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Sensors 2014, 14(7), 12748-12770; doi:10.3390/s140712748

SVAS3: Strain Vector Aided Sensorization of Soft Structures

1,* , 1
1 Bio-Inspired Robotics Lab, Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland 2 EMPA Dübendorf, Überlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 March 2014 / Revised: 10 July 2014 / Accepted: 11 July 2014 / Published: 17 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Section Physical Sensors)
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Soft material structures exhibit high deformability and conformability which can be useful for many engineering applications such as robots adapting to unstructured and dynamic environments. However, the fact that they have almost infinite degrees of freedom challenges conventional sensory systems and sensorization approaches due to the difficulties in adapting to soft structure deformations. In this paper, we address this challenge by proposing a novel method which designs flexible sensor morphologies to sense soft material deformations by using a functional material called conductive thermoplastic elastomer (CTPE). This model-based design method, called Strain Vector Aided Sensorization of Soft Structures (SVAS3), provides a simulation platform which analyzes soft body deformations and automatically finds suitable locations for CTPE-based strain gauge sensors to gather strain information which best characterizes the deformation. Our chosen sensor material CTPE exhibits a set of unique behaviors in terms of strain length electrical conductivity, elasticity, and shape adaptability, allowing us to flexibly design sensor morphology that can best capture strain distributions in a given soft structure. We evaluate the performance of our approach by both simulated and real-world experiments and discuss the potential and limitations.
Keywords: sensor morphology design; soft strain gauges; conductive thermoplastic elastomer; soft robotics; wearable electronics sensor morphology design; soft strain gauges; conductive thermoplastic elastomer; soft robotics; wearable electronics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Culha, U.; Nurzaman, S.G.; Clemens, F.; Iida, F. SVAS3: Strain Vector Aided Sensorization of Soft Structures. Sensors 2014, 14, 12748-12770.

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