Variable geometry wing-box: toward a robotic morphing wing.
The ability to vary the geometry of a wing to adapt to different flight conditions can significantly improve the performance of an aircraft. However, the realization of any morphing concept will typically be accompanied by major challenges. Specifically, the geometrical constraints that are imposed by the shape of the wing and the
magnitude of the air and inertia loads make the usage of conventional mechanisms inefficient for morphing applications. Such restrictions have served as inspirations for the design of a modular morphing concept, referred to as the Variable Geometry Wing-box (VGW).
The design for the VGW is based on a novel class of reconfigurable robots referred to as Parallel Robots with Enhanced Stiffness (PRES) which are presented in this dissertation. The underlying feature of these robots is the efficient exploitation of redundancies in parallel manipulators. There have been three categories identified in the literature to classify redundancies in parallel manipulators: 1) actuation redundancy, 2) kinematic redundancy, and 3) sensor redundancy. A fourth category is introduced here, referred to as 4) static redundancy. The latter entails several advantages traditionally associated only with actuation redundancy, most significant of which is enhanced stiffness and static characteristics, without any form of actuation redundancy. Additionally, the PRES uses the available redundancies to 1) control more Degrees of Freedom (DOFs) than there are actuators in the system, that is, under-actuate, and 2) provide multiple degrees of fault tolerance. Although the majority of the presented work has been tailored to accommodate the VGW, it can be applied to any comparable system, where enhanced stiffness or static characteristics may be desired without actuation redundancy.
In addition to the kinematic and the kinetostatic analyses of the PRES, which are developed and presented in this dissertation along with several case-studies, an optimal motion control algorithm for minimum energy actuation is proposed. Furthermore, the optimal configuration design for the VGW is studied. The optimal configuration design problem is posed in two parts: 1) the optimal limb configuration, and 2) the optimal topological configuration. The former seeks the optimal design of the kinematic joints and links, while the latter seeks the minimal compliance solution to their placement within the design space. In addition to the static and kinematic criteria required for reconfigurability, practical design considerations such as fail-safe requirements and design for minimal aeroelastic impact have been included as constraints in the optimization process. The effectiveness of the proposed design, analysis, and optimization is demonstrated through simulation and a multi-module reconfigurable prototype.