For active materials such as piezoelectric stacks, which produce large force and small displacement, motion amplification mechanisms are often necessary—not simply to trade force for displacement, but to increase the output work transferred through a compliant structure. Here, a new concept for obtaining large rotations from small linear displacements produced by a piezoelectric stack is proposed and analyzed. The concept uses elastic (buckling) and dynamic instabilities of an axially driven buckling beam. The optimal design of the buckling beam end conditions was determined from a static analysis of the system using Euler’s elastica theory. This analysis was verified experimentally. A stack-driven, buckling beam prototype actuator consisting of a pre-compressed PZT stack (140 mm long, 10 mm diameter) and a thin steel beam (60 mm × 12 mm × 0.508 mm) was constructed. The buckling beam served as the motion amplifier, while the PZT stack provided the actuation. The experimental setup, measuring instrumentation and method, the beam preloading condition, and the excitation are fully described in the paper. Frequency responses of the system for three preloading levels and three stack driving amplitudes were obtained. A maximum 16° peak-to-peak rotation was measured when the stack was driven at an amplitude of 325 V and frequency of 39 Hz. The effects of beam preload were also studied.

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