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September 01, 2010

New process promises to revolutionize manufacturing of products

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new "smart materials" process - Multiple Memory Material Technology - developed by University of Waterloo engineering researchers promises to revolutionize the manufacture of diverse products such as medical devices, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), printers, hard drives, automotive components, valves and actuators.


The breakthrough technology will provide engineers with much more freedom and creativity by enabling far greater functionality to be incorporated into medical devices such as stents, braces and hearing aids than is currently possible.

Smart materials, also known as shape memory alloys, have been around for several decades and are well known for their ability to remember a pre-determined shape.

Traditional memory materials remember one shape at one temperature and a second shape at a different temperature. Until now they have been limited to change shape at only one temperature. Now with the new Waterloo technology they can remember multiple different memories, each one with a different shape.

"This ground-breaking technology makes smart materials even smarter," said Ibraheem Khan, a research engineer and graduate student working with Norman Zhou, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering. "We have developed a technology that embeds several memories in a monolithic smart material. In essence, a single material can be programmed to remember more shapes, making it smarter than previous technologies."

The patent pending technology, which is available for licensing, allows virtually any memory material to be quickly and easily embedded with additional local memories.

The transition zone area can be as small as a few microns in width with multiple zones, each having a discrete transition temperature. As the processed shape memory material is subject to changing temperature, each treated zone will change shape at its respective transition temperature. As well, transition zones created side-by-side allow for a unique and smooth shape change in response to changing temperature.

Several prototypes have been developed to demonstrate this pioneering technology.

One mimics a transformer robot. The robot's limbs transform with increasing temperature at discrete temperatures, whereas in conventional shape memory technology this is limited to only one transformation temperature.



Background

Traditional memory materials typically remember one shape at one temperature and a second shape at a different temperature. Until now they have been limited to transform (changing shape) at only one temperature. Several attempts have been made to create memory metals with various processing methods; however the creation of such a material has thus far proven to be very complicated, expensive and not very robust.

Description of the Invention

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a technology that enables multiple shape memories to be embedded in a single monolithic shape memory material. In addition, this technology can be implemented to locally modify pseudoelastic properties. This ‘multi-memory material’ locally transforms (changes shape) at specific, predetermined transition temperatures. Hence various different shapes can be memorised at discrete temperatures. As the processed shape memory material is subject to changing temperature, spanning several transition temperatures, each treated site will change shape at its respective transition temperature.

Advantages

This technology enables the quick and easy embedding of multiple memories in a standard memory metal, thereby allowing it to respond to different temperatures. In addition, this technology can be implemented to locally modify pseudoelastic properties.

Potential Applications

This UW technology allows virtually any memory material to be quickly and easily embedded with additional local memories. The transition zone area can be as small as a few microns in width with multiple zones, each having a discrete transition temperature. Furthermore, creating these zones side by side can allow for a very unique and smooth shape change in response to changing temperature.

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