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Actuators, Volume 8, Issue 4 (December 2019) – 12 articles

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Cover Story (view full-size image) Next-generation robotics such as collaborative robots, exoskeletons, and legged robots all require [...] Read more.
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Open AccessArticle
A Comparison Study of a Novel Self-Contained Electro-Hydraulic Cylinder versus a Conventional Valve-Controlled Actuator—Part 1: Motion Control
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 79; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040079 - 05 Dec 2019
Viewed by 667
Abstract
This research paper presents the first part of a comparative analysis of a novel self-contained electro-hydraulic cylinder with passive load-holding capability against a state of the art, valve-controlled actuation system that is typically used in load-carrying applications. The study is carried out on [...] Read more.
This research paper presents the first part of a comparative analysis of a novel self-contained electro-hydraulic cylinder with passive load-holding capability against a state of the art, valve-controlled actuation system that is typically used in load-carrying applications. The study is carried out on a single-boom crane with focus on the control design and motion performance analysis. First, a model-based design approach is carried out to derive the control parameters for both actuation systems using experimentally validated models. The linear analysis shows that the new drive system has higher gain margin, allowing a considerably more aggressive closed-loop position controller. Several benefits were experimentally confirmed, such as faster rise time, 75% shorter settling time, 61% less overshoot, 66% better position tracking, and reduction of pressure oscillations. The proposed control algorithm is also proven to be robust against load variation providing essentially the same position accuracy. In conclusion, the novel self-contained system is experimentally proven to be a valid alternative to conventional hydraulics for applications where passive load-holding is required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electro-Hydraulic Actuators)
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Open AccessArticle
A Comparison Study of a Novel Self-Contained Electro-Hydraulic Cylinder versus a Conventional Valve-Controlled Actuator—Part 2: Energy Efficiency
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040078 - 05 Dec 2019
Viewed by 690
Abstract
This research paper presents the second part of a comparative analysis of a novel self-contained electro-hydraulic cylinder with passive load-holding capability against a state of the art, valve-controlled hydraulic system that is typically used in load-carrying applications. After addressing the control design and [...] Read more.
This research paper presents the second part of a comparative analysis of a novel self-contained electro-hydraulic cylinder with passive load-holding capability against a state of the art, valve-controlled hydraulic system that is typically used in load-carrying applications. After addressing the control design and motion performance in the first part of the study, the comparison is now focused on the systems’ energy efficiency. It is experimentally shown that the self-contained solution enables 62% energy savings in a representative working cycle due to its throttleless and power-on-demand nature. In the self-contained drive, up to 77% of the energy taken from the power supply can be used effectively if the recovered energy is reused, an option that is not possible in the state of the art hydraulic architecture. In fact, more than 20% of the consumed energy may be recovered in the self-contained system during the proposed working cycle. In summary, the novel self-contained option is experimentally proven to be a valid alternative to conventional hydraulics for applications where passive load-holding is required both in terms of dynamic response and energy consumption. Introducing such self-sufficient and completely sealed devices also reduces the risk of oil spill pollution, helping fluid power to become a cleaner technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Electro-Hydraulic Actuators)
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Open AccessArticle
Characteristics and Analysis of an Eddy Current Shock Absorber Damper Using Finite Element Analysis
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 77; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040077 - 19 Nov 2019
Viewed by 678
Abstract
In the paper a model is developed for a proposed eddy current damper using finite element analysis. Several damper configurations are studied and its characteristics are analyzed. The steady state performance for the configurations is compared to reach a design with an acceptable [...] Read more.
In the paper a model is developed for a proposed eddy current damper using finite element analysis. Several damper configurations are studied and its characteristics are analyzed. The steady state performance for the configurations is compared to reach a design with an acceptable performance for the eddy current damper. Furthermore, the proposed designs performance are compared with the traditional damper performance. It was found that the best two designs to achieve the targeted performance were to have an iron core damper or an iron core with an aluminum sleeve. Those two designs are economical and simple while achieving acceptable performance when compared to traditional dampers and other electromagnetic damping systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Pneumatic Hyperelastic Actuators for Grasping Curved Organic Objects
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040076 - 05 Nov 2019
Viewed by 797
Abstract
Soft robotic grippers often incorporate pneumatically-driven actuators that can elastically deform to grasp delicate, curved organic objects with minimal surface damage. The complexity of the actuator geometry and the nonlinear stress–strain behavior of the stretchable material during inflation make it difficult to predict [...] Read more.
Soft robotic grippers often incorporate pneumatically-driven actuators that can elastically deform to grasp delicate, curved organic objects with minimal surface damage. The complexity of the actuator geometry and the nonlinear stress–strain behavior of the stretchable material during inflation make it difficult to predict actuator performance prior to prototype fabrication. In this work, a scalable modular elastic air-driven actuator made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is developed for a mechanically compliant robotic gripper that grasps individual horticultural plants and fungi during automated harvesting. The key geometric design parameters include the expandable surface area and wall thickness of the deformable structure used to make contact with the target object. The impact of these parameters on actuator displacement is initially explored through simulation using the Mooney–Rivlin model of hyperelastic materials. In addition, several actuator prototypes with varying expandable wall thicknesses are fabricated using a multistep soft-lithography molding process and are inserted in a closed ring assembly for experimental testing. The gripper performance is evaluated in terms of contact force, contact area with the target, and maximum payload before slippage. The viability of the gripper with PDMS actuators for horticultural harvesting applications is illustrated by gently grasping a variety of mushroom caps. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Thermal Balance and Active Damping of a Piezoelectric Deformable Mirror for Adaptive Optics
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 75; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040075 - 01 Nov 2019
Viewed by 779
Abstract
Piezoelectric unimorph deformable mirrors offer a cheap solution to adaptive optics, with mass production capability. However, standard solutions have significant drawbacks: (i) the static shape is sensitive to the temperature, and (ii) the low structural damping limits the control bandwidth, because of the [...] Read more.
Piezoelectric unimorph deformable mirrors offer a cheap solution to adaptive optics, with mass production capability. However, standard solutions have significant drawbacks: (i) the static shape is sensitive to the temperature, and (ii) the low structural damping limits the control bandwidth, because of the interaction between the shape control and the vibration modes of the mirror. This paper discusses how these two problems may be alleviated by using a mirror covered with an array of actuators working in d31 mode on the back side and a ring of transducers (actuators and sensors) on the front side, outside the pupil of the mirror. Full article
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Open AccessEditorial
A Focus on Soft Actuation
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040074 - 23 Oct 2019
Viewed by 1046
Abstract
The present editorial paper analyzes the hundred recent research works on soft actuation to understand the current main research focus in the light of the grand challenges in the field. Two characteristic paper types were obtained: one focuses on soft actuator design, manufacturing [...] Read more.
The present editorial paper analyzes the hundred recent research works on soft actuation to understand the current main research focus in the light of the grand challenges in the field. Two characteristic paper types were obtained: one focuses on soft actuator design, manufacturing and demonstration, while another includes in addition the development of functional materials. Although vast majority of the works showcased soft actuation, evaluation of its robustness by multi-cyclic actuation was reported in less than 50% of the works, while only 10% described successful actuation for more than 1000 cycles. It is suggested that broadening the research focus to include investigation of mechanisms underlying the degradation of soft functional material performance in real cyclic actuation conditions, along with application of artificial intelligence methods for prediction of muscle behavior, may allow overcoming the reliability issues and developing robust soft-material actuators. The outcomes of the present work might be applicable to the entire soft robotics domain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Materials and Designs for Soft Actuators)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation of a Combustion-Based Mesoscale Thermal Actuator in Open and Closed Operating Cycles
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040073 - 23 Oct 2019
Viewed by 781
Abstract
A combustion-based mesoscale thermal actuator is proposed and its performance is studied in both open and closed cycle operations using a physics-based lumped-parameter model. The actuator design is unique as it implements a free-piston complaint architecture where the piston is free to move [...] Read more.
A combustion-based mesoscale thermal actuator is proposed and its performance is studied in both open and closed cycle operations using a physics-based lumped-parameter model. The actuator design is unique as it implements a free-piston complaint architecture where the piston is free to move in a linear direction. Our objective is to study the actuator behavior in both the cycles to help identify the benefits and highlight the differences between the two cycles. The actuator is modeled as a spring-mass-damper system by taking an air standard cycle approach. Three observations are reported: (1) for nominal heat inputs (140 J/cycle), the actuator can produce large displacement strokes (16 cm) that is suitable for driving mesoscale robots; (2) the efficiency of the actuator depends on the heat input; and (3) for a specific heat input, both the open and closed cycles operate differently—with different stroke lengths, peak pressures, and thermal efficiencies. Our study reveals that the performance metrics of the actuator make it an ideal candidate for high speed, large force, and large displacement stroke related applications. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
A Miniature 3D Printed On-Off Linear Pneumatic Actuator and Its Demonstration into a Cartoon Character of a Hopping Lamp
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040072 - 17 Oct 2019
Viewed by 999
Abstract
Although 3D printing has been extensively used to create passive machines and mechanisms, 3D printing of actuators is a relatively new concept. 3D printing of actuators allows greater customization, accelerates the design and development, and consequently saves time and money. We present the [...] Read more.
Although 3D printing has been extensively used to create passive machines and mechanisms, 3D printing of actuators is a relatively new concept. 3D printing of actuators allows greater customization, accelerates the design and development, and consequently saves time and money. We present the design and fabrication of a 3D printed, miniature size, double-acting, On-Off type, linear pneumatic actuator. The actuator has an overall length of 8 cm, a bore size of 1.5 cm, and a stroke length of 2.0 cm. The overall weight is 12 gm and it generates a peak output power of 2 W when operating at an input air pressure of 40 psi ( 275.79 kPa). This paper demonstrates novel methods to solve the challenges that arise during fabrication that include: (1) chemical post-processing to achieve airtight sealing and a smooth surface finish, (2) strategic placement of a metallic part within 3D printed plastic for higher strength, (3) design of an airtight seal between the cylinder and piston head, (4) chemical bonding of printed parts using adhesive, and (5) use of a lubricant to reduce friction and improve force generation. The power-to-weight ratio of our actuator is comparable to that of high-end commercial actuators of similar size. The utility of the actuator is demonstrated in a series of jumping experiments with the actuator and by incorporating the actuator into a hopping robot inspired by Disney/Pixar Luxo lamp. We conclude that 3D printed pneumatic actuators combine the high power of pneumatics with the low weight of plastics, and structural strength through the selective placement of metal parts, thus offering a promising actuator for robotic applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Actuators for Robotics and Automation)
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Open AccessArticle
High-Bandwidth Active Impedance Control of the Proprioceptive Actuator Design in Dynamic Compliant Robotics
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040071 - 17 Oct 2019
Viewed by 1139
Abstract
Dynamic compliant robotics is a fast growing field because of its ability to widen the scope of robotics. The reason for this is that compliant mechanisms may ensure safe/compliant interactions between a robot and an external element—for instance, a human operator. Active impedance [...] Read more.
Dynamic compliant robotics is a fast growing field because of its ability to widen the scope of robotics. The reason for this is that compliant mechanisms may ensure safe/compliant interactions between a robot and an external element—for instance, a human operator. Active impedance control may widen the scope even further in relation to passive elements, but it requires high-bandwidth robust torque and active impedance control which induces high-noise issues even if high-end sensors are used. To address these issues, a complete controller design scheme, including Field-Oriented Control (FOC) of a Brushless Direct Current (BLDC) motor, is proposed. In this paper, controller designs for controlling the virtual impedance, motor torque and field are proposed which enables high-bandwidth robust control. Additionally, a novel speed and angle observer is proposed that aims to reduce noise arising in the angle sensor (typically a 12-bit magnetic encoder) and a Kalman/Luenberger based torque observer is proposed that aims to reduce noise arising in the phase current sensors. Through experimental tests, the combination of the controller designs and observers facilitated a closed-loop torque bandwidth of 2.6 k Hz and a noise reduction of 13.5 dB (in relation to no observers), at a sample rate and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) frequency of 25 k Hz . Additionally, experiments verified a precise and high performing controller scheme both during impacts and at a variety of different virtual compliance characteristics. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Damage Detection Using d15 Piezoelectric Sensors in a Laminate Beam Undergoing Three-Point Bending
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040070 - 29 Sep 2019
Viewed by 949
Abstract
A major inhibition to the widespread use of laminate structures is the inability of nondestructive testing techniques to effectively evaluate the bondline integrity. This work proposes and analyzes a bondline-integrity health monitoring approach utilizing shear-mode (d15) piezoelectric transducers. The d15 transducers were embedded [...] Read more.
A major inhibition to the widespread use of laminate structures is the inability of nondestructive testing techniques to effectively evaluate the bondline integrity. This work proposes and analyzes a bondline-integrity health monitoring approach utilizing shear-mode (d15) piezoelectric transducers. The d15 transducers were embedded in the bondlines of symmetric laminate structures to monitor and evaluate the bondline integrity using ultrasonic inspection. The d15 piezoelectric transducers made of lead zirconate titanate (PZT) enabled ultrasonic inspection of bonds by actuating and sensing antisymmetric waves in laminate structures. Design considerations, fabrication process, and experimental methods for testing a laminate specimen are presented. Designs included bondline-embedded d15 PZT piezoelectric transducers with surface-mounted transverse (d31) piezoelectric transducers for signal comparison. Defects in the bondline were created by a quasi-static three-point bending test, with results showing the ability of d15 piezoelectric transducers to detect bondline damage. Two damage indices based on Pearson correlation coefficient and normalized signal energy were implemented to evaluate the presence of damage and its severity. The experimental results demonstrate the ability of bondline-embedded d15 piezoelectric transducers to be used as actuators and sensors for ultrasonic health monitoring of bondline integrity. A comparison between surface-mounted d31 PZT and bondline-embedded d15 PZT sensors was also conducted. It was seen that signals sensed by bondline-embedded d15 PZTs showed higher distortion due to bondline defects compared with the sensed signals from the surface-mounted d31 PZT. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Review of Electrothermal Actuators and Applications
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 69; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040069 - 21 Sep 2019
Viewed by 1099
Abstract
This paper presents a review of electrothermal micro-actuators and applications. Electrothermal micro-actuators have been a significant research interest over the last two decades, and many different designs and applications have been investigated. The electrothermal actuation method offers several advantages when compared with the [...] Read more.
This paper presents a review of electrothermal micro-actuators and applications. Electrothermal micro-actuators have been a significant research interest over the last two decades, and many different designs and applications have been investigated. The electrothermal actuation method offers several advantages when compared with the other types of actuation approaches based on electrostatic and piezoelectric principles. The electrothermal method offers flexibility in the choice of materials, low-cost fabrication, and large displacement capabilities. The three main configurations of electrothermal actuators are discussed: hot-and-cold-arm, chevron, and bimorph types as well as a few other unconventional actuation approaches. Within each type, trends are outlined from the basic concept and design modifications to applications which have been investigated in order to enhance the performance or to overcome the limitations of the previous designs. It provides a grasp of the actuation methodology, design, and fabrication, and the related performance and applications in cell manipulation, micro assembly, and mechanical testing of nanomaterials, Radio Frequency (RF) switches, and optical Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Statistical Modeling of Photo-Bending Actuation of Hybrid Silicones Mixed with Azobenzene Powder
Actuators 2019, 8(4), 68; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8040068 - 20 Sep 2019
Viewed by 1103
Abstract
Mechanically responsive materials are promising as next-generation actuators for soft robotics, but have scarce reports on the statistical modeling of the actuation behavior. This research reports on the development and modeling of the photomechanical bending behavior of hybrid silicones mixed with azobenzene powder. [...] Read more.
Mechanically responsive materials are promising as next-generation actuators for soft robotics, but have scarce reports on the statistical modeling of the actuation behavior. This research reports on the development and modeling of the photomechanical bending behavior of hybrid silicones mixed with azobenzene powder. The photo-responsive hybrid silicone bends away from the light source upon light irradiation when a thin paper is attached on the hybrid silicone. The time courses of bending behaviors were fitted well with exponential models with a time variable, affording fitting constants at each experimental condition. These fitted parameters were further modeled using the analysis of variance (ANOVA). Cubic models were proposed for both the photo-bending and unbending processes, which were parameterized by the powder ratio and the light intensity. This modeling process allows such photo-responsive materials to be controlled as actuators, and will possibly be effective for engineering mechanically responsive materials. Full article
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