Flexible Active Skin: Large Reconfigurable Arrays of Individually Addressed Shape Memory Polymer Actuators

A high-resolution flexible active skin with a matrix of 32x24 individually addressable tactile pixels on a 4 mm pitch is reported, based on shape memory polymer (SMP) actuators. The intrinsic multistable nature of SMPs, and their more than hundred-fold variation in stiffness over a narrow temperature range, enables dense arrays of actuators exhibiting simultaneously large strokes and high holding forces. The control challenge of addressing a very large number of soft actuators is solved by patterning an array of miniature stretchable heaters on a thin SMP membrane, so that one single pneumatic supply is sufficient to rapidly and selectively reconfigure any or all elements. The device consists of a 40 µm-thick SMP layer, on which 32x24 stretchable heaters are integrated, interconnected by a flexible PCB and bonded to a stretchable 3D-printed pneumatic chamber. Each taxel can be individually controlled via row/column addressing, and requires 2.5 s to latch to a different state. The active skin weighs only 55 g and is 2 mm thick. More than 99% of the 768 taxels are fully functional, with a lifetime in excess of 20’000 cycles. This architecture enables applications in haptic displays, active camouflage, biomimetic robots, microfluidics, and new human machine interfaces.

Published in:
Advanced Materials Technologies, 1700102
Hoboken, Wiley

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only
  • 4x4 array of SMP actuators, by Besse et al, EPFL: AdMat_SMP_Actuator_Motion_Movie_S2 - MP4; Preprint: preprint AdMat_SMP_Active_Skin_Article Besse - PDF; Publisher's version: Besse adv mat tech 2017 - PDF; operating principle of latching 24x32 SMP array by Besse et al, EPFL: AdMat_SMP_Active_Skin_Movie_S1 - MP4;
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 Record created 2017-08-25, last modified 2019-03-17

4x4 array of SMP actuators, by Besse et al, EPFL:
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operating principle of latching 24x32 SMP array by Besse et al, EPFL:
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