Nutcracker Wilhelm on a space mission with SMA

What do a nutcracker from the Ore Mountains, space technology and shape memory alloys have in common? The story of “Rocket Willy” is attracting attention in the media, and not just because the story sounds pretty crazy at first.

Nutcracker Wilhelm on a space mission

Almost a year ago, Nutcracker Wilhelm was on his first space mission. Back on Earth, the Nutcracker is to receive an “update” that promises him a meteoric rise – after all, he is now a real astronaut. And a real astronaut naturally needs a wooden rocket, modeled on a real space capsule. This is where the paths of the traditional wooden nutcracker and shape memory alloys cross.

Smoking rocket with the help of shape memory alloys

For six months, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute in Dresden and wooden toy makers from Seiffern worked together to develop a new type of wooden incense rocket that does not require electronics but can still open and close as if by magic. The scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute introduced the toy makers from the Erzgebirge region to the technology that is regularly used in the aerospace industry: shape memory technology.

Shape memory alloys in arts and crafts

Together with scientists, the wooden toy makers developed a smoke rocket using shape memory alloys with space for a mini nutcracker. After ignition with an incense candle, the wooden incense rocket opens and “Rocket Willy” comes out of the rocket.

While shape memory alloys, which are also being developed by Ingpuls for aerospace applications, are e.g. used in Mars rovers, “Rocket Willy’s” smoking rocket is the first concrete application of shape memory alloys in arts and crafts.

In addition to other sectors, such as the automotive industry, medical technology, building services, industry, household appliances and consumer electronics, aerospace is a major area of application for shape memory alloys. Aerospace primarily benefits from the space- and weight-saving application possibilities of shape memory alloys as well as the functional integration in their components. As “Rocket Willy” and his smoking rocket show, the shape memory technology otherwise used in aerospace is also finding its way into arts and crafts, allowing mini nutcrackers to explore uncharted galaxies.