April 15, 2018

Fiber-reinforced plastic with differentiated stiffness

The Flectofin is a hingeless flapping apparatus inspired by the deformation principle found in the plant Strelitzia reginae, a flowering plant native to South Africa. The plant’s valvular pollination mechanism exhibits nonautonomous movement, inspiring Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design researchers to investigate the fundamental underlying principles responsible for the plant’s mechanical behavior. The scientists’ abstracted model, composed of glass fiber and thermoset resin, reveals a flexible mechanism at the root of the deformation.

Unlike the hinged mechanisms traditionally employed in industry, Flectofin exhibits elastic deflection without the need for an assemblage of sensitive mechanical elements. The system takes advantage of fiber-reinforced polymers, which have a low stiffness to strength ratio. The glass reinforcing fibers are light transmitting, weather resistant, and inexpensive compared with carbon fibers. Flectofin also features a variation in fabric layers, reducing the amount of material toward the lamella edge to distribute loads over a wide area while minimizing local stress concentrations.

Contact: University of Stuttgart ITKE, Stuttgart, Germany.

For more information, see Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future

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