The work at hand focuses on the modeling, prototyping, and experimental functionality test of a smart actuator based on shape memory polymer technology. Particular attention is paid to the specific modeling approach, here conceived as an effective predictive scheme, quick and, at the same time, able to face those nonlinearity aspects, strictly related to the large displacements shape memory polymers usually undergo. Shape memory polymer composites (SMPCs) may play a critical role for many applications, ranging from self-repairing systems to deployable structures (e.g., solar sails, antennas) and functional subcomponents (e.g., pliers, transporters of small objects). For all these applications, it is very important to have an effective tool that may drive the designers during the preliminary definition of the main parameters of the actuation system. For the present work, a SMPC plate sample has been conceived and realized in view of aerospace applications. An external fibre optic sensor has been then fixed with special adhesive. The temperatures needed for the activation of the Shape Memory Polymer (SMP) and strain storing have been provided by a thermo-gun and complete load–unload cycles, including strain storing, have been performed. Experimental displacements and strains have been used to validate a dedicated predictive theoretical approach, suited for laminates integrated with SMP layers.
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