Bending some beams

Energy landscape of a bending beam on an inclined substrate

Energy landscape of a bending beam on an inclined substrate


We are looking at thin-film beams embedded in flexible surfaces. Not only can these beams act as micro-switches, but they can quickly jump to a new shape if the curvature of the surface changes. Their “snap-through” behavior is controlled by the amount of compression put into the beam at fabrication time. The concept works for the centimeter-scale inflatable actuators and multi-position laser-cut structures from summer 2013 as well as microscale beams. Because it is a MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) project, electrical engineers here are being forced to read mechanics textbooks but will get back to familiar territory when it’s time to do electronic readout of the beam position. We did the calculations for this plot in MATLAB; the code is located in the group’s hpcflip Github repository.