Tactile sensing is paramount for robots operating in human-centered environments to help in understanding interaction with objects. To enable robots to have sophisticated tactile sensing capability, researchers have developed different kinds of electronic skins for robotic hands and arms in order to realize the ‘sense of touch’. Recently, Stanford Structures and Composites Laboratory developed a robotic electronic skin based on a network of multi-modal micro-sensors. This skin was able to identify temperature profiles and detect arm strikes through embedded sensors. However, sensing for the static pressure load is yet to be investigated. In this work, an electromechanical impedance-based method is proposed to investigate the response of piezoelectric sensors under static normal pressure loads. The smart skin sample was firstly fabricated by embedding a piezoelectric sensor into the soft silicone. Then, a series of static pressure tests to the skin were conducted. Test results showed that the first peak of the real part impedance signal was sensitive to static pressure load, and by using the proposed diagnostic method, this test setup could detect a resolution of 0.5 N force. Numerical simulation methods were then performed to validate the experimental results. The results of the numerical simulation prove the validity of the experiments, as well as the robustness of the proposed method in detecting static pressure loads using the smart skin.
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