Design, modeling, and evaluation of a slim haptic actuator based on electrorheological fluid


Realistic haptic feedback is needed to provide information to users of numerous technologies, such as virtual reality, mobile devices, and robotics. For a device to convey realistic haptic feedback, two touch sensations must be present: tactile feedback and kinesthetic feedback. Although many devices today convey tactile feedback through vibrations, most neglect to incorporate kinesthetic feedback. To address this issue, this study investigates a haptic device with the aim of conveying both kinesthetic and vibrotactile information to users. A prototype based on electrorheological fluids was designed and fabricated. By controlling the electrorheological fluid flow via applied electric fields, the device can generate a range of haptic sensations. The design centered on an elastic membrane that acts as the actuator’s contact surface. Moreover, the control electronics and structural components were integrated into a compact printed circuit board, resulting in a slim device suitable for mobile applications. The device was tested using a dynamic mechanical analyzer to evaluate its performance. The device design was supported with mathematical modeling and was in agreement with experimental results. According to the just-noticeable difference analysis, this range is sufficient to transmit distinct kinesthetic and vibrotactile sensations to users, indicating that the electrorheological fluid–based actuator is capable of conveying haptic feedback.

Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures