Commercial aircraft today require efficient high-lift and control systems on the wings to reduce the drag in flight or decrease the take-off and landing speeds. Morphing mechanisms are one approach for improved high-lift systems. In most cases the objective function is an increased lift to drag ratio or the noise reduction. On closer examination control systems as well as morphing mechanisms are located in a certain wing segment. The transition between a moving wing part and the fixed wing is a step, which creates additional vortices. This segments the wing in span-wise direction and reduces the efficiency. A flexible skin between a moving and a fixed wing parts smooths the contour and minimize the efficiency reduction of the wing. A full scale demonstrator of a wing segment was manufactured with two flexible skin designs.
The first subcomponent connects a morphing leading edge with a rib of the wing over a span of one meter. The skin is a material mix of ethylene-propylene-diene monomer (EPDM) rubber and fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The rubber is the basis of the skin and the glass-fiber is added as local skin stiffeners in the form of strips in chord-wise direction. The second subcomponent blends the aileron with a rib of the wing in a triangular design. The connection of three different hinges realizes a morphing triangle, which is loaded in an in-plane shear only state of stress in each aileron position. The core of the triangle is a 3D printed structure, which is free in shear. The covering skin is a combination of EPDM with carbon fibers oriented in +/−30° direction to obtain shear compliance and to resist the loads on the triangle.
The deformation of each concept is identified at the demonstrator. Therefore, an optical measurement system scans the surface in the initial and deflected state. The required deformation precision of the concepts differs due to their design. The contour at the leading edge requires a certain shape over the span. The analysis of the skin buckling is one requirement at the transition triangle during the aileron motion.
The experimental results show a smooth transition contour at the leading edge and no buckling effects at the triangle. The results can be used for the validation of simulation models. Furthermore, both skin concepts cover the gap between a moving wing segment and a fixed wing part. The elimination of steps in span-wise direction can improve the aero-acoustic behavior along the wing for future aircraft.