KEMET to commoditize haptics

April 15, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Passive components manufacturer KEMET Corporation and haptic and sensory feedback technology provider Novasentis have announced their collaboration to develop Electro-Mechanical Polymer (EMP) film based haptic actuators for wearable devices.

Whilst Novasentis will provide the core technology and haptic actuator film, KEMET will develop the manufacturing process for the final assembly and commercialization.

"EMPs are a unique type of electro-active polymer (EAP) that provide piezoelectric effects without the need for high operating voltages. In an unpowered state, the molecular structure of the EMP film is randomly aligned. When powered, the molecules align in one direction and expand, creating a piezoelectric effect" explains Novasentis online. The EMP actuators are created by bonding this material to a rigid substrate, the single-direction expansion of the material causing the substrate to vibrate. The flexible film, customizable in size and shape, can be just under 120μm thin. It can be designed to deliver distributed and localized haptics, from simple vibrations to tens of kilohertz in the acoustic range.

"These Electro Mechanical Actuators (EMP) sit in that sweet spot between the traditional actuators like LRA and ERM that have a lot of force but very little elongation and the class of actuators called artificial muscle which has a lot of elongation but very little strength. Our actuators offer decent elongation and adequate force to make them very desirable for many consumer electronics applications", told us Sri Peruvemba, Novasentis' Vice President.

"The frequency range is 1Hz to a few kilo hertz which as you will agree is a very wide range, this is great feature to have for the designer, they are no longer stuck with this one annoying buzz that you get from the traditional actuators, you can get as many as a few dozen uniquely different haptic sensations ranging from a mild tap to urgent wake up calls. 

One of the best renditions of the conventional actuator is the one found in the Apple watch – the taptic engine- and its range is limited, it occupies a huge amount of real estate within the watch (maybe 30%), weighs a lot, probably dictates the thickness of the watch. Our actuator in comparison is about the thickness of a sheet of paper, weighs next to nothing and will literally disappear into the wrist band of a smartwatch".