As medical devices become smaller and more complex because of the ever increasing demand for greater precision in clinical and research applications, the need for smart materials is also on the rise. Many metal alloys are able to “remember” a specific shape they were in before transformation, the best example being self expanding coronary stents. Although memory retaining alloys are already being used in many fields of medicine, researchers from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are using computers to extend the application of these materials.
With the help of these simulations, the scientists have developed various objects, including a minuscule forceps for endoscopy. Normally, such micro forceps can only be created with joints. How can a component be produced that has such small dimensions, is elastic, can be thoroughly sterilized and has no joints? The computer supplies the answer: with the help of numerical simulation models, the researchers could calculate in advance the most important characteristics of the component, such as its strength and clamping force, and efficiently develop and manufacture the elastic component. “Normally, many tests with various prototypes would need to be conducted,” Dr. Helm explains. “By using simulations, we can avoid producing most of these prototypes. This saves costs because the raw materials for the shape memory alloys are very expensive and are sometimes difficult to work with.” In addition, the researchers can estimate through simulations how durable the modern materials are.
Full story: Design tool for materials with a memory