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According to Wikipedia, magnetic shape memory alloys are a special type of shape memory alloy which, in addition to the thermal shape memory effect, also exhibit a significant change in shape due to an external magnetic field. These typically single-crystalline alloys of nickel, manganese and gallium are able to generate up to six percent strain under external loads - and this at frequencies down to the low kilohertz range. This property, also known as the Magnetic Shape Memory Effect, was first discovered in the mid-1990s. Since then, the ETO Group, based in Stockach, Germany, has conducted intensive research in this area, decisively developing the material and finally designing actuators based on it. And now the technology, christened MAGNETOSHAPE by the company, is ready for use in the first series applications. Due to the unique technical advantages of the technology, ETO sees the potential to replace electromagnetic and other actuator technologies in the future.

Small gripper, nimble gripper

No wonder, then, that the ETO Group's premiere appearance at this year's HANNOVER MESSE revolves entirely around the new technology, for example the particularly compact MAGNETOSHAPE miniature gripper. Thanks to the magnetic-shape memory effect, it can electrically regulate its gripping force to almost force-free gripping, hold objects in the gripped state without current, recognise its gripping position and thus also component sizes, and switch very quickly. Due to the latter property, the gripping time becomes a negligible part of the cycle time. ETO sees possible areas of application, for example, in laboratory automation, electronics manufacturing or other micro-assembly tasks.

Just one of many more possibilities

Another exhibit on show in Hanover will be the MAGNETOSHAPE micropump, whose function is based on a peristaltic shape change of a Magnetic Shape Memory material, generated by a rotating dipole magnetic field. Like its "gripper colleague", the pump, which was developed as part of a joint R&D project, is particularly small in size, surprisingly simple in design and covers a wide range of delivery volumes, with a counterpressure of up to 500 millibars (current development status). Biocompatibility is ensured by media separation and essential components can be designed as disposable. A continuous and bidirectional flow of gaseous and liquid media can also be realised. The technology is available for a wide range of applications, for example for lab-on-chip applications, environmental analysis or diverse laboratory applications.