Kaptur Announces $50,000 to Support Additive Manufacturing of Nickel Titanium Aerospace Actuators at University of Toledo

February 26, 2021
Press Release
National Science Foundation Funds Will Advance UToledo Research Team in Developing Additive Manufacturing of Aerospace Actuators

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, today announced a $50,000 Nation Science Foundation (NSF) grant has been awarded to The University of Toledo (UToledo) to support its research into additive manufacturing of nickel titanium aerospace actuators.  


“This $50,000 award will allow The University of Toledo to develop necessary and efficient strategies for further scientific innovation in the aerospace industry,” said Rep. Kaptur. “The National Science Foundation has a critical role in advancing technology needed to address the challenges our world faces today and in the future. This award highlights Toledo as a leader in additive manufacturing, an increasingly important area for the next generation of domestic manufacturing. I’m pleased The University of Toledo has received this award which will help foster its exceptional research.”


“This award provides us with the ability to explore the potential users that value using additive manufacturing to advance the performance of shape memory alloys. These alloys are very important as actuators for advanced aerospace systems,” said Dr. Mohammad Elahinia, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering in the UToledo College of Engineering. 


“UToledo’s role in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program lets us support the journey of ideas like Dr. Elahinia’s from the lab to a real-world innovative product,” said Dr. Norm Rapino, executive director of Rocket Innovations at UToledo.


The funds will support a team of researchers at The University of Toledo in developing shape memory alloy actuators through 3D printing. Advances in 3D Printing and additive manufacturing are revolutionizing domestic manufacturing across a host of different industries, and represent an important growth opportunity for Northwest Ohio. Between 1988 and 2018, the number of industrial 3D printing machines grew from near zero to nearly 20,000 industrial printers sold each year.  As industrial use of 3D printers continues to grow, research in this area becomes increasingly important. 


The work of University of Toledo will reduce the weight and footprint of actuators currently used in aircrafts by eliminating the need for hydraulic systems. It may also potentially reduce the fire risk for aircrafts experiencing an emergency and could aid satellite and rocket manufacturing industries with similar motivations for adoption. Shape memory alloys are a class of materials that allow the materials to be formed into a desired shape which can then be deformed and, upon the application of heat above a certain threshold, the material will revert to its parent shape, exhibiting a shape memory. Nickle and titanium are readily alloyed to produce these actuators. However, traditional machining of nickel titanium alloys is challenging due to its high hardness and the fact that the heat generated during machining has the potential to change the properties of the material. The use of additive manufacturing is used to address the difficulties associated with traditional machining. The use of specific printing strategies has been developed to modify the threshold temperature of the actuator during printing and thus, enable the material properties to be tailored and customized.