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Motorless Motion With Niti: A Senior Design Project

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Lab Experiments in Materials Science

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.876.1 - 7.876.10

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Paper Authors

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Robert Redfield

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Michael Guarraia

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Suzanne Keilson

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Session 3264

Motorless Motion with Ni-Ti: A Senior Design Project

Michael Guarraia*, Robert Redfield, Suzanne Keilson

Loyola College, Department of Electrical Engineering and Engineering Science, Baltimore, MD, 21210/ *currently at Lockheed Martin Corp., Maryland


The goal of this project was to develop a senior design project around the principle of motorless motion utilizing the shape memory properties of a Nickel-Titanium (Ni-Ti) alloy. Ultimately, this was incorporated into a working prototype of a three-fingered robotic hand. The senior design capstone course at Loyola College is intended to be a culmination of all undergraduate coursework. The design project should consider realistic engineering constraints such as cost, time, manufacturability (such as the ability to solder parts together), and power consumption. From the students' perspective, some of the project goals included gaining a more thorough understanding of a material and its properties (based on theoretical knowledge and current manufacturing practice), to design a socially beneficial project, and to be able to construct a working model under realistic budget and time constraints. The real classroom constraints were $400 for the total budget for the design team of two students and all work, beginning in September with completion by April. The Ni-Ti alloy exhibits two very unique properties that have almost endless potentials for applications. The first is superelasticity. This is the ability to undergo excessive stress (to the point of radical elastic deformation) without plastic deformation. The other unique property of NiTi is the shape memory effect. This is the ability to return to a predetermined shape via a phase transformation, which is usually accomplished via heating the material. During the brainstorming sessions some project ideas that were generated included using the superelastic properties of NiTi in rock climbing gear, using the shape memory effect for safety devices, or snake-like flexible objects. The final project idea was a three-fingered robotic hand. No gears, hydraulics or motors are used for actuation. Some of the advantages to this design are a high strength-to-weight ratio, small size relative to alternatives, silent operation, and possible biocompatibility. Most of the design specifications were determined through a combination of extensive experimentation, trial and error, and literature research. Upon receiving a specified amount of current, the NiTi contracts. Key design issues were diameter and length of wire and the amount of current required for resistive heating (which would cause the necessary phase transformation, thus inducing contraction and movement of the

Proceedings of the 2002 American society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Redfield, R., & Guarraia, M., & Keilson, S. (2002, June), Motorless Motion With Niti: A Senior Design Project Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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