- How to Use
is a simple, free software program that runs within your web browser.
Use it to find the correct dimensions when you design an ornithopter
1. You may need
to download a Java
plug-in to run FlapDesign in your web browser.
2. Once you
run the program, you will see the FlapDesign interface. This consists
of several boxes, where you can type in the dimensions of your flapping
mechanism, and several control buttons. First, we'll look at the
three buttons on the lower right.
three buttons are built-in examples. When you click one of the buttons,
the dimensions for the appropriate mechanism will be displayed in
the boxes, and you will see a front view of the mechanism in the
area below the interface. You can use the examples to familiarize
yourself with the program before typing your own dimensions.
The examples represent three general types of ornithopter mechanisms.
However, the dimensions
were taken from actual designs. Below,
I've described the three ornithopters and how their mechanisms differ.
- The Ornithopter Zone's Phoenix flapping-wing model kit.
Here, the wings are hinged near the center of the ornithopter,
and the connecting rods attach to the wings farther out from
the center. (more info)
Bird - The classic flying bird toy from France. The wing
hinge points are spaced apart from each other, and the connecting
rods come up between the wing hinge points instead of
on the outside. (more info)
Iggle - Lawrence Conover's classic design from May 1957
Model Airplane News. This ornithopter has a non-flapping portion
in the center of the wing, and the levers that flap the two
outer wing panels come down on either side of the crank.
5. If you click
the "Animate" button, the crank will move through one
full rotation. You can also reposition the crank by dragging your
mouse. The color-coded numbers on the diagram reveal the angle of
each wing and (in lighter colors) the angle between the connecting
rod and the wing lever.
6. Click the
"Plot" button to display a graph of wing angle as the
crank rotates. The red and blue curves correspond to the color-coded
wings in the front view diagram. The lower graph, in lighter colors,
shows the connecting rod angles.
You can enter your own numbers in the fields at the top of the page.
After each entry, click "Display mechanism" to show the
1 radius: This is the radius of the first crank arm.
2 arm: If your design has a double crank, like Phoenix, this is
the distance from the first crank arm to the second one. For single
crank designs this is set to zero.
1 angle: This is the position of the crank at any given moment.
You can reposition the crank either by dragging it with your mouse
or by changing this number.
2 bend angle: This is the angle to the second crank arm.
The distance between wing hinge points.
The vertical distance between the crank center of rotation and
the wing hinge points.
The distance between the wing hinge point and the connecting rod
offset: The angle between the wing spar and the lever that flaps
the wing. Changing this does not affect the operation of the mechanism
but it directly affects the wing postion.
The length of the connecting rod.
Some dimensions may require a negative sign. Load the appropriate
sample mechanism to see how to set up the particular type of mechanism
you want to study.
If the connecting rods are too short or too long, the mechanism
may not fit together properly. The program cannot correctly render
such mechanisms. To avoid mechanical problems in real mechanisms,
try to keep the connecting rod angles between 30 and 150 degrees.
4. Change the
scale setting if you want to work in centimeters or if your mechanism
won't fit in the display window. When set to "inches 100%",
the actual scale is 72 pixels per inch, which may not be actual
size on your particular monitor. Using a graphics editing program,
you can print screen snapshots at 72 pixels per inch for an actual
size representation of your mechanism.
5. The "Plot"
button is useful if you want to look at timing differences between
the two wings. If the wing plots are close together, the flapping
motion will be symmetrical. The graph of connecting rod angle shows
how the mechanical advantage varies throughout the stroke.
6. Biplane and
tandem ornithopters are not supported. You'll have to model the
upper and lower wings separately. Use a graphics editing program
to superimpose the wing angle plots.