The development of structures able to modify their shapes, according to specific conditions, is considered a future challenge for engineering applications. In this framework, the use of shape memory alloy (SMA)-based actuators is undoubtedly promising. In this paper, the development of a passive SMA-based actuator, for automotive application, produced with the aid of additive manufacturing technologies, is presented. The actuator is passively controlled by the temperature reached in the engine compartment. Indeed, the increase of temperature beyond a predetermined threshold triggers, by means of the SMA-based actuator, a set of cooling flaps which dissipate the heat accumulated in the engine compartment. This operation is able to improve cooling performances of cars.
The performed extensive development activity has been split into two parts which are presented in two papers. The present paper focuses on part I, dealing with design and manufacturing steps; while experimental activities and detailed finite element analyses, aimed to the numerical justification of the design of the proposed passive cooling system, are introduced in part II.