You are on page 1of 10

DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION AND TESTING OF A WING MODEL WITH

COMPLIANT TRAILING EDGE


CONEM2014-1232

Abstract. In pursuit of aerodynamic efficiency, the use of morphing configuration is one of most promising techniques.
In this way, use of compliant structures manufactured by rapid prototyping techniques is effective in developing models
for novel airplane parts. This work presents the process of design, manufacturing, assembly and testing of a wind
tunnel model with profile similar to NACA 2412. This model was developed to test a compliant trailing edge
mechanism, composed of interconnected ribs actuated by servo motors. Issues related to prototyping requirements,
quality of geometry, correct alignment and aerodynamic behavior are assessed. Preliminary results of aerodynamic
tests in Reynolds range around 4.105 showed a small reduction in drag for intermediate to high lift coefficients, in
conditions of slight trailing edge deflection.
Keywords: aerodynamic efficiency, compliant mechanisms, rapid prototyping, airfoil optimization.

1. INTRODUCTION
Issues about fuel efficiency are one of the main concerns regarding future of aviation. Even considering the
reduction of fuel consumption in approximately 50% from 1960 to 2008, according to International Council on Clean
Transportation (Rutherford and Zeinali, 2009), theres still place to further evolution in several aspects. One of the
technologies expected to bring impact in efficiency is the employment of variable form geometries (Monner et al.,
1999). Since the 80s, efforts have been made towards this development. The Mission Adaptive Wing of NASA (Webb
et al., 1988), for example, developed and flight tested an F-111 with controllable integrated leading and trailing edges,
using rigid links mechanism to change airfoil geometry. Later, Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA) proposed
the development of concepts in adaptive wings. One of the presented works is the torque tube presented by Kudva
(1999), actuated by shape memory alloy devices.
Several attempts have been made in developing adaptive structures for wing variable geometry, considering many
different actuation devices. Examples are the use of shape memory alloys, piezoelectric devices (Campanile et al.,
2004), magnetic (Giurgiutiu, 2001) and electric or hydraulic actuators. In the same way, the concepts of structures have
achieved a great variety. From the rigid link mechanisms employed in the F-111, other devices designed are, for
example, the torque tube (Kudva, 1999), the belt rib concept (Campanile et al., 2004), eccentric beam (SADE, 2010),
bi-morphing models (Arruda, 2010) and compliant mechanisms (Kota et al., 2009).
The main disadvantage sometimes encountered is the complexity of these systems, as well as its weight.
Additionally, actuation systems like the ones with shape memory alloys have the drawback of depending on
temperature, presenting a slower response than may be required for some applications.
Considering the importance of such technology, it was decided to investigate the potential, design process and
constructive issues related to morphing wing. A model wing of small scale was designed, intended only for wind tunnel
testing. The main application envisioned for this compliant wing is the use in unmanned air vehicles (UAVs)..
Mechanisms chosen were the compliant ones, which have the advantage of simplicity in design and low weight.
Compliant mechanisms are flexible structures which can be deformed in order to achieve the desired configuration.
Basically, any kind of actuation system may be associated to a compliant mechanism. In this work, two simple servos
used for model airplanes were chosen due its competitive cost and high availability. A trailing edge mechanism was
investigated in this first approach, due to simplicity in measurement of its deflection. Leading edge devices were left for
later developments.
A schematic side view of the model is presented in Fig. 1, along with its basic dimensions. A compliant trailing
edge mechanism is shown, and the position of the servos relative to wing spars is represented.

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

Only trailing edge of the ribs is compliant. This design allows the use of conventional center box and spars,
simplifying this first development. Actuation is accomplished by threads connecting servos and a rigid tube which
passes through compliant ribs.

Figure 1. Schematic lateral view of the model with compliant trailing edge and servo actuation.
Up to final model, a research and testing work was carried out. During construction phase, challenges related to
alignment and control of trailing edge position had to be overcome. After this, testing in wind tunnel required special
considerations. Summarizing this work, the objective of this paper is to publish details regarding the development of
this particular compliant mechanism.
2. DESCRIPTION
2.1. Base Airfoil and Model Size
For compliant trailing edge implementation, airfoil NACA 2412 was chosen. This profile presents moderate
thickness for accommodation of servos, rounded leading edge, avoiding sudden stall, and is already cambered,
achieving high lift coefficient. Additionally, experimental data for the tested tunnel were already available for NACA
2412. Literature (Abbott and von Doenhoff, 1959) also presents data on NACA 2412, but in higher Reynolds numbers
than achieved during tests here presented.
It was decided about the use of a wind tunnel with square section of side approximately 465 mm and maximum
speeds of about 33 m/s. Because of undesirable blockage effects, maximum size chosen for model chord was 250 mm.
Compliant portion of rib is limited to 50% of chord. This means that first half of rib is rigid, composed of leading
edge, central box and spars. One spar has thickness of 6 mm, and the other, 10 mm, as indicated in above figure. For
two-dimensional analysis in wind tunnel, it was necessary to manufacture a stiff structure, otherwise flexion along span
could affect measurements in high lift.
A decision was made to work only with trailing edge. So, this portion of each rib is manufactured and assembled
separately. This allows changing compliant trailing edge, in case of unexpected damage, for example, while keeping
main structure intact.
2.2. Selection of Materials and Manufacturing Processes
In order to develop a compliant trailing edge mechanism, the ribs composing the wing should be flexible for
actuation system, as well as sufficiently stiff to carry aerodynamic loading. This condition suggests a structure with high
allowable deformation. According to Good (2003), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a material with high ratio
between maximum strength and elasticity modulus, compared to nylon, aluminum or steel. This implies high flexibility
for the design of compliant ribs. Additionally, ABS is one of the possibilities for use with rapid prototyping machines.
This manufacturing method presents many advantages in dealing with high complexity geometries.
Rapid prototyping has been increasingly used for aerodynamics research (Traub, 2013). Based on deposition of
successive layers, the method of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) can produce a variety of geometries. The precision
and characteristics achieved depend on parameters like diameter of injected filament of ABS and distance between
parallel filaments.
3. DESIGN OF COMPLIANT AIRFOIL
3.1 Requirements
As discussed, one of main requirements is flexibility relative to actuation system and stiffness to external loads.
Additionally, this structure must be able to deform to considerable extent without suffering plastic deformations. This
means that stress concentration regions must be avoided.

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

Other requirement is related to stability of the rib. Since the actuation force is applied in a point, it must be assured
that buckling is not possible in the targeted range of deflections. This issue, particularly, was assessed preliminarily
with a finite elements model using software MSC NASTRAN. Even with preliminary geometry and actuation point, it
was possible to see that forces required for instability were beyond estimated range of deflection. First mode identified
was lateral instability, in 42 N, while the expected force for actuation was just 5 N. Fig. 2 shows deformed condition for
first mode.

Figure 2. First instability mode identified in preliminary analysis.


3.2. Preliminary Models
Basic design of compliant ribs is composed of cells which may be deformed, resulting in camber changes, if a load
is applied on lower surface of trailing edge. This basic design is found in patent of Kota and Hetrick (2008). In order to
keep a stiff structure for central box, it was necessary to let an opening in lower surface, between compliant rib and rear
spar. Just to prevent aerodynamic interference, this region was designed to be covered by a sliding skin, as will be seen
later.
First model was analyzed in CATIA finite elements tool. Two kinds of inspection were performed: structural
analysis to avoid regions of stress concentration and geometrical verification to avoid sudden changes in curvature
along surfaces. These geometrical issues are important for maintaining attached flow, and were just visually inspected
in first analysis. This model and results are shown in Fig. 3. Load was applied, initially, in a vertical beam positioned in
front open cell of the rib. Unfortunately, deformations showed to be inadequate, due to geometry and stress
concentration. Also, the fitting mechanism showed insufficient strength.

Figure 3. First model, fitting structure and results for deformed configuration.
An iterative process was performed in order to arrive to a final acceptable design. Modifications in thickness,
attachment structure and number of cells were performed. It was seen that changes of thickness between two cells
should be smooth enough to avoid the pronounced curvature discontinuities. Additionally, the smallest cells at trailing
edge were so stiff that its deformations were negligible. For later designs, these structures were simply wiped off. All
acute corners were rounded at the structure, avoiding stress concentration. To get a better lower surface displacement,
the vertical beam used for loading was substituted by a round hole, through which a stiff tube was designed to pass,
connecting all ribs.
An intermediate design was prototyped and tested to validate the finite elements modeling and to see nonlinear
effects. An optical instrument was used to measure deflections as small as 0.1 mm. The model experimented is
presented in Fig. 4, along with an example of deflection.

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

Figure 4. Prototyped model (a) and actuation (b).


Result in Fig. 5 showed more flexibility than expected. A plot of force applied vs. displacement shows the behavior
observed, compared with a linear theoretical prediction considering a Young Modulus of 2 GPa for ABS material. The
displacement is measured in degrees, assuming a fixed point at mid-chord and calculating the angle as in Eq. (1).

Eq. (1)
In Eq. (1), is the described deflection angle, y is the vertical displacement at trailing edge and c is the chord
length, equal to 250 mm.
Two most important conclusions were drawn: the elasticity of prototyped parts depend on parameters of layer
deposition in rapid prototyping. Its not accurate to use the elasticity of solid ABS, in many conditions. Additionally,
behavior is nonlinear since the beginning of deflection. As could be seen during experiment, marks in the material
revealed plasticity effects for small deflections, mainly in regions of stress concentration. Even with a nonlinear
behavior, however, displacements were repetitive relative to force applied, after maximum force was achieved. It was
interesting to see, in a destructive essay, that maximum stress point indicated by finite element model corresponded to
breaking position, as shown in Fig. 6.

Fora aplicada (em relao ao mximo de 978gf)

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

0.8

0.6

0.4

Valores experimentais
Previso FEM (para E=2GPa)

0.2

10

12

14

Deslocamento vertical do bordo de fuga (graus)

Figure 5. Comparison between theoretical prediction and observed displacement.

Figure 6. Region of maximum stress corresponded to first breaking position.


3.3. Final Model
Analyzing results of first experiments, it was decided to change parameters of rapid prototyping. Distance between
parallel filaments was reduced, imposing a short interference between them. This could make the part stronger and
increase its elasticity to correspond to ABSs one. Additionally, changes were implemented in order to ease integration.
Loading structure was substituted by a circular one, to use circular tubes, easy to find. Region of integration to rear spar
was redesigned, too. The first two transversal beams were modified to reduce stress concentration at its ends. Nonuniform profiles of thickness along its length were defined for such a purpose. Final model is presented in Fig. 7.

Figure 7. Final model of compliant rib.


Results of a second test of deflection showed better correspondence to theoretical prediction than previous model,
indicating that material properties really changed because of deposition method. Initial slope of deflection curve agreed
to FEM prediction, but nonlinearities and hysteresis are apparent, too. Fig. 8 shows the results for the first loading cycle
of a compliant rib. After many cycles, hysteresis is reduced.

Fora de trao em relao fora mxima (1400gf)

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

Experimental
Previso linear do modelo

0.8

0.6

0.4

0.2

4
6
8
Deflexo do bordo de fuga (graus)

10

12

Figure 8. Deflection of final model.


4. ASSEMBLY
The wind tunnel model, with 455 mm span, was composed of 7 compliant ribs and 2 servo motors of high torque
(7kgf.cm). A tube connecting all ribs was used to keep alignment during deflection. However, this issue was a problem.
At first experiments with the model, trailing edge wasnt uniformly deflected, as may be seen in Fig. 9. At first, this
misalignment was attributed to tube deflection, because servos just pull this tube by 2 points, and there are 7 ribs. Since
small displacements at actuation position may lead to great deflections, this effect would be amplified. For this reason,
the simple tube connecting ribs was replaced by a set of 2 tubes joined together to increase stiffness. Additionally, an
aluminum piece was passed through all trailing edge to make it uniform. Later, it was observed that one of the main
problems was the chordwise positioning of the ribs. Due to imperfections in rear spar geometry, small differences in rib
positions led to the undesired deformed shape. Moving some ribs afterwards, as shown in Fig. 10, the problem was
finally solved.

Figure 9. Different deflections at trailing edge.

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

Figure 10. Ribs and basic structure mounted.


Covering the airfoil with cedar wood sheet completed the assembly. On lower surface, a sliding skin was employed,
just as detailed in Fig. 11.

Figure 11. Sliding skin on lower surface of the model.


5. AERODYNAMIC TESTING
The model was tested in a small blower wind tunnel. Reynolds number of the flow was around 4.1x105. At first
tests, deflections analyzed for trailing edge were in the range from 0 mm to 18 mm (8,2, according to definition of Eq.
(1)). Lift, drag and moment were measured from negative angles of attack, like -8, up to stall. For some conditions,
qualitative observations of flow using wool yarn were conducted after measurements, allowing to see progression of
detached boundary layer region.

Figure 12. Curves of lift coefficient vs. angle of attack for various trailing edge deflections.

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

In terms of lift, progressive deflection of trailing edge showed an increase of maximum lift achieved. It acts in the
same way as a flap deflection, imposing more vertical velocity to flow. This effect may be seen in Fig. 12, where
highest deflection achieves lift coefficient of 1.7, while null deflection achieves 1.5. Of course, the higher the
deflection, the earlier begin nonlinear behavior associated to boundary layer. Its expressed in Fig. 12 as a deviation
from straight lines drawn.
Drag measurements, in general, were spoiled by balance imprecision, as well as tridimensional flow effects over the
wing model. Even so, it was possible to see in Fig. 13 that, for small deflections at trailing edge, theres a slight
reduction of drag for lift coefficients above 0.4. For higher deflections, positive effects cease, in this range of Reynolds,
since drag is increased due to early detachment of boundary layer, which is laminar to a great extent of chord, in this
range of speeds. Figure 14 presents evolution of drag with higher deflections, and Fig. 15 presents a visualization of
flow detachment for high trailing edge deflection, even at 0 angle of attack.
Polares de arrasto dos trs primeiros perfis (Re=4,1.10 5)
1.2

Coeficiente de sustentao do perfil

0.8

0.6

0 - 0mm (ajuste parablico)


0,9 - 2mm (ajuste parablico)
1,8 - 4mm (ajuste parablico)
0 - 0mm
0,9 - 2mm
1,8 - 4mm

0.4

0.2

-0.2

-0.4

0.01

0.015

0.02

0.025

0.03

0.035

0.04

0.045

0.05

Coeficiente de arrasto do perfil

Figure 13. Drag polar for small deflections at trailing edge.

Figure 14. Increase of drag due to early boundary layer detachment.

0.055

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

Figure 15. Early flow detachment at trailing edge for 14 mm (6.4) deflection, at 0 angle of attack.
6. CONCLUSIONS
From design to construction and testing of a morphing wind tunnel model, this work dealt with important issues
related to compliant mechanisms.
It was seen that rapid prototyping is a useful technique for this purpose, but care must be taken with process
parameters, or the structure may behave like a porous one, with more flexibility than expected. Accuracy in geometry
was recognized as an important requirement, too. With a high quality rear spar, for example, trailing edge ribs wouldnt
be so misaligned at initial integration. Relative to actuation system, it could be redesigned to include deflections up and
down for the compliant part. This would assure more stiffness to the structure. For his purpose, threads should be
replaced by rigid rods.
From aerodynamic performance analysis, only small deflections of trailing edge showed improvements in drag at
lift coefficients above 0.4. It was realized that big deflections lead to nonlinear effects even at small lift, since boundary
layer is very affected by gradients of velocity along surface of the model, when this flow is laminar. General results
showed that working with compliant trailing edge at this Reynolds of 4 x 10 5 may not bring desired advantages, because
of laminar boundary layer, which easily detaches. Deflection is not good way of improving drag, in this condition.
Future experiments may be conducted in higher Reynolds range, investigating with more details the possible benefits.
In this experiment, drag measurements were spoiled by balance imprecision at low drag. Further investigations using a
rake at wake may be more valuable, too, allowing more precise evaluations of drag.
Even showing poorer aerodynamic performance than expected, this work achieved preliminary objectives of
constructing a compliant model, dealing with particular issues like actuation system, alignment and geometry quality.
Its expected that experience reported here may serve as initial reference for other compliant mechanism designs.
7. REFERENCES
Abbot, I. H. and von Doenhoff, A. E., 1959, Theory of Wing Sections, Dover Publications, New York, pp. 478-479.
Arruda, A. M. C., Abdalla, A. M. and De Marqui Jr., C, 2010, Numerical and Experimental Investigation and
Optimization of a Morphing Airfoil, Proceeding of the 13th AIAA/ISSMO Multidisciplinary Analysis
Optimization Conference, Fort Worth.
Campanile, L. F., Rose, M. and Breitbach, E. J., 2004, Synthesis of Flexible Mechanisms for Airfoil Shape Control: a
Modal Procedure. Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Adaptive Structures and Technologies, Bar
Harbour.
Giurgiutiu, V., 2001, Actuators and Smart Structures in Encyclopedia of Vibrations, S. G. Braun (Editor-in-Chief),
Academic Press, pp. 58-81.
Good, M. G., 2003, Development of a Variable Camber Compliant Aircraft Tail Using Structural Optimization,
Master thesis submitted to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.
Kota et al., 2009, Mission Adaptive Compliant Wing Design, Fabrication and Flight Test, Proceeding of the RTO
Applied Vehicle Technology Panel, Evora.
Kota, S., Hetrick, J., 2008, Adaptive Compliant Wing and Rotor System, US Patent 7,384,016 B2.
Kudva, J. N., 1999, Overview of the DARPA/AFRL/NASA Smart Wing Program, Proceedings of SPIE Conference
on Industrial and Commercial Applications of Smart Structures Technologies, Newport Beach.

VI I I C o ngr es so N ac io na l de E ng e nhar i a M ec ni ca, 10 a 15 d e a g ost o d e 20 14, U b er l nd i a - M i nas G er a i s

Monner, H. P., Sachau, D. and Breitbach, E., 1999, Design Aspects of the Elastic Trailing Edge for an Adaptive
Wing. Proceeding of the AVT Specialists Meeting on Structural Aspect of Flexible Aircraft Control, Ottawa.
Rutherford, D. and Zeinali, M., Efficiency Trends for New Commercial Jet Aircraft, 1960 to 2008. The International
Council on Clean Transportation. 30 November 2009. The International Council on Clean Transportation. 20
February 2014. http://www.theicct.org/sites/default/files/publications/ICCT_Aircraft_Efficiency_final.pdf
SADE, SADE News, SADE Newsletters. 2010. Smart high Lift Devices for Next Generation Wings. 03 December
2013. http://www.sade-project.eu/documents/SADE_Newsletter_2010_1.1.pdf
Traub, L., W., 2013, Effect of Rapid-Prototyping Airfoil Finish on Loading at Low Reynolds Numbers, Journal of
Aircraft, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 307-311.
Webb, L. D., Mccain, W. E., Rose, L. A, 1988, Measured and Predicted Pressure Distributions on AFTI/F-111 Mission
Adaptive Compliant Wing, NASA Technical Memorandum 100443, Edwards.
8. RESPONSIBILITY NOTICE
The authors are the only responsible for the printed material included in this paper.