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Smart Matters | Spring 2020


Group Project  Mechanism Design

Yutao Huang, Chaeri Park

The initial idea of assembling furniture with a locking system using SMA was influenced by mechanisms of everyday locking objects and wood joints as well as existing ready to assemble furniture. Taking account of that nature of SMA, where the action of shape memory alloys appeared to be most effective in linear form, lead to designing simple locking mechanisms. 

Keeping values of ready-to-assemble furniture and refining common difficulties consumers experienced together with elements of traditional furniture, arrived in design goals of the project; easy assembly and disassembly, simple yet detailed material and finish, seamless joints, flat shipping, no specific tools involved. 

SMA Strings

Before we have the concept of the assembly system, we first were introduced to the SMA strings and were required to do experiments using them in order to become more familiar with the material.


After our experiments, we started to look into concepts, and we were deeply inspired by the use of the SMA strings in the surface book locking mechanism. Then we realized how the SMA string has potential in changing the way how people lock or assemble things.

Other Locking Mechanisms

We then looked into some of the existing locking mechanisms for more inspirations.

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Surface book locking mechanism

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Heat-bonded Furnitures


When we were researching over some of the IKEA furniture, we figured that there's opportunity of a locking mechanism for furniture and we started evaluating the pros and cons of existing furniture.

Advantages of Ready to assemble furniture 


Flat Packing

Psychological Phenomenon


Easier to get replaceable pieces


Easy to move around
in narrow openings

reduce of manufacturing process

simple to dismantle, transport, and deliver

People attach greater value to things they built than if the very same product was built by someone else

Disadvantages of Ready to assemble furniture 

Drilling in wrong direction might cause damage in wood.

Hard to disassemble

Difficulties of assembling a RTA furniture that frustrates the user

Quality of material

Requires specific tools for furniture assembly

Parts that are difficult to distinguish


Tool Requirement




Design Goals

We picked what to keep from the advantages of r-t-a furniture and what disadvantages we can overcome with smart material assembly.

Easy assembly and disassembly

Simple yet detailed material 

Seamless assembly system

Flat shipping

Universal heat source

Project Development

Some initial sketches for mechanisms that we started to explore with. We further explored basing off of # 2 and # 4

Then we came up with these which
1.Opening that shrinks and grabs rod inserted
2.Latch kind of mechanism that is locked after inserted

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Then we used solidworks to build 3d models and simulate these mechanisms and finally decided on mechanism 3.

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Final Design

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