Bistable tape springs are ultrathin fiber-reinforced polymer composites, which could self-deploy through releasing stored strain energy. Strain energy relaxation is observed after long-term stowage of bistable tape springs due to viscoelastic effects and the tape springs might lose their self-deployment abilities. In order to mitigate the viscoelastic effects and thus ensure self-deployment, different tape springs were designed, manufactured, and tested. Deployment experiments show that a four-layer, [−45/0/90/45], plain weave glass fiber tape spring has a high capability to mitigate the strain energy relaxation effects to ensure self-deployment after long-term stowage in a coiled configuration. The two inner layers increase the deployment force and the outer layers are used to generate the bistability. The presented four-layer tape spring can self-deploy after more than six months of stowage at room temperature. A numerical model was used to assess the long-term stowage effects on the deployment capability of bistable tape springs. The experiments and modeling results show that the viscoelastic strain energy relaxation starts after only a few minutes after coiling. The relaxation shear stiffness decreases as the shear strain increases and is further reduced by strain energy relaxation when a constant shear strain is applied. The numerical model and experiments could be applied in design to predict the deployment force of other types of tape springs with viscoelastic and friction effects included.

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