3D-Printed Bat Wing May Guide the Future of Aircraft Design
Kyle.Maxey posted on February 26, 2013 |
Bat, Brown, transducer, flight, airforce, aircraft, design
Unlike most aircraft, a bat’s wing is in constant motion when in flight. Researchers at Brown University are looking to this motion to influence the future of aircraft design.

To better understand how the bat’s wing moves, members of the Brown Swartz Lab have 3D printed a model of the lesser dog faced fruit bat’s wing and added a force transducer to its base. When placed inside a wind tunnel, the robot’s three servo motors control the model’s seven joints and the transducer records the aerodynamic forces acting on the wing.

According to Joseph Bahlman, a grad student at the Swartz Lab, this experiment allows researcher greater insights into how bat’s move, which would otherwise have been impossible. “ We can’t ask a bat to flap at a frequency of eight hertz then raise it to nine hertz so we can see what difference that makes,” Bahlman said. “They don’t really cooperate that way.”

Bahlman continues, “We can answer questions like, ‘Does increasing wing beat frequency improve lift and what’s the energetic cost of doing that?... We can directly measure the relationship between these kinematic parameters, aerodynamic forces, and energetics.”

But how will understanding flapping motions help the future of aircraft?

Brown researchers, funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, are pushing the boundaries of how a wing is capable of behaving. Even now the Air Force is looking into creating small flapping wing aircraft.

Watch and Explaination of the Swartz Lab Research:

Images and Video Courtesy of Brown University 

Recommended For You