Birds have the ability to sense the shape of their wings during flight. This allows them to react to the aerodynamics and to improve their flying behaviour. Research into robotics currently draws inspiration from sensing in nature to create bio-inspired robots that have more capabilities and are more energy efficient.
In previous work we studied 3D-printing of carbon-fiber reinforced beams as part of the PortWings project (http://www.portwings.eu/), where the carbon fibers can simultaneously be used for their structural and their sensing properties. Although we proved this ability and identified some design choices and trade-offs, research is still required to properly design and fabricate these self-sensing structures for applications in robotics. The future vision in this line of research is to 3D-print self-sensing structures as combined structural and sensing element for the wings of a robotic bird.
Therefore the goal of this assignment is to design, fabricate and study these 3D-printed, carbon-fiber reinforced beams for applying them in a flapping wing. Since there are still a lot of research questions, there is some flexibility in finding a suitable research question. In all cases the student is asked to:
- Study and model the electrical and mechanical properties of carbon-fiber reinforced structures
- Design and manufacture self-sensing structures by means of a 3D-printer (the Anisoprint A4 printer, with composite fiber co-extrusion)
- Characterize fibers and structures through experiments and analysis