The paper presents the conceptual design, modeling and prototyping of a novel rotary motor based on shape memory alloy (SMA) wires. The basic architecture of the device capitalizes on a SMA wire wound around a low-friction cylindrical drum. The backup force to the SMA wire is provided by a beam spring which generates a nearly-constant force tangential to the drum. The electrical activation of the wire produces a contraction of the wire, hence a rotation of the drum fitted to the shaft through an overrunning clutch (free wheel). Thanks to the overrunning clutch, during the backup phase (recoiling of the wire), the drum rotates backward while the shaft does not move. Spurious backward movements of the shaft are contrasted by a second overrunning clutch linking the shaft to the frame. The paper presents a model for the quasi-static simulation of the motor and the experimental characterization of a prototype device featuring three active drums, a rotary sensor and an angular brake to apply the external load.

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