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Micromachines 2017, 8(9), 270; doi:10.3390/mi8090270

Encapsulation of Piezoelectric Transducers for Sensory Augmentation and Substitution with Wearable Haptic Devices

1
The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34, 56025 Pontedera, Italy
2
Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologia dei Materiali Ceramici (CNR-ISTEC), Via Granarolo, 64, I-48018 Faenza, Italy
3
Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE), National University of Singapore (NUS), 28 Medical Dr. #05-COR, Singapore 117456, Singapore
4
Center for Micro-BioRobotics, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 34, 56025 Pontedera, Italy
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 June 2017 / Revised: 14 August 2017 / Accepted: 23 August 2017 / Published: 2 September 2017
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Abstract

The integration of polymeric actuators in haptic displays is widespread nowadays, especially in virtual reality and rehabilitation applications. However, we are still far from optimizing the transducer ability in conveying sensory information. Here, we present a vibrotactile actuator characterized by a piezoelectric disk embedded in a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) shell. An original encapsulation technique was performed to provide the stiff active element with a compliant cover as an interface towards the soft human skin. The interface stiffness, together with the new geometry, generated an effective transmission of vibrotactile stimulation and made the encapsulated transducer a performant component for the development of wearable tactile displays. The mechanical behavior of the developed transducer was numerically modeled as a function of the driving voltage and frequency, and the exerted normal forces were experimentally measured with a load cell. The actuator was then tested for the integration in a haptic glove in single-finger and bi-finger condition, in a 2-AFC tactile stimulus recognition test. Psychophysical results across all the tested sensory conditions confirmed that the developed integrated haptic system was effective in delivering vibrotactile information when the frequency applied to the skin is within the 200–700 Hz range and the stimulus variation is larger than 100 Hz. View Full-Text
Keywords: polymeric matrix; piezoelectric; touch psychophysics; vibrotactile stimulation; bi-finger perception; sensory substitution; sensory augmentation; tactile display; tactile telepresence polymeric matrix; piezoelectric; touch psychophysics; vibrotactile stimulation; bi-finger perception; sensory substitution; sensory augmentation; tactile display; tactile telepresence
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Sorgini, F.; Mazzoni, A.; Massari, L.; Caliò, R.; Galassi, C.; Kukreja, S.L.; Sinibaldi, E.; Carrozza, M.C.; Oddo, C.M. Encapsulation of Piezoelectric Transducers for Sensory Augmentation and Substitution with Wearable Haptic Devices. Micromachines 2017, 8, 270.

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