Toward the design and characterization of a dynamically similar artificial insect wing
Reid, Heidi Elita
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Micro air vehicles (MAVs) are a useful tool for numerous tasks, such as environmental mapping, search and rescue, and military reconnaissance. As MAV applications require them to operate at smaller and smaller length scales, traditional propulsion mechanisms (e.g. fixed wings, rotating propellers) cannot meet these demands. Conversely, flapping wing micro air vehicles (FWMAVs) can to realize flight at sub centimeter-lengths. However, FWMAVs face design challenges that preclude autonomous flight, including inefficient energetics and reliable on-board sensing. A comprehensive understanding of flying insect biomechanics may provide valuable design insights to help overcome the challenges experienced by FWMAVs. Insect wings have biological sensors that provide feedback to control attitude and wing deformation improves both inertial and aerodynamic power economy. Consequently, the insect wing can guide the design FWMAV-employed artificial insect wings. The present work aims to (1) dynamically characterize real insect wings via experimental modal analysis, and (2) develop dynamically similar artificial wings to be used on FWMAVs or in controlled studies. To our knowledge, no existing artificial insect wing models are isospectral and isomodal with respect to their biological counterparts. Isomodality and isospectrality imply they have identical frequency response functions and vibration mode shapes, and thus will deform similarly under realistic flapping conditions. We measured the frequency response function and vibration modes of fresh Manduca sexta forewings using an electrodynamic shaker and planar scanning vibrometer and estimated the wings' mass distribution via a cut-and-weigh procedure. Based upon our results, we designed and constructed the artificial wings using fused filament fabrication to print a polylactic acid vein structure, based upon the actual vein size and arrangement present in biological wings. Thin polymer films were manually layered over the vein structure and trimmed to fit the wing boundaries to produce a flat wing structure. We determined that the biological and artificial wings have nearly identical natural frequencies, damping ratios, gain, and shape for the first vibration mode. The second mode exhibited complex modal behavior previously unreported in literature, which likely has significant implications to flapping wing aerodynamics. We demonstrate the feasibility of fabricating economical, realistic artificial wings for robotic applications moving forward.