Abstract For robots that work collaboratively with people, often referred to as 'co-robots', it would be beneficial for them to be soft or padded and to have a touch-sensing 'skin' to enable tactile environmental awareness. However, a sensing skin over a padding material that undergoes large deformations requires 'stretchable' materials, which may possess time-dependent or viscoelastic mechanical responses. In this work the roles that a padding layer plays when placed under a stretchable sensing layer was investigated. A strain-sensing skin was formed by coating a thin film of compliant piezoresistive sensing paint, consisting of exfoliated graphite in latex, onto a rubber membrane, and the response of the skin was characterized. The change in resistance was linear with tensile strain. The role of the padding material was then investigated under indentation by examining three foams and two elastomers. As expected, the padding enhanced energy dissipation as shown by hysteresis in the sensor response, which is linked to its protective function; the hysteresis was comparable for the five padding materials. The padding also provided an unexpected advantage: it magnified the change in resistance compared to that obtained under free displacement in air. While hysteresis in viscoelastic materials can largely be handled with an appropriate model, inconsistency cannot be, and the two elastomers were found to have unacceptably high variability because of micro-cracks and other defects in these materials. On the other hand, foams that had few defects and regular cell sizes gave good consistency across trials and different sensor positions over the padding. Combined with their lighter weight and availability in a wide range of stiffness, we conclude that foams make a better choice for padding of co-robots


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