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Engineering Design Tools for Shape Memory Alloy Actuators: CASMART Collaborative Best Practices and Case Studies

[+] Author Affiliations
Robert W. Wheeler, Dimitris Lagoudas, Jennifer M. Pless

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Othmane Benafan

NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH

Xiujie Gao

General Motors R&D, Warren, MI

Frederick T. Calkins

The Boeing Company, Seattle, WA

Zahra Ghanbari, Garrison Hommer, Andrew Petersen, Aaron P. Stebner

Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

Travis L. Turner

NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA

Paper No. SMASIS2016-9183, pp. V001T04A010; 21 pages
  • ASME 2016 Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems
  • Volume 1: Multifunctional Materials; Mechanics and Behavior of Active Materials; Integrated System Design and Implementation; Structural Health Monitoring
  • Stowe, Vermont, USA, September 28–30, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Aerospace Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5048-0
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME and GM


The primary goal of the Consortium for the Advancement of Shape Memory Alloy Research and Technology (CASMART) is to enable the design of revolutionary applications based on shape memory alloy (SMA) technology. In order to help realize this goal and reduce the development time and required experience for the fabrication of SMA actuation systems, several modeling tools have been developed for common actuator types and are discussed herein along with case studies, which highlight the capabilities and limitations of these tools. Due to their ability to sustain high stresses and recover large deformations, SMAs have many potential applications as reliable, lightweight, solid-state actuators. Their advantage over classical actuators can also be further improved when the actuator geometry is modified to fit the specific application. In this paper, three common actuator designs are studied: wires, which are lightweight, low-profile, and easily implemented; springs, which offer actuation strokes upwards of 200% at reduced mechanical loads; and torque tubes, which can provide large actuation forces in small volumes and develop a repeatable zero-load actuation response (known as the two-way shape memory effect). The modeling frameworks, which have been implemented in the design tools, are developed for each of these frequently used SMA actuator types. In order to demonstrate the versatility and flexibility of the presented design tools, as well as validate their modeling framework, several design challenges were completed. These case studies include the design and development of an active hinge for the deployment of a solar array or foldable space structure, an adaptive solar array deployment and positioning system, a passive air temperature controller for the regulation of flow temperatures inside of a jet engine, and a redesign of the Corvette active hatch, which allows for pressure equalization of the car interior. For each of the presented case studies, a prototype or proof-of-concept was fabricated and the experimental results and lessons learned are discussed. This analysis presents a collection of CASMART collaborative best practices in order to allow readers to utilize the available design tools and understand their modeling principles. These design tools, which are based on engineering models, can provide first-order optimal designs and are a basic and efficient method for either demonstrating design feasibility or refining design parameters. Although the design and integration of an SMA-based actuation system always requires application- and environment-specific engineering considerations, common modeling tools can significantly reduce the investment required for actuation system development and provide valuable engineering insight.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME and GM



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