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The terminators attach the ends of the SMA wires to the support structure or mechanism you are moving. Because SMAs expand as they contract, using glue or other adhesive will not secure the wire to the mechanism. Ordinary soldering is not recommended as the extreme heat of the soldering can permanently damage the wire. The best approach is to use a crimp-on terminator. These and other crimp terminators are available from companies that sell shape memory alloy wire (either in the experimenter s kit or separately).
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BUILDING ROBOTS WITH SHAPE-MEMORY ALLOY
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You can make your own crimp-on connectors using 18-gauge or smaller solderless crimp connectors (the smaller the better). Although these connectors are rather large for the thin 0.15 mm SMA, you can achieve a fairly secure termination by folding the wire in the connector and pressing firmly with a suitable crimp tool. Be sure to completely flatten the connector. If necessary, place the connector in a vise to flatten it all the way.
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Bias force Apply current to the ends of an SMA wire and it just contracts in air. To be useful, the wire must be attached to one end of the moving mechanism and biased (as shown in Fig. 23.11) at the other end. Besides offering physical support, the bias offers the counteracting force that returns the SMA wire to its limber condition once current is removed from the strand. Actuating circuit
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SMAs can be actuated with a 1.5-volt penlight battery. Because the circuit through the SMA wire is almost a dead short, the battery delivers almost its maximum current capacity. But the average 1.5-volt alkaline penlight battery has a maximum current output of only a few hundred milliamps, so the current is limited through the wire. You can connect a simple on/off switch in line with the battery, as detailed in Fig. 23.12, to contract or relax the SMA wire. The problem with this setup is that it wastes battery power, and if the power switch is left on for too long, it can do some damage to the SMA strand. A more sophisticated approach uses a 555 timer IC that automatically shuts off the current after a short time. The schematic in Fig. 23.13 shows one way of connecting a 555 timer IC to control a length of SMA. Table 23.1 provides a parts list for the 555 SMA circuit.
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FIGURE 23.11 A bias spring or weight is required as a counterbalance force on the SMA wire.
368 ADVANCED LOCOMOTION SYSTEMS
Switch 1.5 V battery + SMA wire
FIGURE 23.12 A simple switch in series with a 1.5volt penlight battery forms a simple SMA driving circuit. The low current delivered by the penlight battery prevents damage to the SMA wire.
+6Vdc
4 R1 47K 7 2
R2 27K
c 3 IC1 555 R3 1K b e Q1 2N2222
6 C1 3.3 F + SMA wire (500 mA draw or less) 1
FIGURE 23.13 A 555 timer IC is at the heart of an ideal driving circuit for SMA wire. The 555 removes the current shortly after you release activating switch S1.
TABLE 23.1 PARTS LIST FOR 555 SMA DRIVER.
IC1 Q1 R1 R2 R3 C1 Misc
555 timer 2N2222 NPN transistor 47K resistor 27K resistor 1K resistor 3.3 F polarized electrolytic capacitor Momentary SPST switch, SMA wire
All resistors are 5 to 10 percent tolerance, 1/4 watt. All capacitors are 10 to 20 percent tolerance, rated at 35 volts or more.
BUILDING ROBOTS WITH SHAPE-MEMORY ALLOY 369
Pulley SMA wire
Bias spring
FIGURE 23.14 Concept of using SMA wire with a mechanical pulley.
In operation, when you press momentary switch S1 it activates the wire and it contracts. Release S1 immediately, and the SMA stays contracted for an extra fraction of a second, then releases as the 555 timer shuts off. Since the total ON time of the 555 depends on how long you hold S1 down, plus the 1/10-of-a-second delay, you should depress the switch only momentarily.
SHAPE MEMORY ALLOY MECHANISMS
With the SMA properly terminated and actuated, it s up to you and your own imagination to think of ways to use it in your robots. Fig. 23.14 shows a typical application using an SMA wire in a pulley configuration. Apply current to the wire and the pulley turns, giving you rotational motion. A large-diameter pulley will turn very little when the SMA tenses up, but a small-diameter one will turn an appreciable distance. Fig. 23.15 shows a length of SMA wire used in a lever arrangement. Here, the metal strand is attached to one end of a bell crank. On the opposite end is a bias spring. Applying juice to the wire causes the bell crank to move. The spot where you attach the drive arm dictates the amount of movement you will obtain when the SMA contracts. SMA wire is tiny stuff, and you will find that the miniature hardware designed for model R/C airplanes is most useful for constructing mechanisms. Most any well-stocked hobby store will stock a full variety of bell cranks, levers, pulleys, wheels, gears, springs, and other odds and ends to make your work with SMA more enjoyable.
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