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Advanced concepts for trailing edge morphing wings - Design and manufacturing of test rig and test samples - Test execution

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Simpler, lighter aircraft wings

Certain alloys return to their original shape after being bent. An EU project tested the alloys in aircraft applications, establishing the materials' usefulness for lightweight wing-control actuators.

Industrial Technologies

Aircraft wings contain heavy and complicated machinery for flight-control alteration of the wing surface. A new generation of shape memory alloy (SMA) mechanical actuators offers a simpler, and lighter, alternative. An SMA is a mixture of metals that can be deformed yet will return to its original shape when heated. This ability gives a simple and effective capacity for mechanical movement that could otherwise only be obtained with complicated actuators. The goal of the EU-funded SMYTE project was to design and test a morphing aircraft wing system based on deeply embedded shape memory actuator (DESA) technology. The project also intended to manufacture a working prototype. The activities of the three-member consortium lasted one year, concluding in January 2013. The group initially focused on creation and study of the DESA mechanism, using design/analysis modules allowing accurate simulation of shape memory effects. Hence, the action of the device was modelled, yielding key design parameters and drawings. In addition, SMYTE devised a rig for testing the DESA system and its interface. The experimental rig was supplemented by safety simulations ensuring that DESA movements have no unpredicted effects on wing performance. A DESA prototype was also manufactured and tested. The stage allowed fine-tuning of components, and proved the concept. The team performed a range of mechanical and temperature characterisation tests on the prototype, leading to improvements. The outcome of the SMYTE project has been new, simple and lightweight aircraft wing actuators, which translate into weight savings. That in turn means cost savings, both in fuel and maintenance, with increased reliability and safety.


Aircraft wing, wing-control actuator, shape memory alloy, mechanical actuator, morphing, deeply embedded shape memory actuator, wing performance

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