Published on January 21st, 2014 | by Jo Borrás6
FlexSys’ 1 Piece Wings Improve Fuel Efficiency by 12%
By removing the seams and rivets of conventional airplane wings, the engineers at FlexSys have been able to improve an airplanes’ fuel efficiency by as much as 12% per flight. The Michigan-based company’s seamless, variable geometry airfoil design is called the FlexFoil, and it’s set to be the next big thing in aviation.
According to a 2006 paper co-written by the inventor of the FlexFoil system, mechanical engineer Dr. Sridhar Kota, FlexSys’ new wings are “optimized to resist deflection under significant external aerodynamic loading and are just as stiff and strong as a conventional flap,” which seems to imply that they’ll be able to stand up to the abuse of similarly sized, conventional wings. Indeed, retrofitting FlexFoil wings onto existing planes is part of FlexSys’ business plan.
When retrofitted onto a conventional wing aircraft, FlexFoil can reduce fuel consumption by a claimed 4 to 8%- not the 12% gain available from a “clean sheet” design, but still hugely significant if it’s applied across an entire airline fleet, for example.
It’s all very neat and advanced, of course … but if you’ve ever been to the National Air and Space Museum, FlexSys’ wing might seem a bit familiar.
If you can’t place it, let me spoil it for you: the Wright Brothers used a similar “flexing wing” on their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk way back in 1903. Here’s a quick video from FlexSys, below, that pays tribute to that age-old design, and goes into more detail about how the new-age FlexFoil was built. Enjoy!
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