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A Soft Robotic Technique for Camber Morphing Airfoils

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[Technical Report, Technical Report]

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Bennett Aerospace, Inc

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The field of soft robotics strives to create compliant machines from soft, elastic materials. While many of these machines are inspired by nature and intended for human applications, the techniques can also be applied to aerodynamics. One such technique, pneumatic networks, uses a series of inflatable channels to create a bending motion. In this report, two such actuators are printed to form a bidirectional, camber morphing trailing-edge flap. Airframe morphing concepts must balance competing requirements of flexibility to morph with stiffness needed to bear the aerodynamic load. This is accomplished by using air pressure as a working fluid the relative pressure between the two chambers determines the camber of the airfoil while the total pressure in both chambers determines the overall stiffness. New piezoelectric-based pneumatic valves have transformed the typical binary pneumatic actuator into a continuous one. This enabling technology allows rapid pressure control, which in turn enables rapid deflection and stiffness modulation that could apply to airframe control, vibration dampening, or load alleviation applications. This report covers the design, manufacturing, and benchtop evaluation of a pneumatic network-based camber morphing airfoil and attempts to gain an initial understanding of the deflection, force output, stiffness modulation, and load-carrying capacity.

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[A, Approved For Public Release]