Using a Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) actuator as both an actuator and a sensor provides huge benefits in cost reduction and miniaturization of robotic devices. Despite much effort, reliable and robust self-sensing (using the actuator as a position sensor) has not been achieved for general temperature, loading, hysteresis path, and fatigue conditions. Prior research has sought to model the intricacies of the electrical resistivity changes within the NiTi material. However, for the models to be solvable, nearly every previous technique only models the actuator within very specific boundary conditions. Here, we measure both the voltage across the entire NiTi wire and of a fixed-length segment of it; these dual measurements allow direct calculation of the actuator length without a material model. We review previous self-sensing literature, illustrate the mechanism design that makes the new technique possible, and use the dual measurement technique to determine the length of a single straight wire actuator under controlled conditions. This robust measurement can be used for feedback control in unknown ambient and loading conditions.

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