Dielectric electroactive actuators (DEAs) are polymer materials capable of reallocating their shapes mechanically due to an electric stimulus [1]. They can also be used as sensors by producing an electrical change from an induced mechanical deformation [2]. However, production of these materials using traditional manufacturing methods is a challenging process. The use of additive manufacturing promises to be an improved method to overcome those challenges. In addition, selection of dielectric materials that can function as DEAs and are capable of being produced through additive manufacturing is challenging.

The actuation capabilities of the DEA depend heavily on the electrical and mechanical material properties of the dielectric material used to build it, and not all dielectric materials have the capacity to function as DEAs. The likelihood of a material functioning as a DEA is difficult to predict due to the large number of variables. Therefore, this paper introduces a simple method for comparing materials, particularly 3-D printed materials for their viability to be used as DEAs.

The study proposes a method to compare 3-D printable materials by using coefficients calculated from the materials’ electromechanical properties. This value is then compared to an ideal DEA material. The higher the value, the better the 3-D printable material will be in comparison to a selected optimal DEA material. The coefficient is based on a linear elastic model that describes the strain of the material in relation to the electromechanical pressure applied as a result of supplied voltage.

This study tested three materials using a quantitative method along with experimental verification. The study demonstrates the relationship between the predictive coefficients and the physical actuation responses with disc-type actuators providing a simple method for predicting actuation potential of 3-D printable DEA material candidates.

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