Due to recent technological developments in advanced materials, the integration of shape memory alloys (SMAs) into new machines and mechanisms is becoming more common and it offers tremendous potential for the future. Using currently available properties of common SMA materials, the paper’s contribution is to: Study through dynamic simulation the potential offered by SMA springs to serve as the basis for rotary actuation. In the process, the SMA displaces a rocker arm rotating about an axis to induce rotational motion of a driveshaft, in effect converting a force into rotational motion. When embedded in a cycle with heating & cooling phases and a resetting mechanism, unidirectional rotational motion can be achieved.
Regarding heating and cooling cycles, forced air convection is used to reduce thermal cycle cooling and is calculated via transient thermal analyses. Using typical parameter values for the representative design considered, through forced air convection, cooling cycles are reduced from approximately 30 seconds (natural) to 5.5 seconds (forced) and as a result, a complete system cycle can occur in 10 seconds, with the applied inertial load of 2.0 kg-m2.
Using MATLAB and Simulink, a nonlinear 3rd order dynamic system model was created and simulations were performed. One complicating factor concerned angular limits and the necessary thermal cycling, which was solved through appropriate sequencing and resetting of integrators for different phases. Simulation results for the design considered show that a peak torque of 1.72 N-m is possible and that relatively smooth motion and approximately constant torque output is also possible through the addition of a few more rocker arm systems, properly commutated. Lastly, the design analysis framework and results may inspire future realization of actual devices.