Today I was looking at one of my coworkers desk items - a Slinky (a toy
consisting of a continuous thin, flexible flat wire, newer ones are also
made out of plastic, that can expand and contract) and thought "Hey - this
could make for a good flexible and adjustable rapid prototype tool for
checking different tubing configurations if only you could lock it into
certain configurations and it could be easily changeable like a bendable toy
Using shape memory alloys, such as nitinol, I think this could be feasible.
You could position and bend the model where you need it, being able to
selectively cool (contract) and/or heat (expand) different sections of the
model until the desired configuration was obtained, then scan it to
electronically capture the configuration, then, when done, allow it to
uniformly cool to return it to its original shape for reuse. Controlling
the heating and cooling of the different sections (or a continuous section
with different properties in different areas kind of like a bimetallic strip
with bands of different materials) and maintaining the configuration for a
period of time under different ambient conditions would be a real challenge.
Anybody done any research or investigation along these lines?
I know that shape memory alloys and piezoelectric structures are being used
in "adaptive" or "active" structures research such as being able to change
the shape of an aircraft wing inflight to optimize lift or drag or a
combination of these to improve handling and control, especially during high
performance air maneuvers.
Could we perhaps call these Portable "Rapid Prototyping" Models? PRPM or
Cessna Aircraft Company
For more information about the rp-ml, see http://ltk.hut.fi/rp-ml/
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