An active hinge apparatus is disclosed which can be used to raise a micromechanical structure (e.g. a plate or micromirror) on a substrate. The active hinge apparatus utilizes one or more of teeth protruding outward from an axle which also supports the micromechanical structure on one end thereof. A rack is used to engage the teeth and rotate the axle to raise the micromechanical structure and tilt the structure at an angle to the substrate. Motion of the rack is provided by an actuator which can be a mechanically-powered actuator, or alternately an electrostatic comb actuator or a thermal actuator. A latch can be optionally provided in the active hinge apparatus to lock the micromechanical structure in an "erected" position.