We report on an actuator based on dielectric elastomers that is capable of antagonistic actuation and passive folding. This actuator enables foldability in robots with simple structures. Unlike other antagonistic dielectric elastomer devices, our concept uses elastic hinges to allow the folding of the structure, which also provides an additional design parameter. To validate the actuator concept through a specific application test, a foldable elevon actuator with outline size of 70 mm × 130 mm is developed with angular displacement range and torque specifications matched to a 400-mm wingspan micro-air vehicle (MAV) of mass 130 g. A closed-form analytical model of the actuator is constructed, which was used to guide the actuator design. The actuator consists of 125-μm-thick silicone membranes as the dielectric elastomers, 0.2mm-thick fiberglass plate as the frame structure, and 50-μm-thick polyimide as the elastic hinge. We measured voltage-controllable angular displacement up to ±26° and torque of 2720 mN · mm at 5 kV, with good agreement between the model and the measured data. Two elevon actuators are integrated into the MAV, which was successfully flown, with the foldable actuators providing stable and well-controlled flight. The controllability was quantitatively evaluated by calculating the correlation between the control signal and the MAV motion, with a correlation in roll axis of over 0.7 measured during the flights, illustrating the high performance of this foldable actuator.
A Foldable Antagonistic Actuator
Read the paper