Design and Experiment of Triangular Prism Mast with Tape-Spring Hyperelastic Hinges
© The Author(s) 2018
Received: 22 June 2017
Accepted: 17 April 2018
Published: 6 May 2018
Because of the limited space of the launch rockets, deployable mechanisms are always used to solve the phenomenon. One dimensional deployable mast can deploy and support antenna, solar sail and space optical camera. Tape-spring hyperelastic hinges can be folded and extended into a rod like configuration. It utilizes the strain energy to realize self-deploying and drive the other structures. One kind of triangular prism mast with tape-spring hyperelastic hinges is proposed and developed. Stretching and compression stiffness theoretical model are established with considering the tape-spring hyperelastic hinges based on static theory. The finite element model of ten-module triangular prism mast is set up by ABAQUS with the tape-spring hyperelastic hinge and parameter study is performed to investigate the influence of thickness, section angle and radius. Two-module TPM is processed and tested the compression stiffness by the laser displacement sensor, deploying repeat accuracy by the high speed camera, modal shape and fundamental frequency at cantilever position by LMS multi-channel vibration test and analysis system, which are used to verify precision of the theoretical and finite element models of ten-module triangular prism mast with the tape-spring hyperelastic hinges. This research proposes an innovative one dimensional triangular prism with tape-spring hyperelastic hinge which has great application value to the space deployable mechanisms.
Conventional articulated truss structures are composed of mechanical hinges which can meet accuracy and stiffness requires of space mission. But those structures have some disadvantages, such as large weight, high friction and energy-wasting features. Tape-spring hyperelastic (TSH) hinges, which are folded elastically can self-deploy by releasing stored strain energy, which consist of a fewer component parts, can be manufactured conveniently [1, 2]. Flexible hinges have several advantages for space applications, including a low mass-to-deployed-stiffness ratio, cost, and self-latch . With the increasing demand, flexible hinges have been widely used as folding and deployment mechanisms in deployable structures, such as synthetic aperture radars (SARs) [4–6], solar arrays and antenna booms. Tape-spring hinges have been used in the Japanese Mars orbiter PLANT-B for bar-like deployment structures of the thermal plasma analyzer [7–9].
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)  used TSH hinge in the main truss’s folding longeron elements, which provided considerable snap-through force to drive and lock the main truss. Imperial College London Santer  proposed a concertina-folded magnetometer boom with TSH hinges for CubeSat use. Watt et al.  proposed a TSH hinge with two sets of wheels held together by wires wrapped around them, and deploying impact is reduced for the added damp. The Mars Advanced Radar Express spacecraft [13, 14] consisted of two 20 m dipoles and a 7 m monopole which were slotted at certain intervals to stow them in a much small size. Silver et al.  proposed an integral folding hinge to deploy camera and investigated axial loading, bending induced buckling response. Schioler et al. and Seffen et al. [16, 17] analyzed buckling properties of single layer TSH hinge based on Timoshenko theory. Seffen et al.  got sample points by finite element method and obtained fitting nonlinear mechanical models by single value decomposition method of TSH hinge. Guan et al. [19, 20] designed a TSH hinge for solar sail and investigated its buckling properties by finite element method. Bai et al. , Yan et al. , Wang et al.  investigated geometrical and mechanical properties of ultra-thin-walled lenticular collapsible composite tube in fold deformation. Yang et al. [24, 25] optimized the geometric parameters of TSH hinge to improve driving moment and reduce deploying impact, and established two different theoretical models to analyze the stability of deployment status for the TSH hinges. However, there are still some engineering problems for the TSH hinge applying to a deployable mechanism.
This paper proposed a new ten-module triangular prism mast (TPM) with TSH hinges. Static bending stiffness and compression stiffness theoretical models are established. The compression stiffness tests are performed to verify the accuracy of the static theoretical models of the TPM. Finite element model of ten-module TPM are establish by ABAQUS and geometrical parameter study are analyzed for bending and twisted modal frequencies. Two-module TPM is developed to test the fundamental frequencies and related modal shapes which are used to verify the accuracy of the ten-module TPM (Additional file 1).
2 Design and Static Analysis
2.1 Structures Design
The TSH hinge folded with 180°, the two triangular frame close to each other, and three longitudinal links folded between the two triangular frames when the mast stowed. The tape-spring drive the mast to deploy. After deploying, the TSH hinge restore original shape, the Kevlar ropes tensile and the TPM was rigidified to a structure.
2.2 Static Analysis
Bending stiffness analysis has been analyzed in Ref. . Thus, stretching stiffness and compression stiffness will be derived in this paper.
2.2.1 Stretching Stiffness
2.2.2 Compression Stiffness
The compression stiffness is only related to the rope stiffness E r A r and initial angle β0.
3 Deploying State Modal Analysis
3.1 Modal Analysis
Due to nonlinear characteristics of the TSH hinge modal analysis of the TPM is performed by ABAQUS. In finite element model x-axis is along direction of transverse link, y-axis is along longitudinal link and z-axis points from section center of transverse links to point of the other two transverse links. Materials of the TSH hinge, rigid link, transverse link and rope are Ni36CrTiAl, stainless steel, aluminum alloy and Kevlar respectively. Longitudinal link, transverse link and the TSH hinge are set up with four nodes that are fully integrated to reduce shell elements (S4R). Rope is modeled by two nodes and three dimensional elements (T3D2). Weld is defined to model connection between ropes and transverse links. Reference point (RP) is established at each joint which are given mass and inertial properties. Multi-point coupling is applied to model the connection of transverse links. The joint hinges are modeled by defining Hinge connection. Contact of tape springs are modeled by defining Tie constraint.
Five order mode frequencies and mode shape description of the ten-module TPM with TSH hinges
3.2 Parameter Study
Frequencies of ten-module TPM under different thicknesses
Thickness t (mm)
Variable quantity δ (%)
Frequencies of ten-module TPM under different tape central angles
Angle φ ()°
Variable quantity δ (%)
Frequencies of ten-module TPM under different radiuses
Radius R (mm)
Variable quantity δ (%)
Frequencies of ten-module TPM under different separations
Separation s e (mm)
Variable quantity δ (%)
It can be concluded that geometric parameters have greater influence on bend stiffness than twist stiffness. Sensitivity of the geometric parameter is from large to small as follows: thickness, central angle, radius and separation. What’s more, front three parameters have enhanced effect on bend stiffness and the last one has induced effect.
4 Experiment Investigation
4.1 Two-module TPM
Two adjacent units triangular prism mast are closed to each other by locating pins and fastened to a work holder by a rope when it is folded. At this time, the longitudinal links are stowed into the prism frames and tension ropes are located to grooves. After releasing the tension ropes, the triangular prism mast is deploying by the driving of the TSH hinges. Spherical wheels support the mast to reduce the influence of gravity.
4.2 Compression Stiffness Test
Compress load and displacement for the two-modulus TPM
It can be calculated that experimental compression stiffness is 2.324 × 106 N/m and theoretical value is 2.167 × 106 N/m. Relative error between the experimental and theoretical value is 7.08%. The main reason for the phenomenon is that equivalent stiffness of the TSH hinges is much smaller, contact stiffness between the tape springs should be considered.
4.3 Deploying Repeat Accuracy Test
Longitudinal displacement for five times deployment
Based on longitudinal displacement for five times deploying test standard deviation of the experimental value is 1.688 mm. Thus, deploying repeat accuracy is 1.688 mm.
4.4 Modal Analysis of Cantilever Position
Modal test results for the two-modulus TPM at cantilever position
Frequency f (Hz)
Comparison between modal test and simulation results for the two-modulus TPM at cantilever position
The experimental and theoretical compression stiffness static models are 2.324 × 106 N/m and theoretical value is 2.167 × 106 N/m. It verifies the accuracy of the static theoretical models.
Geometric parameters have greater influence on bend stiffness than twist stiffness. Sensitivity of the geometric parameter is from large to small as follows: thickness, central angle, radius and separation.
The deploying repeat accuracy of the two-module TPM is 1.688 mm which is tested by the high-speed camera.
The veracity of the finite element model of the ten-module TPM at cantilever position is validated by modal test of the two-module TPM. The first fundamental frequency of the ten-module TPM is 2.561 Hz and the corresponding mode shape is bending.
H-WG and R-QL was in charge of the whole trial; HY wrote the manuscript; YW and ML assisted with sampling and laboratory analysis. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.
Hui Yang, born in 1986, is currently a lecturer at College of Electrical Engineering and Automation, Anhui University, Hefei, China. She got the doctor degree from Harbin Institute of Technology, China, in 2015. Her research interest includes deployable mechanism, membrane antenna, triangular rollable and collapsible boom, tape-spring hyperelastic hinge, multiobjective optimization design, deployment dynamics and finite element analysis. E-mail: email@example.com.
Hong-Wei Guo, born in 1980, is currently an associate professor at Harbin Institute of Technology, China. His main research interest includes space manipulator system vibration control, large deployable structure and energy absorber optimization. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yan Wang, born in 1986, is currently a senior engineer at China Electronics Technology Group Corporation No.38 Research, Hefei, China. His research interest includes configuration synthesis and design of deployable truss structures. E-mail: email@example.com.
Rong-Qiang Liu, born in 1965, is currently a professor at Harbin Institute of Technology, China. His main research interest includes wearing robot, military civil power robot and large deployable structure research. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meng Li, born in 1985, is currently a senior engineer at Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Space Technology, China Academy of Space Technology. He got the doctor degree from Harbin Institute of Technology in 2013. His main research interest includes the optimization design of energy-absorber structures, impact dynamics and finite element method. E-mail: email@example.com.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate
Supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51605001), Joint Funds of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. U1637207), and Anhui University Research Foundation for Doctor (Grant No. J01003222).
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