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Small scale actuators and methods for their formation and use

Imported: 24 Feb '17 | Published: 06 Jan '04

Jerome M. Eldridge

USPTO - Utility Patents

Abstract

An actuator assembly and method for making and using an actuator assembly. In one embodiment, the assembly includes an actuator body having an actuator channel with a first region and a second region. An actuator is disposed in the actuator channel and is movable when in a flowable state between a first position and a second position. A heater is positioned proximate to the actuator channel to heat the actuator from a solid state to a flowable state. A source of gas or other propellant is positioned proximate to the actuator channel to drive the actuator from the first position to the second position. The actuator has a higher surface tension when engaged with the second region of the channel than when engaged with the first region. Accordingly, the actuator can halt upon reaching the second region of the channel due to the increased surface tension between the actuator and the second region of the channel.

Description

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a partially exploded top isometric view of an actuator assembly in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional side view illustrating a process for depositing an actuator on a portion of the assembly shown in FIG. 1 in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 3A-3B are cross-sectional side views illustrating additional processes for forming the actuator shown in FIG. 2 in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a top isometric view of a portion of an assembly having an actuator with a slider portion in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a partially schematic view of a valve assembly in accordance with yet another embodiment of the invention.

Claims

1. A method for manufacturing an actuator, comprising:

2. The method of claim 1 wherein the second region is one of two second regions, and wherein the method further comprises forming the channel to have another second region with the first region positioned between the two second regions.

3. The method of claim 1, further comprising selecting a material of the first region to include at least one of platinum, rhodium, palladium and gold.

4. The method of claim 1, further comprising selecting a material of the second region to include at least one of an oxide and a nitride.

5. The method of claim 1, further comprising selecting a material of the second region to include at least one of silicon dioxide, aluminum oxide and silicon nitride.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising selecting a material forming the actuator to include at least one of lead, tin, bismuth, cadmium, selenium, thallium and zinc.

7. The method of claim 1, further comprising positioning a heater proximate to the channel to heat the actuator from a solid state to a flowable state.

8. The method of claim 1, further comprising:

9. The method of claim 1, further comprising forming an orifice in fluid communication with the channel, the orifice being coupleable to a source of fluid, the orifice being blocked by the actuator when the actuator is in the second position to at least restrict the fluid from flowing through the orifice, the orifice being open to the channel when the actuator is in the second position.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising: