Design and fabrication of flexible tactile sensing and feedback interface for communication by deafblind people

Ozioko, Oliver Okwudili (2018) Design and fabrication of flexible tactile sensing and feedback interface for communication by deafblind people. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Humans generally interact and communicate using five basic sensory modalities and mainly through vision, touch and audio. However, this does not work for deafblind people as they have both impaired hearing and vision modalities, and hence rely on touch-sensing. This necessitates the development of alternative means that allows them to independently interact and communicate. To do this requires a solution which has the capability for tactile sensing and feedback. Therefore, tactile interface becomes a critical component of any assistive device usable by deafblind people for interaction and communication. Given that existing solutions mainly use rigid and commercial components, there is a need to tap into the advancements in flexible electronics in order develop more effective and conformable solutions. This research involves the development of flexible tactile communication interface usable in assistive communication devices for deafblind people. First, commercial sensors and actuators were utilised as a proof-of-concept and then four novel tactile interfaces were explored which include two similar touch-sensitive electromagnetic actuators, one capacitive tactile sensing array, and a facile flexible inductance-based pressure sensor.

The two fabricated touch-sensitive electromagnetic actuators (Type 1 and 2) are both based on electromagnetic principle and capable of simultaneous tactile sensing and feedback. Each comprises of a tandem combination of two main modules - the touch-sensing and the actuation module, with both modules integrated as a single device in each case. The actuation module employs a flexible planar spiral coil and a Neodymium magnet assembled in a soft Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) structure, while the touch-sensing module is a planar capacitive metal- insulator-metal structure of copper. The flexible coil (~17µm thick and with 45 turns) was fabricated on a Polyimide sheet using Lithographie Galvanoformung Abformung (LIGA) process. The results of characterisation of these actuators at frequencies ranging from 10Hz to 200Hz, shows a maximum displacement (~ 190µm) around 40Hz. Evaluation of this by 40 (20 deafblind and 20 sighted and hearing) participants show that they can feel vibration at this range.

Another tactile interface fabricated is an 8 x 8 capacitive tactile sensing array. The sensor was developed on a flexible Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) sheet with column electrodes deposited on one side and row electrodes on the reverse side. It is intended for use as an assistive tactile communication interface for deafblind people who communicate using deafblind manual alphabets as well as the English block letters.

An inductance-based pressure sensor was also designed, fabricated and characterised for use as an input interface for finger Braille as well as other tactile communication methods for deafblind people. It was realised with a soft ferromagnetic elastomer and a 17µm-thick coil fabricated on a flexible 50 µm-thick polyimide sheet. The ferromagnetic elastomer acts as the core of the coil, which when pressed, sees the metal particles moving closer to each other, leading to changes in the inductance. The coil, with 75µm conductor and 25µm pitch, was also realised using LIGA micromolding technique. Seven different sensors were fabricated using different ratios (1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:5, 2:1, 3:1, and 5:1) of Ecoflex to Iron particles. The performance of each sensor was investigated and generally, sensors with higher Iron particles gave better sensitivity, linear as well as dynamic range. In comparison with all other fabricated sensors, the sensor made with 1:5DD was recommended for application as a tactile interface.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Tactile sensor, deafblind communication, assistive technology, finger braille, pressure sensor, tactile display, electromagnetic actuator, simultaneous tactile sensing and actuation, british deafblind manual alphabet, touch-sensitive actuator, flexible electronics, tactile feedback interface.
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Biomedical Engineering
Supervisor's Name: Hersh, Dr. Marion
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Mr Oliver Okwudili Ozioko
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-75107
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2019 15:29
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2019 15:39
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.75107
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