Ionic polymer metal composites (IPMC) present great potential as future actuators and sensors in a variety of fields including aerospace and biomedical engineering. The benefits of using IPMCs are based on the material's large bending deformation capabilities, low power consumption, light weight and compact size. However, before this novel material can be exploited, a better understanding of its electromechanical properties and a higher level of controllability must be obtained. This paper presents the results of experimental research with these goals in mind. The actuation of these electro active polymers is achieved by using geometrically defined actuation points on the polymer's surface. The input voltage is spatially controlled to achieve faster response times as well as increased control of the shape of the polymer's surface. The experimental work is carried out under a constant humidity and uses vision based sensing to detect the various shapes generated by these electro active polymers. The experimental outcomes are compared against a dynamical model. The results demonstrate the ability for increased control of the shape generated by the surface. A good match of the dynamical model to predict the displacement of the polymer at instances in time is found. In addition, the proposed approach improves the response time of an IPMC through the application of distributed voltage sources over the surface of the material.

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