Integration of smart materials into surgical tools and medical devices using vaporizing foil actuator technology.
Shape memory alloys are metals that "remember" their original shape when deformed and can return to their initial shape when heated. These shape memory alloys cannot currently be welded to other alloys, which significantly limits their use. Current state-of-the-art methods of joining shape memory alloys in medical devices are limited to methods such as clamping which provide limited configuration options, increase manufacturing time and complexity, and cannot hit the performance metrics required to take full advantage of the special abilities of shape memory alloys. Thus, there is a need for a welding method for shape metal alloys that does not sacrifice their useful features.
A research team led by Dr. Boyd Panton has developed a process of vaporizing foil actuator joining. This process has yielded welds as strong as the base metal, which may allow full use of the special abilities, increase the available configurations for tool design, and reduce manufacturing cost. The full use of the shape memory alloy abilities in surgical tools and medical devices will provide physicians new and greater control for patient care. While the current focus is on the medical industry, solving this problem applies to a wide range of other industries including aerospace, automotive, and electronics.