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Proceedings Paper

Flexible circuits with integrated switches for robotic shape sensing
Author(s): C. K. Harnett
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Paper Abstract

Digital switches are commonly used for detecting surface contact and limb-position limits in robotics. The typical momentary-contact digital switch is a mechanical device made from metal springs, designed to connect with a rigid printed circuit board (PCB). However, flexible printed circuits are taking over from the rigid PCB in robotics because the circuits can bend while carrying signals and power through moving joints. This project is motivated by a previous work where an array of surface-mount momentary contact switches on a flexible circuit acted as an all-digital shape sensor compatible with the power resources of energy harvesting systems. Without a rigid segment, the smallest commercially-available surface-mount switches would detach from the flexible circuit after several bending cycles, sometimes violently. This report describes a low-cost, conductive fiber based method to integrate electromechanical switches into flexible circuits and other soft, bendable materials. Because the switches are digital (on/off), they differ from commercially-available continuous-valued bend/flex sensors. No amplification or analog-to-digital conversion is needed to read the signal, but the tradeoff is that the digital switches only give a threshold curvature value. Boundary conditions on the edges of the flexible circuit are key to setting the threshold curvature value for switching. This presentation will discuss threshold-setting, size scaling of the design, automation for inserting a digital switch into the flexible circuit fabrication process, and methods for reconstructing a shape from an array of digital switch states.

Paper Details

Date Published: 13 May 2016
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 9859, Sensors for Next-Generation Robotics III, 98590I (13 May 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2235356
Show Author Affiliations
C. K. Harnett, Univ. of Louisville (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9859:
Sensors for Next-Generation Robotics III
Dan Popa; Muthu B. J. Wijesundara, Editor(s)

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