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This paper proposed a hybrid design approach of a vibro-concentrator, a vital component of an ultrasonic tactile sensor, by using electro-mechanical analogy. Lab experiments on soft materials with elastic modulus from 14 kPa to 150 kPa were conducted using the tactile sensor installed with the vibro-concentrator to verify the performance of the design. Various mechanical and electrical parameters, such as resonance frequency shift and equivalent conductance, were discussed, focusing on their feasibility as new stiffness indicators. As a variant of tactile sensors, ultrasonic tactile sensors have the advantage of high sensitivity and minimal contact with the object over traditional tactile sensors based on force-displacement principle. They detect the changes in mechanical vibration characteristics, mostly resonance frequency shift of the sensor, as an indicator of the mechanical properties of the object. A vibro-concentrator has been frequently adopted to improve the performance an ultrasonic tactile sensor, but its design has yet been systematically considered. We propose a hybrid design approach based on electro-mechanical analogy for both mechanical and electrical analyses. Mechanically, impedance analogy was adopted to design an ultrasonic vibration concentrator for the sensor to localize the contact and reinforce the vibration behavior at ~40 kHz. Electrically, we used mobility analogy to derive electrical parameters from the tactile sensing tests in lab environment. The competence of the design was demonstrated by mechanical and electrical characteristic tests. By investigating various electrical parameters from tactile sensing tests, the equivalent conductance determined by the electro-mechanical analysis was found to have almost perfectly linear relationship (R = 0.9998) with the samples' elastic modulus ranging from 10 kPa to 70 kPa, and showed its potential as a new stiffness indicator for soft materials. Further analyses suggested that the electrically determined series resonance frequency shift, parallel resonance frequency shift, and maximum phase angle frequency shift also had excellent linearities (R = 0.9947, 0.9842, and 0.9935, respectively) with sample's modulus and can be considered as indicator candidates.
This article was published in the following journal.
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