Nature has many striking examples of adaptive structures: the emulation of birds’ flight is the true challenge of a morphing wing. The integration of increasingly innovative technologies, such as reliable kinematic mechanisms, embedded servo-actuation and smart materials systems, enables us to realize new structural systems fully compatible with the more and more stringent airworthiness requirements. In this paper, the authors describe the characterization of an adaptive structure, representative of a wing trailing edge, consisting of a finger-like rib mechanism with a highly deformable skin, which comprises both soft and stiff parts. The morphing skin is able to follow the trailing edge movement under repeated cycles, while being stiff enough to preserve its shape under aerodynamic loads and adequately pliable to minimize the actuation power required for morphing. In order to properly characterize the system, a mock-up was manufactured whose structural properties, in particular the ability to carry out loads, were also guaranteed by the elastic skin. A numerical sensitivity analysis with respect to the mechanical properties of the multi-segment skin was performed to investigate their influence on the modal response of the whole system. Experimental dynamic tests were then carried out and the obtained results were critically analysed to prove the adequacy of the adopted design approaches as well as to quantify the dissipative (high-damping) effects induced by the rubber foam on the dynamic response of the morphing architecture.
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