Flapping Mechanism Design Completed and Manufacturing is Underway


After eight months of brainstorming and analysis, the details of the final design for a new flapping flight mechanism have all been decided. The new design is necessary for upcoming experiments to optimize wing paths of ladybugs.

The design also incorporates the scope of further flapping flight projects, and was designed specifically to be versatile for years to come.


In January 2010 Dr. Scott Thomson, Dr. Chris Mattson, Dr. Mark Colton, Ryan George, and Mike Tree met to improve on the design of the current flapping flight mechanism. Though the previous mechanism met the needs for a single wing analysis in still oil, it was troubled by frequent repairs and sometimes shaky motion.


Brainstorming began immediately, focusing on achieving range of motion, real-life scaling, and ease of control. Numerous four-bar linkage ideas were discussed, but a differential concept was finally used. The differential concept meets all the needs for the experiment and keeps all electronics from waterproofing difficulties. This compact design also allows for the mechanism size to be similar to that of a common finch – a design goal.


The core of this solution is the three bevel gears, and they behave much like the rear differential in one's car. Unlike a car, though, the middle gear is exposed to a shaft that mounts the wing. As the worm gears in the rear rotate via motors controlled from a mounting plate above the pitch and roll of the wing satisfy their range of motion requirements. The entire mechanism is then attached to a central shaft which achieves optimal yaw.


In order to validate the design the team invested in a rapid prototype of the more intricate parts. Simpler parts were machined by team members, and all came together a few weeks later. This prototype gave solid proof of concept, and even shocked some team members upon arrival. “It looked so big in the CAD model,” Mike Tree said. After the team was fully confident that the design will work perfectly it was sent to the BYU Precision Machining Lab.


The lab has since returned the completed mechanism and the team is machining other aspects of the system in order to collect data before a November conference. “It's stressful because of the deadline, but satisfying to see something we designed come to life,” Tree commented.