In engineering, materials are chosen from databases: Engineers orient on specific parameters such as Young's modulus, yield stress or thermal expansion coefficients for a desired application. For hydrogels, the choice of materials is rather tedious since no generalized material parameters are currently available to quantify the swelling behavior. The normalization of swelling, which we present in the current work, allows an easy comparison of different hydrogel materials. Thus, for a specific application like a sensor or an actuator, an adequate material can be chosen. In the current work, we present the process of normalization and provide a course of action for the data analysis. Special challenges for hydrogels like hysteresis, conditional multi-sensitivity and anisotropic swelling are addressed. Then, the Temperature Expansion Model is shortly described and applied. Using the derived normalized swelling curves, a nonlinear expansion coefficient ß(F) is derived. The derived material behavior is used in an analytical model to predict the bending behavior of a beam made of thermo-responsive hydrogel material under an anisotropic temperature load. A bending behavior of the beam can be observed and the impact of other geometry and material parameters can be investigated. To overcome the limitations of the one-dimensional beam theory, the material behavior and geometry can be implemented in Finite Element analysis tools. Thus, novel applications for hydrogels in various fields can be envisioned, designed and tested. This can lead to a wider use of smart materials in sensor or actuator devices even by engineers without chemical background.