The design of compliant mechanisms made of Nickel Titanium (NiTi) Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) is considered to exploit the superelastic behavior of the material to achieve tailored high flexibility on demand. This paper focuses on two-stage design optimization of compliant mechanisms, as a systematic method for design of the composition of the functionally graded NiTi material within the compliant mechanism devices. The location, as well as geometric and mechanical properties, of zones of high and low flexibility will be selected to maximize mechanical performance. The proposed two-stage optimization procedure combines the optimization of an analytical model of a single-piece functionally graded unit, with a detailed FEA of a continuous compliant mechanism.
In the first stage, a rigid-link model is developed to initially approximate the behavior of the compliant mechanism. In the second stage the solution of the rigid-link problem serves as the starting point for a continuous analytical model where the mechanism consists of zones with different material properties and geometry, followed by a detailed FEA of a compliant mechanism with integrated zones of superelasticity.
The two-stage optimization is a systematic approach for compliant mechanism design with functional grading of the material to exploit superelastic response in controlled manner. Direct energy deposition, as an additive manufacturing technology, is foreseen to fabricate assemblies with multiple single piece functional graded components. This method could be applied to bio-inspired structures, flapping wings, flexible adaptive structures and origami inspired compliant mechanisms.