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The development of a computational design tool for use in the design of SMA actuator systems
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Engineers and Technologists have always been identified as those individuals that put into practice the theories developed by scientists and physicists to enhance the lives of human beings. In the same spirit as those that came before, this thesis describes the development of a computational engineering tool that will aid Engineers and Technologists to design smart or intelligent structures comprising of NiTi shape memory alloy rods for actuation purposes. The design of smart actuators consisting of NiTi shape memory alloy structural members will be beneficial to industries where light weight, compactness, reliability and failure tolerance is of utmost importance. This is mainly due to the unique material responses exhibited by this smart material. The shape memory effect, one of these material responses consists out of two stages: a low temperature load induced phase transformation causing a macroscopic deformation (either extension, contraction, etc.) also known as quasi-plasticity; and a high temperature phase transformation that erases the low temperature macroscopic deformation and reverts the material to some predefined geometry. When designing actuators consisting of this smart material, the quasi-plastic material response produces the actuation stroke while the high temperature phase transformation produces the actuation force. The successful engineering design of smart structures and devices particularly suited for applications where they operate in a capacity, as actuators harnessing the shape memory effect are dependent on a few important factors. These include the engineers familiarity with the type of smart material used, the availability of sound experimental data pertaining to the complex material responses exhibited by the smart material, the engineers level of proficiency with existing constitutive models available to simulates these material responses, and the engineers knowledge of simulation tools consisting of a suitable control algorithm fo~ the modeling of not only the device or structure itself but also the actuator involved in the design.