22 July 2016 Thermal expansion as a precision actuator
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Abstract
The UK ATC has developed a novel thermal actuator design as part of an OPTICON project focusing on the development of a Freeform Active Mirror Element (FAME). The actuator uses the well understood concept of thermal expansion to generate the required force and displacement. As heat is applied to the actuator material it expands linearly. A resistance temperature device (RTD) is embedded in the centre of the actuator and is used both as a heater and a sensor. The RTD temperature is controlled electronically by injecting a varying amount of current into the device whilst measuring the voltage across it. Temperature control of the RTD has been achieved to within 0.01°C.

A 3D printed version of the actuator is currently being used at the ATC to deform a mirror but it has several advantages that may make it suitable to other applications. The actuator is cheap to produce whilst obtaining a high accuracy and repeatability. The actuator design would be suitable for applications requiring large numbers of actuators with high precision.
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Chris Miller, David Montgomery, Martin Black, Hermine Schnetler, "Thermal expansion as a precision actuator", Proc. SPIE 9912, Advances in Optical and Mechanical Technologies for Telescopes and Instrumentation II, 991269 (22 July 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2231392; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2231392
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