Seals are integral to many industries such as aerospace, marine, oilfield, and automotive. A key performance metric for seal quality is quantified by the normal force between the seal and contact surface. Many applications have conflicting requirements on the normal force depending on the operational state. For example, in panel closures, to ease engagement of the seal the normal force (closing force) should be small; whereas, to maintain a high-quality seal the normal force (sealing force) should be large. While there is an abundance of seal technologies, there still exists a need for adaptable seals that can better accommodate the conflicting demands of multiple operational states and variations in application platforms. This paper introduces an active seal which controls normal force through modification of the structure of a rubber arch seal. While there are several options for actuation, this new technology is modeled, fabricated, and experimentally validated utilizing a shape memory alloy web actuation scheme. Finite element models provide a basis for a parametric study from which design guidelines are derived. The technology and supporting models/processes are demonstrated for an automotive panel closure successfully reducing the closing force by almost 50%, while simultaneously increasing the sealing force by over 30%.

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