Dielectric electro-active polymer (DEAP) technology holds promise enabling lightweight, energy efficient and scalable sensors and actuators [1]. The circular DEAP configuration (also known as cone or diaphragm actuator) in particular shows potential in applications such as pressure or weight sensors [2, 3], pumps [4, 5], valves, micro-positioners and loudspeakers [6]. The geometric parameters of the circular DEAP dictate the stroke and work output performance of actuators and the sensitivity as well as the resolution of sensors.

The scalable geometric design allows DEAP actuators and sensors to be adapted to a variety of different applications. This paper presents a rapid prototyping technique and experimental characterization of DEAP actuators with various geometries. The DEAP’s consist of a silicone based elastomer and a carbon ink based electrode held together with a rigid frame. The rapid prototyping utilizes high resolution 3D printing technology to manufacture various shaped framing structures designed with computer aided design (CAD) software. The framing structure defines the DEAP geometry resulting in quick prototyping of various DEAP shapes and sizes.

After prototyping, these DEAP’s are tested for mechanical and electrical properties while loaded mechanically and electrically (constant voltage and constant force test). The measurement results for the different size actuators are then documented and compared. The measurements reveal that for increased size of the manufactured actuators, there is a linear increase in force and stroke output. This information allows us to predict the actuation performance and will be used for future modeling efforts.

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