In July 2011, Inertia Engineering + Design spearheaded a project with the support of NRC-IRAP and NSERC’s Engage program to collaborate with IPT Smarter Alloys and the University of Waterloo on a technology commercialization project. Inertia set out to develop a product that could demonstrate the unique benefits of a revolutionary new technology called Multiple Memory Material (MMM).
The MMM technology allows virtually any shape-memory or pseudoelastic material to be programmed with multiple localized shape functions. This advance promises to revolutionize the design of a wide range of products, such as medical devices, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), printers, hard drives, automotive components, valves, and actuators.
After a ton of blue-sky-white-boarding madness, we threw a dart and ultimately chose to design an anti-scald valve. Since it’s always easier to communicate how a technology works in a real product, we selected a baby bottle as a demonstration product. The idea is that if you over-heat milk in a baby bottle, the valve closes, preventing your baby’s mouth from being burned. Once the milk cools down to a reasonable temperature, the valve re-opens and milk can flow. And here is the elegant part of all this; there are no batteries, no motors – it’s all done by the heating of a 30mm long piece of 400 micron Nitinol wire that has been treated with the MMM proprietary process. Traditional shape-memory alloys are also able to actuate a mechanism but cannot return it to the original position without using a bias return spring or outside force to do so. The MMM mechanism is a passive, self-sensing, self-actuating, and self returning system. How cool is that?
Inertia worked with IPT Smarter Alloys to develop a product development process specifically for MMM mechanisms. In doing so, Inertia designed, engineered, prototyped and successfully tested this baby bottle anti-scald valve.
Inertia relied on its non-linear structural finite element analysis (FEA) capabilities to simulate and predict the behavior of the Multiple Memory Metal wire in order to quickly iterate on design concepts, select possible concept paths and, ultimately optimize a design for a wire mechanism that would both actuate and reset a rotary valve.
Once a mechanism was designed and simulated, CAD models were generated for the valve mechanism and rapid prototyped using 3D printing technology. After running through two product development cycles (design, engineer, prototype, test) we successfully achieved a functional proof-of-concept MMM-actuated anti-scald valve for a baby bottle.
Inertia’s previous experience with designing and engineering pioneering products such as the first crash-energy-absorbing child car seat and the first low-floor battery-electric delivery truck made this project a perfect fit for our capabilities because we have developed some great expertise and strategies for navigating the product development process to ensure successful technology commercialization.