Facility for the Characterization of Inflatable Drop Stitch Fabric Panels

D. G. Taggart and G. Tsiatas
University of Rhode Island, United States

Keywords: inflatable, drop stitch, lightweight

Inflatable drop stitch panels offer the potential for lightweight, portable and rapidly deployable structural components for a variety of DOD, aerospace and civilian applications. Drop stitch panels are constructed from pairs of woven fabric skins which, through specialized weaving processes, are tied together by drop stitches. After coating the skins with a polymer coating, the panels are inflated to provide remarkable stiffness and load carrying capacity. Successful implementation of these structures, however, requires the development and validation of a material database and design methodologies for these novel structures. A recent ONR DURIP award provides funds to establish an experimental facility to characterize both the constituent skin and drop stitch materials as well as inflated panel structures. This facility will include a 50 kN wide frame electro-mechanical load frame, a planar biaxial test system, a 3D digital image correlation system configured for monitoring the bending deformation of panel structures and ancillary equipment for deformation measurement and support frame construction. The facility will provide critical data needed for the development of reliable numerical and analytic models for use in designing and deploying high performance inflatable structures.