Thermal micro-actuators are a promising solution to the need for large-displacement, low-power MEMS actuators. Potential applications of these devices are micro-relays, tunable impedance RF networks, and miniature medical instrumentation. In this paper the development of thermal microactuators based on SU8 is described. A polymeric sacrificial layer allows the removal of the SU8 mold to occur without the use of harsh etching conditions. In addition to silicon non-traditional for MEMS substrates such as RF-printed circuit boards have also been successfully utilized to fabricate the devices. The PCB-based devices exhibited similar characteristics, thus opening the possibility of integrating RF MEMS directly on PCBs. The actuators were benchmarked with respect to power consumption, stroke, and response time. The fabricated nickel actuators are shown to be robust with displacements in the range of 76 micrometers using 80 mW of power. Actual cooling transients were captured using a two-step constant-current excitation method. It is further demonstrated through analytical models that the thermal cooling times limit the bandwidth of these devices below 1KHz. Several commercially relevant applications of the developed actuators are also discussed. One such application is a vibro-tactile display for disabled individuals.

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