Lightweight mechanical amplifiers for rolled dielectric elastomer actuators and their integration with bio-inspired wing flappers
Date of Issue2014
School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) are attractive for use in bio-inspired flapping-wing robots because they have high work density (specific energy) and can produce a large actuation strain. Although the active membrane of a dielectric elastomer is lightweight, the support structure that pre-tensions the elastomeric membrane is massive and it lowers the overall work density. If the DEA is to be used successfully to drive flapping-wing robots, its support structure must be as lightweight as possible. In this work, we designed, analysed, and developed a lightweight shell using a cross-ply laminate of carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) to pre-strain a rolled DEA. The CFRP shell was shown to weigh 24.3% of the total mass for the whole DEA assembly, while providing up to 35.0% axial pre-strain to a rolled DEA (BJB-5005 silicone rubber). This DEA assembly using the CFRP shell achieved 30.9% of the theoretical work density for a BJB-TC5005 membrane at 33.5 MV m−1. In comparison, spring rolls with a massive spring core were reported with overall work density merely 10–20% of the maximum value. Furthermore, this CFRP shell can amplify an axial DEA stroke into a larger transverse shell deformation. With these deformation characteristics, this CFRP shell and a rolled DEA were successfully integrated with an insect-inspired thoracic mechanism and they were shown to be feasible to drive it for a flapping wing.
Smart materials and structures
© 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd. This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by Smart Materials and Structures, IOP Publishing Ltd. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0964-1726/23/2/025021].