Editor's Choice Articles

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to authors, or important in this field. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.

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Article
Universal Control of Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors with Uncertain Dynamics
Actuators 2021, 10(3), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10030049 - 03 Mar 2021
Cited by 6
Abstract
This paper focuses on the universal control design of permanent magnet synchronous motors (PMSMs) with uncertain system dynamics. In vector control, classical proportional-integral (PI) controllers are used to control d-q axis currents and speed of the PMSM. This paper uses two control methods: [...] Read more.
This paper focuses on the universal control design of permanent magnet synchronous motors (PMSMs) with uncertain system dynamics. In vector control, classical proportional-integral (PI) controllers are used to control d-q axis currents and speed of the PMSM. This paper uses two control methods: conventional field-oriented vector control and simplified control. First, all the control gains are determined for numerous PMSMs with various power ratings using an empirical study and generalized mathematical expressions are derived for each of the gains. Then, these expressions are used for automatic gain calculation for various PMSMs with a wide power-rating range. In vector control, the control gains are determined using only the motor power ratings. In the simplified control, generalized control gain expressions are obtained using the number of pole pairs and the flux linkage. Compared to the vector control, the simplified control method provides much simpler generalized mathematical expressions. Validation is carried out in MATLAB/Simulink environment using various PMSMs from 0.2 HP to 10 HP, and results show accurate tracking of reference speed and d-q axis reference currents. Thus, the proposed gain scheduling approach is effective and can be used for self-commissioning motor drives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Actuators for Land Transport)
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Article
Piezoelectric MEMS Linear Motor for Nanopositioning Applications
Actuators 2021, 10(2), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10020036 - 18 Feb 2021
Cited by 3
Abstract
This paper reports the design, fabrication, and performance of piezoelectric bidirectional conveyors based on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and featuring 3D-printed legs in bridge resonators. The structures consisted of aluminum-nitride (AlN) piezoelectric film on top of millimeter-sized rectangular thin silicon bridges and two electrode [...] Read more.
This paper reports the design, fabrication, and performance of piezoelectric bidirectional conveyors based on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and featuring 3D-printed legs in bridge resonators. The structures consisted of aluminum-nitride (AlN) piezoelectric film on top of millimeter-sized rectangular thin silicon bridges and two electrode patches. The position and size of the patches were analytically optimized for travelling or standing wave generation, while the addition of 3D-printed legs allowed for a controlled contact and amplified displacement, a further step into the manufacturing of efficient linear motors. Such hybrid devices have recently demonstrated the conveyance of sliders of several times the motor weight, with speeds of 1.7 mm/s by travelling waves generated at 6 V and 19.3 kHz. In this paper both travelling and standing wave motors are compared. By the optimization of various aspects of the device such as the vibrational modes, leg collocation and excitation signals, speeds as high as 35 mm/s, and payloads above 10 times the motor weight were demonstrated. The devices exhibited a promising positional resolution while actuated with only a few sinusoidal cycles in an open-loop configuration. Discrete steps as low as 70 nm were measured in the conveyance of 2-mg sliders. Full article
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Article
Torque Characteristics Analysis of a Magnetorheological Brake with Double Brake Disc
Actuators 2021, 10(2), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10020023 - 27 Jan 2021
Cited by 6
Abstract
Magnetorheological (MR) brake is a sort of electromagnetic brake that uses the controllable output characteristics of MR fluid for braking. In this paper, an MR brake with a double brake disc was developed to improve the braking performance of conventional MR brakes. The [...] Read more.
Magnetorheological (MR) brake is a sort of electromagnetic brake that uses the controllable output characteristics of MR fluid for braking. In this paper, an MR brake with a double brake disc was developed to improve the braking performance of conventional MR brakes. The effective damping gaps were increased from the traditional two sections to four sections by increasing the single brake disc of the conventional MR brake to a double brake disc. By reasonably arranging the non-magnetic sleeve inside the MR brake, the magnetic flux lines were better guided to the effective damping gaps, which increased the utilization rate of the magnetic field, effectively enhanced the braking performance, and also reduced the braking power consumption. The structure and working principle of the MR brake with double brake disc were discussed. The magnetic field of the proposed MR brake was analyzed by ANSYS software, and the theoretical result of braking performance was obtained by combining the established mechanical model. The braking performance test rig was setup to investigate the torque performance of the MR brake. The experimental results show that the maximum braking torque is 18.01 N·m at the applied current of 2.0 A and the rotational speed of 400 r·min−1, and the simulation values are basically verified. In addition, the results indicate that the constant torque characteristic of the MR brake is relatively stable, and the torque is almost unaffected by the changes of rotational speed. The results can provide some guidance for the structural design and optimization of the MR actuators. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Actuators for Land Transport)
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Article
Analysis of the Nonlinear Response of Piezo-Micromirrors with the Harmonic Balance Method
Actuators 2021, 10(2), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10020021 - 25 Jan 2021
Cited by 6
Abstract
In this work, we address the simulation and testing of MEMS micromirrors with hardening and softening behaviour excited with patches of piezoelectric materials. The forces exerted by the piezoelectric patches are modelled by means of the theory of ferroelectrics developed by Landau–Devonshire and [...] Read more.
In this work, we address the simulation and testing of MEMS micromirrors with hardening and softening behaviour excited with patches of piezoelectric materials. The forces exerted by the piezoelectric patches are modelled by means of the theory of ferroelectrics developed by Landau–Devonshire and are based on the experimentally measured polarisation hysteresis loops. The large rotations experienced by the mirrors also induce geometrical nonlinearities in the formulation up to cubic order. The solution of the proposed model is performed by discretising the device geometry using the Finite Element Method, and the resulting large system of coupled differential equations is solved by means of the Harmonic Balance Method. Numerical results were validated with experimental data collected on the devices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers to Celebrate the SCIE Coverage)
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Article
Active Disturbance Rejection Control for Position Tracking of Electro-Hydraulic Servo Systems under Modeling Uncertainty and External Load
Actuators 2021, 10(2), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10020020 - 22 Jan 2021
Cited by 9
Abstract
In this paper, an active disturbance rejection control is designed to improve the position tracking performance of an electro-hydraulic actuation system in the presence of parametric uncertainties, non-parametric uncertainties, and external disturbances as well. The disturbance observers (Dos) are proposed to estimate not [...] Read more.
In this paper, an active disturbance rejection control is designed to improve the position tracking performance of an electro-hydraulic actuation system in the presence of parametric uncertainties, non-parametric uncertainties, and external disturbances as well. The disturbance observers (Dos) are proposed to estimate not only the matched lumped uncertainties but also mismatched disturbance. Without the velocity measurement, the unmeasurable angular velocity is robustly calculated based on the high-order Levant’s exact differentiator. These disturbances and angular velocity are integrated into the control design system based on the backstepping framework which guarantees high-accuracy tracking performance. The system stability analysis is analyzed by using the Lyapunov theory. Simulations based on an electro-hydraulic rotary actuator are conducted to verify the effectiveness of the proposed control method. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Fluid Power Systems and Actuators)
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Article
High-Speed, Helical and Self-Coiled Dielectric Polymer Actuator
Actuators 2021, 10(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10010015 - 15 Jan 2021
Cited by 2
Abstract
Novel actuator materials are necessary to advance the field of soft robotics. However, since current solutions are limited in terms of strain, strain rate, or robustness, a new actuator type was developed. In its basic configuration, this actuator consisted of four layers and [...] Read more.
Novel actuator materials are necessary to advance the field of soft robotics. However, since current solutions are limited in terms of strain, strain rate, or robustness, a new actuator type was developed. In its basic configuration, this actuator consisted of four layers and self-coiled into a helix after pre-stretching. The actuator principle was a dielectric polymer actuator. Instead of an elastomer, a thin thermoplastic film, in this case polyethylene, was used as the dielectric and the typically low potential strain was amplified more than 40 times by the helical set-up. In a hot press, the thermoplastic film was joined together with layers of carbon black employed as electrodes and a highly elastic thermoplastic polyurethane film. Once the stack was laser cut into thin strips, they were then stretched over the polyethylene (PE) film’s limit of elasticity and released, thus forming a helix. The manufactured prototype showed a maximum strain of 2% while lifting six times its own weight at actuation frequencies of 3 Hz, which is equivalent to a strain rate of 12%/s. This shows the great potential of the newly developed actuator type. Nevertheless, materials, geometry as well as the manufacturing process are still subject to optimization. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polymeric Actuators 2020)
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Article
Design of a 2DoF Ankle Exoskeleton with a Polycentric Structure and a Bi-Directional Tendon-Driven Actuator Controlled Using a PID Neural Network
Actuators 2021, 10(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10010009 - 04 Jan 2021
Cited by 9
Abstract
Lower limb exoskeleton robots help with walking movements through mechanical force, by identifying the wearer’s walking intention. When the exoskeleton robot is lightweight and comfortable to wear, the stability of walking increases, and energy can be used efficiently. However, because it is difficult [...] Read more.
Lower limb exoskeleton robots help with walking movements through mechanical force, by identifying the wearer’s walking intention. When the exoskeleton robot is lightweight and comfortable to wear, the stability of walking increases, and energy can be used efficiently. However, because it is difficult to implement the complex anatomical movements of the human body, most are designed simply. Due to this, misalignment between the human and robot movement causes the wearer to feel uncomfortable, and the stability of walking is reduced. In this paper, we developed a two degrees of freedom (2DoF) ankle exoskeleton robot with a subtalar joint and a talocrural joint, applying a four-bar linkage to realize the anatomical movement of a simple 1DoF structure mainly used for ankles. However, bidirectional tendon-driven actuators (BTDAs) do not consider the difference in a length change of both cables due to dorsiflexion (DF) and plantar flexion (PF) during walking, causing misalignment. To solve this problem, a BTDA was developed by considering the length change of both cables. Cable-driven actuators and exoskeleton robot systems create uncertainty. Accordingly, adaptive control was performed with a proportional-integral-differential neural network (PIDNN) controller to minimize system uncertainty. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Actuators on Soft Exoskeletons)
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Article
Self-Healing and High Interfacial Strength in Multi-Material Soft Pneumatic Robots via Reversible Diels–Alder Bonds
Actuators 2020, 9(2), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/act9020034 - 30 Apr 2020
Cited by 16
Abstract
In new-generation soft robots, the actuation performance can be increased by using multiple materials in the actuator designs. However, the lifetime of these actuators is often limited due to failure that occurs at the weak multi-material interfaces that rely almost entirely on physical [...] Read more.
In new-generation soft robots, the actuation performance can be increased by using multiple materials in the actuator designs. However, the lifetime of these actuators is often limited due to failure that occurs at the weak multi-material interfaces that rely almost entirely on physical interactions and where stress concentration appears during actuation. This paper proposes to develop soft pneumatic actuators out of multiple Diels–Alder polymers that can generate strong covalent bonds at the multi-material interface by means of a heat–cool cycle. Through tensile testing it is proven that high interfacial strength can be obtained between two merged Diels–Alder polymers. This merging principle is exploited in the manufacturing of multi-material bending soft pneumatic actuators in which interfaces are no longer the weakest links. The applicability of the actuators is illustrated by their operation in a soft hand and a soft gripper demonstrator. In addition, the use of Diels–Alder polymers incorporates healability in bending actuators. It is experimentally illustrated that full recovery of severe damage can be obtained by subjecting the multi-material actuators to a healing cycle. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pneumatic Soft Actuators)
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Article
Conductive Fabric Heaters for Heat-Activated Soft Actuators
Actuators 2019, 8(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8010009 - 21 Jan 2019
Cited by 17
Abstract
We examine electrically conductive fabrics as conductive heaters for heat-activated soft actuators. We have explored various fabric designs optimized for material properties, heat distribution and actuation/de-actuation characteristics of the soft actuators. We implemented this approach in the silicone/ethanol composite actuators, in which ethanol [...] Read more.
We examine electrically conductive fabrics as conductive heaters for heat-activated soft actuators. We have explored various fabric designs optimized for material properties, heat distribution and actuation/de-actuation characteristics of the soft actuators. We implemented this approach in the silicone/ethanol composite actuators, in which ethanol undergoes a thermally-induced phase change, leading to high actuation stress and strain. Various types of conductive fabrics were tested, and we developed a stretchable kirigami-based fabric design. We demonstrate a fabric heater that is capable of cyclic heating of the actuator to the required 80 °C. The fabric with the special kirigami design can withstand temperatures of up to 195 °C, can consume up to 30 W of power, and allows the actuator to reach >30% linear strain. This technology may be used in various systems involving thermally-induced actuation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Materials and Designs for Soft Actuators)
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Review

Review
Review of Magnetoelectric Sensors
Actuators 2021, 10(6), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10060109 - 24 May 2021
Cited by 7
Abstract
Multiferroic magnetoelectric (ME) materials with the capability of coupling magnetization and electric polarization have been providing diverse routes towards functional devices and thus attracting ever-increasing attention. The typical device applications include sensors, energy harvesters, magnetoelectric random access memories, tunable microwave devices and ME [...] Read more.
Multiferroic magnetoelectric (ME) materials with the capability of coupling magnetization and electric polarization have been providing diverse routes towards functional devices and thus attracting ever-increasing attention. The typical device applications include sensors, energy harvesters, magnetoelectric random access memories, tunable microwave devices and ME antennas etc. Among those application scenarios, ME sensors are specifically focused in this review article. We begin with an introduction of materials development and then recent advances in ME sensors are overviewed. Engineering applications of ME sensors are followed and typical scenarios are presented. Finally, several remaining challenges and future directions from the perspective of sensor designs and real applications are included. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Piezoelectric Actuators 2022)
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Review
A Review of Piezoelectric Material-Based Structural Control and Health Monitoring Techniques for Engineering Structures: Challenges and Opportunities
Actuators 2021, 10(5), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/act10050101 - 10 May 2021
Cited by 8
Abstract
With the breadth of applications and analysis performed over the last few decades, it would not be an exaggeration to call piezoelectric materials “the top of the crop” of smart materials. Piezoelectric materials have emerged as the most researched materials for practical applications [...] Read more.
With the breadth of applications and analysis performed over the last few decades, it would not be an exaggeration to call piezoelectric materials “the top of the crop” of smart materials. Piezoelectric materials have emerged as the most researched materials for practical applications among the numerous smart materials. They owe it to a few main reasons, including low cost, high bandwidth of service, availability in a variety of formats, and ease of handling and execution. Several authors have used piezoelectric materials as sensors and actuators to effectively control structural vibrations, noise, and active control, as well as for structural health monitoring, over the last three decades. These studies cover a wide range of engineering disciplines, from vast space systems to aerospace, automotive, civil, and biomedical engineering. Therefore, in this review, a study has been reported on piezoelectric materials and their advantages in engineering fields with fundamental modeling and applications. Next, the new approaches and hypotheses suggested by different scholars are also explored for control/repair methods and the structural health monitoring of engineering structures. Lastly, the challenges and opportunities has been discussed based on the exhaustive literature studies for future work. As a result, this review can serve as a guideline for the researchers who want to use piezoelectric materials for engineering structures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Vibration Control and Structure Health Monitoring)
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Review
Review of Modeling and Control of Magnetostrictive Actuators
Actuators 2019, 8(2), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/act8020045 - 29 May 2019
Cited by 39
Abstract
Magnetostrictive actuators play an important role in the perception of usefulness of smart materials and devices. Their applications are potentially wider than that of piezoelectric actuators because of the higher energy density and intrinsic robustness. However, the non-negligible hysteresis and complexity of their [...] Read more.
Magnetostrictive actuators play an important role in the perception of usefulness of smart materials and devices. Their applications are potentially wider than that of piezoelectric actuators because of the higher energy density and intrinsic robustness. However, the non-negligible hysteresis and complexity of their characteristics make the design and control quite difficult and has limited their diffusion in industrial applications. Nevertheless, the scientific literature presents a wide offer of results in design and geometries, modeling and control that may be exploited for applications. This paper gives a reasoned review of the main results achieved in the literature about design, modeling and control of magnetostrictive actuators exploiting the direct effects of magnetostriction (Joule and Wiedemann). Some perspectives and challenges about magnetostrictive actuators development are also gathered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Smart Materials-Based Actuators)
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