1School of Mechanical Engineering, Shandong University of Technology, Zibo 255049, China
2State Key Laboratory of Robotics and System, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150080, China
Liquid droplet is a prerequisite for micro-robot based on liquid medium. The investigation of the migration characteristics of condensed droplets on the end surface of a single-finger microgripper is of significance for obtaining stable droplets. The principle of flexible operation for micro-components using droplet condensation is analyzed first. The liquid bridge force acting on a microsphere is derived. A growth model of condensed droplet on the tip of a single-finger microgripper is established, including single-droplet growth, droplet coalesce, droplet movement, and pining effect. Condensation process on the tip of single-finger microgripper with a diameter of 130－400 μm is observed experimentally. Small droplets are formed by directly growing with a big growth rate in the initial stage, then the droplet growth is determined by droplet coalesce. The experimental results show that a single droplet is formed on the end surface after direct growth and droplets coalesce. The maximum droplet volume of 5.5 nL appears on the tip of a single-finger actuator with a diameter of 400 μm under the conditions of surface temperature of –5 °C, room temperature of 24 °C and humidity of 37%. The stability of the formed droplets is dominated by temperature gradients and edge effects during growth process. The distribution of condensed droplets is asymmetric while the microgripper is placed on a cooling surface with temperature gradient. A big growth rate is shown in a low temperature range. A single asymmetric droplet with an offset of 13 μm with respect to the axis of the actuator is formed, which is caused by the temperature gradient. A stable contact angle of 112° is obtained on the end surface of a single-finger microgripper with a diameter of 137 μm because of edge effect using the ambient temperature of 24 °C and humidity of 42%. Condensed droplets located on the end surface of hydrophobic microgripper are more stable than the untreated microgripper. Compared with the droplet formation (0.3 nL) on an untreated microgripper with a diameter of 150 μm, a lager stable droplet of 0.4 nL is obtained on the end face of a small microgripper with a diameter of 130 μm because of the hydrophobic action. The validity of theoretical analysis is verified by experimental results. The experimental investigation of the migration characteristics of condensed droplets on the end surface of a single-finger microgripper shows that the droplet shape can be changed by adjusting the temperature gradient and hydrophilic/hydrophobic performance, which plays an important role in achieving a stable droplet on the end surface.