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A rotary joint for a flapping wing actuated by dielectric elastomers: design and experiment

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Exhibiting high energy densities, light weight, and elegant form factor, dielectric elastomers are poised as a promising alternative to the driving of flying robots. A rotary joint for a flapping wing actuated by a dielectric elastomer minimum energy actuation mechanism is reported. The deformation process and characteristics of the dielectric elastomer during joint rotation are analyzed, and the DE film will warp like saddle surface. The geometry parameter of the rotary joint will influence voltage-induced strain of DE film, and the natural frequency will restrict dynamics performance of the joint. Additionally, experimental results validate the characteristic of above saddle surface and the influence principle. A rotary joint and a flapping wing prototype were fabricated to validate design principles, demonstrating the design principles can be used to this kind of dielectric elastomer joint and flapping wing.

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This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51205076), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 2013M541359), Aerospace Foundation (Grant No. 2013-HT-HGD04) and China Scholarship Council.

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Correspondence to Jianwen Zhao.

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Zhao, J., Niu, J., McCoul, D. et al. A rotary joint for a flapping wing actuated by dielectric elastomers: design and experiment. Meccanica 50, 2815–2824 (2015).

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