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29.5 EXPERIMENTING WITH PIEZOELECTRIC TOUCH SENSORS
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FIGURE 29-11 Piezo ceramic discs are ideally suited to be contact and pressure sensors for robotics.
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You can use a ceramic disc as an audio transducer by applying an audio signal to it. Most piezo discs will emit sound in the 1K to 10K region, with a resonant frequency of between 3K and 4K. At this resonant frequency, the output of the disc will be at its highest. When the piezo material of the disc is under pressure even a slight amount the disc outputs a voltage proportional to the amount of pressure. This voltage is short lived: shortly after the initial change in pressure, the voltage output of the disc will return to 0. A negative voltage is created when the pressure is released (see the discussion of the bipolar nature of piezo materials earlier in the chapter). You can easily interface piezo discs to a computer or microcontroller, either with or without an analog-to-digital converter. 30, Object Detection, discusses several interface approaches. See the section Piezo Disc Touch Bar in that chapter for more information.
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29.5.2 EXPERIMENTING WITH KYNAR PIEZO FILM
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Samples of Kynar piezoelectric film are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. The wafers, which are about the same thickness as the paper in this book, have two connection points, as illustrated in Fig. 29-12. Like ceramic discs, these two connection points are used to activate the film with an electrical signal or to relay pressure on the film as an electrical impulse.
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THE SENSE OF TOUCH
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FIGURE 29-12 A close-up look at Kynar piezo film and its electrical contacts.
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You can perform basic experiments with the film using just an oscilloscope (preferred) or a high-impedance digital voltmeter. Connect the leads of the scope or meter to the tabs on the end of the film (the connection will be sloppy; there are some suggestions for other ways to attach leads to Kynar film in the next section). Place the film on a table and tap on it. You ll see a fast voltage spike on the scope or an instantaneous rise in voltage on the meter. If the meter isn t auto-ranging and you are using the meter at a low setting, chances are that the voltage spike will exceed the selected range.
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29.5.3 ATTACHING LEADS TO KYNAR PIEZO FILM
Unlike piezoelectric ceramic discs, Kynar film doesn t usually come with pre-attached leads (although you can order samples with leads attached, but they are expensive). There are a variety of ways to attach leads to Kynar film. Obviously, soldering the leads onto the film contact areas is out of the question. Acceptable methods include applying conductive ink or paint, self-adhesive copper-foil tape, small metal hardware, and even miniature rivets. In all instances, use small-gauge wire 22 AWG or smaller. You can expect the best results using 28 AWG and 30 AWG solid wire-wrapping wire. The following are the best methods:
Conductive ink or paint. Conductive ink, such as GC Electronics Nickel-Print paint, bonds thin wire leads directly to the contact points on Kynar film. Apply a small globule of paint to the contact point, and then slide the end of the wire in place. Wait several minutes for the paint to set before handling. Apply a strip of electrical tape to provide physical strength. Self-adhesive copper-foil tape. You can use copper-foil tape designed for repairing printed circuit boards to attach wires to Kynar film. The tape uses a conductive adhesive and can be applied quickly and simply. As with conductive inks and paints, apply a strip of electrical tape to the joint to give it physical strength. Metal hardware. Use small 2/56 or 4/40 nuts, washers, and bolts (available at hobby stores) to mechanically attach leads to the Kynar. Poke a small hole in the film, slip the bolt through, add the washer, and wrap the end of a wire around the bolt. Tighten with the nut. Miniature rivets. Homemade jewelry often uses miniature brass or stainless steel rivets. You can obtain the rivets and the proper riveting tool from many hobby and jewelry-
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