Human skins are active, smart, and stretchable. Artificial skins that can replicate these properties are promising materials and technologies that will enable lightweight, cost-effective, portable, and deployable soft devices and robots. We show an active, stretchable, and portable artificial skin (ElectroSkin) which combines dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs) and soft electroahesives (EAs) in a fully-compliant multi-layer composite skin-like structure. By taking advantage of the common characteristics of DEA and EA we define regions of the composite artificial skin as either active or passive. Active areas can be exploited as electromechanical actuators or as electrostatic gripper elements, or both simultaneously. This embedded multimodality delivers a new technology of deformable active skins which can grip and move objects and self-locomote. ElectroSkins can be fabricated using all-soft elastomers and readily available conductive materials. We demonstrate their capabilities in the first soft self-actuating conveyor belt, with a conveyoring speed of 0.28 mm/s, and a pocketable fully-soft crawler robot. This new, self-actuating, self-gripping, and self-locomoting soft artificial skin has the potential to significantly impact on functional soft-smart composites, deployable robots, soft-smart conveyoring, and compliant gripping and manipulation applications.
- active functional skins
- dielectric elastomer actuators
- soft electroadhesives
- soft-smart composites
- soft-smart robots