A novel design for a dielectric elastomer (DE) actuator is presented. The actuator is obtained by coupling a cylindrical DE film with a series of slender beams axially loaded beyond their buckling limit. Similar to previous published solutions, where different actuator geometries were coupled with compliant mechanisms of various topologies, the elastic beams are designed so as to provide a suitable compensating force that allows obtaining a quasi-constant available thrust along the entire actuator stroke. Whilst the elastic beam are sized on the basis of an analytical procedure, the overall system performance is evaluated by means of multiphysics finite element (FE) analysis, accounting for the large deflection of the buckled-beam springs (BBSs) and for the DE material hyperelasticity. Numerical and experimental results are finally provided, which demonstrate the prediction capabilities of the proposed modeling method and confirm that well-behaved cylindrical actuators can be conceived and produced.

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