Document Type

Conference Proceeding


ASME 2010 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference

Publication Date



Montréal, QC


This manuscript outlines a novel approach to the design of compliant shape-morphing structures using constraint-based design method. Development of robust methods for designing shape-morphing structures is the focus of multiple current research projects, since the ability to modify geometric shapes of the individual system components, such as aircraft wings and antenna reflectors, provides the means to affect the performance of the corresponding mechanical systems. Of particular interest is the utilization of compliant mechanisms to achieve the desired adaptive shape change characteristics. Compliant mechanisms, as opposed to the traditional rigid link mechanisms, achieve motion guidance via the compliance and deformation of the mechanism’s members. The goal is to design a single-piece flexible structure capable of morphing a given curve or profile into a target curve or profile while utilizing the minimum number of actuators. The two primary methods prevalent in the design community at this time are the pseudo-rigid body method (PRBM) and the topological synthesis. Unfortunately these methods either tend to suffer from a poor ability to generate potential solutions (being more suitable for the analysis of existing structures) or are susceptible to overly-complex solutions. By utilizing the constraint-based design method (CBDM) we aim to address those shortcomings. The concept of CBDM has generally been confined to the Precision Engineering community and is based on the fundamental premise that all motions of a rigid body are determined by the position and orientation of the constraints (constraint topology) which are placed upon the body. Any mechanism motion path may then be defined by the proper combination of constraints. In order to apply the CBDM concepts to the design and analysis of shape-morphing compliant structures we propose a tiered design method that relies on kinematics, finite element analysis, and optimization. By discretizing the flexible element that comprises the active shape surface at multiple points in both the initial and the target configurations and treating the resulting individual elements as rigid bodies that undergo a planar or general spatial displacement we are able to apply the traditional kinematics theory to rapidly generate sets of potential solutions. The final design is then established via an FEA-augmented optimization sequence. Coupled with a virtual reality interface and a force-feedback device this approach provides the ability to quickly specify and evaluate multiple design problems in order to arrive at the desired solution.

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