Contactless deflection sensing of concave and convex shapes assisted by soft mirrors
Typical deflection sensors like strain gauges or devices based on optical fibers require physical contact with the deflected substrate during the measurement process. Such contact, however, impacts on the softness of the substrate and may falsify the measurements. In order to overcome this drawback, a novel method of contactless deflection sensing was proposed in a recent work. It was verified that the deflection angle between two planes can be extracted using only a photosensor and a light source bearing a bell-shape angular emission profile. Yet, the range of operation was limited to concave shapes. In this paper, we introduce an alternative configuration of this light-based deflection sensing method to extend its functionality to convex surfaces. Here, a spheroidal mirror bearing a customized profile is introduced above the light source. This mirror redirects part of the emitted light towards the photosensor hindered by the bending surface during convex deflections. We make use of a ray tracing simulation method to design the mirror profiles, which are accurately reproduced in the manufactured prototypes by tuning the fabrication variables of the manufacturing process. Using a shape-sensing prototype, it is verified that the use of the mirror extends the range of detectable deflections by 55deg. to convex bendings, yielding a deviation of only 8.3% from simulated results. Our deflection sensing solution is a promising method to be used as a shape sensor in numerous applications, such as soft robotics platforms or prosthetic devices.