Due to their high surface to volume ratio, microsystems are characterized by great superficial forces, which become dominant with respect to inertial ones. Superficial interactions influence fabrication processes as well as working conditions of microsystems and make most of the techniques used at the macrolevel inadequate at the microlevel. In particular, the traditional manipulation techniques are often not suitable for the fabrication of hybrid microsystems and the development of new handling techniques for microcomponents is strongly required. This has aimed a large number of recent studies that have been addressed the possibilities of controlling and exploiting superficial forces in order to manipulate microobjects. In this context, this paper is focused on a new handling system based on the capillary force; in particular, it concerns the first investigations on the use of smart materials for the realization of an innovative manipulation system. A gripper with variable curvature has been theoretically studied and a first prototype has been developed. It has demo good ability in performing accurate pick & place operations of component of the millimetric size. The results obtained from this prototype have, then, encouraged the development of a smaller prototype, able to manipulate objects with micrometric size. Due to the reduced dimensions of the prototype, smart materials have been considered suitable for the actuation of such a gripper. Therefore, different materials and configurations have been conceived and a novel configuration based on electroactive polymers (EAP) has been studied. A feasibility study has been carried out in order to evaluate their functionality and performances as actuator and the results are presented.

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