development of unique and versatile devices, such as the Dielectric Elastomer Minimum Energy Structure (DEMES). We present the development of a multisegment DEMES actuator for use in a deployable microsatellite gripper. The satellite, called CleanSpace One, will demonstrate active debris removal (ADR) in space using a small cost effective system. The inherent flexibility and lightweight nature of the DEMES actuator enables space efficient storage (e.g. in a rolled configuration) of the gripper prior to deployment. Multisegment DEMES have multiple open sections and are an effective way of amplifying bending deformation. We present the evolution of our DEMES actuator design from initial concepts up until the final design, describing briefly the trade-offs associated with each method. We describe the optimization of our chosen design concept and characterize this design in terms on bending angle as a function of input voltage and gripping force. Prior to the characterization the actuator was stored and subsequently deployed from a rolled state, a capability made possible thanks to the fabrication methodology and materials used. A tip angle change of approximately 60° and a gripping force of 0.8 mN (for small deflections from the actuator tip) were achieved. The prototype actuators (approximately 10 cm in length) weigh a maximum of 0.65 g and are robust and mechanically resilient, demonstrating over 80,000 activation cycles. © (2014) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.