Microstructured polymeric surfaces capable of a thermally-induced shape-memory effect (SME) can perform on demand changes of surface properties such as wettability or adhesion.
In this study, we explored the influence of the applied compression direction during programming, i.e. vertical compression and tilted compression, on the SME of microstructured crosslinked poly[ethylene-co-(vinyl acetate)] (cPEVA) films comprising arrays of micro-cylinders with a height of 10 µm and different diameters of 10 µm, 25 µm, and 50 µm. The shape recovery of the microstructures during heating was visualized online by optical microscopy, while atomic force microscopy (AFM) was utilized to investigate the temperature-induced shape change of single micro-cylinders. Here, the changes in micro-cylinder height and the characteristic angle θ were followed and analyzed for quantification of the shape-memory performance. Both compression modes resulted in almost flat programmed surfaces as indicated by high shape fixity ratios of R
f ≥ 93±1%. A nearly complete recovery of the micro-cylinders was obtained for all investigated cPEVA samples documented by high shape recovery values of R
r ≥ 97±1%, while the obtained shape change of the micro-cylinders during recovery almost reversely recalled the applied deformation during programming. The presented capability of SMP microstructured substrates to memorize the way of deformation during programming could be a new tool for controlling particular shape changes of microstructures during recovery and in such a way the generated local recovery forces can be adjusted.