Ridge Corporation Teams With FlexSys, Inc. to Advance Aerodynamic Technology


PATASKALA, Ohio , June 28, 2017 (Newswire.com) - n June 16, 2017, Ridge Corporation teamed with aerospace technology company FlexSys Inc. to apply their advanced technology to aerodynamic devices used in the trucking industry to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency. FlexSys, a Michigan-based company, has been developing advanced aircraft wing technologies with the Air Force Research Laboratories for the past 16 years and has validated their concepts through ongoing NASA flight tests on a Gulfstream business jet (See video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvlucywvtd4). The patented technology involves variable-geometry control surface mechanisms that use the inherent flexibility of aerospace materials to continuously reshape optimal aerodynamic profiles.  

“Ridge’s goal is to incorporate this new technology as a complement to our own engineering expertise and our ability to quickly move new technologies to market”, said Ridge Corporation’s CEO Gary Grandominico. The two companies have agreed to join forces to combine the latest aerospace technologies with the real-world requirements of the trucking industry. “We have found a strong partner in Ridge Corporation and are looking forward to applying our technology to the field of truck aerodynamics,” said FlexSys COO Dave Hornick. The team’s goal is to produce resilient, low-complexity, cost-effective devices that improve fuel saving over currently available technologies.

About Ridge Corporation:
Ridge Corporation was incorporated in 2004 by Gary Grandominico, Ray McDonald and Dominic Grandominico to provide the transportation industry with engineered solutions backed by sound manufacturing processes. Ridge’s advanced materials solutions have been continuously improved by materials R&D, investment in human resources, and the development of advanced manufacturing systems. Ridge prides itself on giving its customers an edge in materials performance day after day.

Ridge Corporation, an Ohio based company, uses advanced materials to produce engineered solutions for multiple industries including all modes of freight transport. Using high performance materials coupled with proprietary manufacturing techniques, Ridge delivers a wide variety of design solutions that not only meet, but often exceed, customers’ expectations.

More about Ridge Corporation at www.ridgecorp.com

FlexSys Founder to Receive 2017 Distinguished University Innovator Award (UPDATED WITH VIDEO)

On May 15, Professor Sridhar Kota will receive the Distinguished University Innovator Award from the University of Michigan Office of Research. He is being recognized for an approach to engineering design that has led to the invention, development, flight-testing and commercialization of shape adaptive aircraft wings. This award honors university faculty who have made important and lasting contributions to society by developing novel ideas and insights through their research, and then translating them to practice.

More on the award and the full article can be found here.

UPDATE 6/29/2017

Watch Dr. Kota's full speech:

FlexSys Featured in Professional Boatbuilder Magazine

The October/November 2016 issue Professional BoatBuilder magazine featured FlexSys technology in an article describing the ways that new technologies in aviation can be used in the boatbuilding industry. In particular, the author notes that the wing morphing technology used in aerospace applications can be applied to trim tab planes on boat hulls, which can control attitude of the hull with less sacrifice in drag than conventional trim tabs. From the article:

On some boats, rigid trim-tab planes hang off the transom below the waterline; on others, the tabs are recessed into the hull bottom, but when fully retracted they typically are flush with the adjacent surface, or slightly above parallel when transom hung. A flexible hull surface that could become concave might be more fuel efficient in producing bow-down attitude than dropping a recessed or transom-mounted trim plane into the water below the hull.

About Professional Boatbuilder magazine

Professional BoatBuilder magazine is written and edited for boatbuilders, repairers, designers, and surveyors. Published six times a year, by WoodenBoat Publications, Inc., it focuses on materials, design, and construction techniques and repair solutions chosen by marine professionals. Regular technical articles provide detailed, real-world examples to improve the efficiency and quality of their work. Professional BoatBuilder has an audited circulation of 24,000 readers, worldwide.

See more of Professional BoatBuilder at www.proboat.com

Full article available for download here (PDF opens in new window)

Aviation Partners-FlexSys Goes Public With Morphing Wing Technology Demonstrator

After several years of technology development and full-scale flight testing, the engineers at FlexSys Inc. in Ann Arbor have crafted a new FlexFoil™ morphing technology demonstrator wing that was unveiled at the 2016 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention in Orlando, FL. The effort is in support of their new joint venture with Aviation Partners Inc., Aviation Partners FlexSys (APF) and demonstrates that the technology is ready for application-specific design for commercial and military use.

Aviation Partners Inc. provided the team at FlexSys a wing that was custom-made to be retrofitted with FlexFoil™ technology. The resulting demonstrator wing has 4 active control surfaces that enable high-lift, roll-control, load alleviation, and leading edge droop and de-icing.  It highlights the smooth camber (curvature) change possible with the FlexFoil™ technology. Each of the 4 surfaces provide performance benefits, whether it be through drag reduction, weight reduction, load control, or improved lift distribution.

A load allevation surface deploys on the trailing edge of the winglet

 “The demonstrator shows the technology capability, such that APF and partnering manufacturers can determine which FlexFoil™ surface to design for a particular aircraft platform” explains Greg Ervin the FlexSys Program Manager.   The APF joint venture is planning to have the first commercial aircraft retrofit through Critical Design Review in 12-18 months.  


The demonstrator under construction


FlexSys wins JEC Composites Innovation Award in Design



JEC Group, the world’s largest organization exclusively dedicated to the composites industry, has announced the ten winners of its prestigious 2016 JEC Americas Innovation Awards program. The ceremony will take place during the 5 th annual JEC Americas Composites Show and Conferences at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Category: DESIGN
Winner: FlexSys Inc. (USA)
Name of Product or Process: Compliant design technology and software for product designers of the future

Description: By using compliant design expertise and methods, FlexSys was able to design a single-piece wiper arm and blade that costs less and both outlasts and outperforms traditional metal assemblies. A composite thermoplastic of 30%-glass-filled PBT was determined to have the required properties and characteristics to meet the demands and provide the necessary strength/stiffness ratio. The single-piece moulded design eliminates 11 parts along with the associated assembly, weighs half as much, and costs only 1/3 as much as the legacy design.

Bob Schartow with FlexSys' JEC Innovation Award

Bob Schartow with FlexSys' JEC Innovation Award

Unlike the traditional hinged blade, this wiper provides constant spring pressure to the blade through each of its arms. However, the difficulty in development was that current 3D modelling programs were not up to the task, as they design using rigid members and linkages. In compliant design, the elasticity of materials must be embraced and used to create motion. To surmount this obstacle, FlexSys is developing unique software called FlexWorks™, with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation.

This software allows the input of desired motions and magnitudes, and will run through thousands of iterations to find one to most closely fit the given criteria. It considers the maximum stress/strain capability of the material in each iteration so as not to exceed it. The output provides the required thickness variation throughout each bending member. It will also show the new compliant mechanism in motion, bending, and displaying a stress analysis. The final design can be changed in the edit mode and re-evaluated, then saved in a file to 3D print or import to Solidworks, Ansys, etc. FlexSys believes the software could eventually become a module available in 3D modelling programs. The first ever public view and alpha release of the software will be available in the JEC Atlanta demo zone.

The advancement of composite injection moulding materials will fuel the future of compliant structures. Additives such as carbon fibres and nanotechnologies can increase the strength/flexibility ratio, allowing for higher load applications with greater fatigue-free travel. More compliant design concepts can be seen in the demo zone, including applications in the automotive, medical, robotics and prosthetics fields.

About the JEC Innovation Awards

"The American market has traditionally been pioneer in the composites industry both in terms of manufacturing and innovation. The US is a strategic geography for the global composites market as it represents around a third of its value” said Mrs. Frédérique Mutel, JEC Group President and CEO. “The JEC Innovation Awards Program reflects these observations that are also crossmatched by the variety of applications we received from America, Asia, Europe and even Oceania” Nicolas Baudry, JEC Americas Director adds. For this year’s award’s program, winners in categories such Design, Testing, Biocomposites, Aeronautics, Transportation, Automotive, E-Mobility, Process and Sports & Leisure will be celebrated.

The JEC Innovation Awards ceremony will highlight 10 innovators and will take place on May 4 at 4:15 pm at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta

All exhibitors, visitors and journalists are welcome to attend the ceremony.

The JEC Innovation Awards Program is supported by JEC Composites Magazine and Aviation Week.


Full Press Release (PDF)

Aviation Partners' Joe Clark Receives 2015 NBAA Meritorious Aviation Service Award

Aviation Partners founder Joe Clark joins hands with FlexSys founder Sridhar Kota

Aviation Partners founder Joe Clark joins hands with FlexSys founder Sridhar Kota

Aviation Partner's Joe Clark was honored by the National Business Aviation Association with the 2015 Meritorious Aviation Service Award for his contributions to Aviation. The award was presented at the 2015 NBAA Conference on November 17 in Las Vegas, NV where FlexSys' joint venture with Aviation Partners was also announced.

This video was shown at the awards presentation featuring several living legends of aviation whose lives have been touched by Joe Clark.

From NBAA's press release:

Aerospace innovator Joe Clark is the chairman and CEO of Aviation Partners, Inc. (API) and chairman of the Aviation Partners Boeing joint venture. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in the fuel-saving and performance-enhancing technology of blended winglets.

Together, with entrepreneur Dennis Washington, Clark cofounded API in 1991 to develop and market winglet modifications for business and commercial aircraft. In its 25 years, API has supplied blended winglets to thousands of aircraft, including the Gulfstream II, Boeing Business Jet, several types of Boeing airliners, the Hawker 800 and 800XP and several Falcon Jet models. Worldwide, API’s winglets have saved an estimated 5 billion gallons of fuel.

“Joe Clark is an aviation visionary and a true entrepreneur,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “In founding API, he brought together the brightest minds in aerospace engineering and helped develop advanced technology to improve aircraft performance and minimize aviation’s impact on the environment.”

Clark’s passion for aviation began while still in college, when he started flying lessons. In 1964, a friend, Clay Lacy, invited Clark to travel to the Reno Air Races aboard a Learjet. In 1966, Clark founded Jet Air, the first Learjet dealership in the Northwest and was named vice president of sales for aircraft modification specialist Raisbeck Engineering. In 1981, he cofounded regional carrier Horizon Air, which later became part of Alaska Airlines. In 1986, he founded Avstar, Inc., a system to market business aircraft previously used for military training.

When Clark founded API, the company’s first project was developing blended winglet technology for the Gulfstream II, which increased the aircraft’s range, speed and fuel efficiency.

“We’re proud to recognize Joe Clark with NBAA’s highest honor, the Meritorious Service to Aviation Award,” said Bolen. “Like past recipients, his achievements have advanced the technology of flight.”

The Meritorious Service to Aviation Award celebrates extraordinary lifelong professional contributions to aviation. For decades, it has been presented to individuals who built the aviation industry, including business aviation.

Full press release

Aviation Partners FlexSys to Commercialize Wing Morphing Technology

Las Vegas, November 16, 2015… On the eve of the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition two world leaders, one in advanced winglet technology and the other in shape-adaptive structures, announce they are entering into a joint venture. Seattle, Washington based Aviation Partners, Inc. is in the final stages of forming a JV with FlexSys, Inc. of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The new company, Aviation Partners FlexSys (APF), is being founded to commercialize the patented ‘wing morphing’ technology which FlexSys, Inc. has been working on since its formation in 2000. FlexSys’ FlexFoil™ variable geometry control surface mechanisms were recently test flown on a Gulfstream business jet.

“With over 6,300 shipsets of Blended Winglets in-service Aviation Partners has a long history of success when it comes to certification and marketing of performance improvements for business and commercial aviation,” said Joe Clark, API Founder and CEO, “We are excited to write a new chapter in aerodynamic design through the formation of this JV with Dr. Kota and his FlexSys team.” 

FlexFoil™ variable geometry surface mechanisms leverage the natural flexibility of aerospace-grade materials to continuously reshape the external form. The proprietary internal joint-less skeletal configuration of the system is optimized to achieve desired aerodynamic shapes on demand when actuated, while also meeting the aircraft design requirements of: strength, lightweight, high fatigue life, reliability and low maintenance.

Importantly, the multifunctional seamless surface is uniquely capable of delivering desired camber change and span-wise twist at high rates for drag reduction, load alleviation, noise reduction, etc. 

“Replacing conventional multi-jointed flaps and other control surfaces with smooth seamless surfaces has been an elusive goal for the aerospace industry for decades. After 15 years of R&D, and successful flight-testing, the FlexFoil™ variable geometry control surface mechanism ushers in a new frontier in aircraft design,” said Sridhar Kota, Founder and President of FlexSys, “We are thrilled to enter into a joint venture with Aviation Partners who, under the dynamic leadership of Joe Clark, has a proven track record of transforming innovative ideas into successful aviation products with benefits to the global marketplace.” 

Commercial opportunities being studied by APF for this revolutionary technology in the near future include flight controls, leading/trailing edge devices, anti-icing and active winglets. APF plans to offer the technology for both retrofit and new production applications. An example of the FlexFoil™ test article, as flown beneath White Knight, can be seen in-operation at the API booth (#C8113) during NBAA. For more information contact Gary Dunn, API Vice President of Sales & Marketing, at gdunn@winglets.com or +1 (206) 310-2904. 


Aviation Partners, Inc.

Seattle, Washington based Aviation Partners, Inc. (API) is the world leader in advanced Winglet technology. API’s patented Performance Enhancing Blended Winglets™ have been designed and certified for a number of commercial and business aircraft; applications include Boeing, Falcon, Hawker and Gulfstream airframes. As of November 2015 over 6,300 in-service aircraft have saved an estimated 5.5 billion gallons of fuel. In addition to the improvement in fuel burn, Blended Winglets have reduced global CO2 emissions by approximately 59 million tons. Additional airframe programs are in-development, and future Winglet designs will lead to greater incremental improvements in performance, fuel savings and emissions reduction. 

FlexSys, Inc.

FlexSys Inc. was founded in 2000 by Dr. Sridhar Kota to develop and commercialize his patented design of a shape-morphing adaptive control surface of an airfoil. As a professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan (1987-present), Dr. Kota initiated research in compliant mechanisms in the 1990s and pioneered the bio-inspired concept of Distributed Compliance. FlexSys developed proprietary software for creation and optimization of compliant systems and successfully demonstrated the application of compliant design methods for aerospace, automotive and other applications over the years. Today, FlexSys is an established world leader in shape-adaptive structures.

FlexSys Receives 2015 Tibbetts SBIR Award

FlexSys has been honored with a Tibbetts SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Award for Companies for its work with the US Small Business Association to get FlexSys technology in the air.

Changing the course of aviation history through SBIR is just what FlexSys, Inc. accomplished when it flew the world’s first shape changing aircraft wing. In 1998, company founder and the inventor of FlexFoilTM Variable Geometry Control Surfaces, Dr. Sridhar Kota received an Air Force SBIR Phase I contract to prototype and test an Adaptive Compliant Wing and in 2000, Kota received an Air Force SBIR Phase II contract to further demonstrate and test compliant design of shape-changing control surfaces. FlexSys was founded in 2001 to build and test various structural and wind tunnel models and encouraged by continuing success, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) provided enhancement funds under an SBIR Phase II. In 2006, FlexSys designed and fabricated a prototype wing section and affixed it to the underside of White Knight aircraft for extensive flight tests, which showed fuel efficiency improvements, and in 2009 AFRL funded an SBIR Phase III program to modify a Gulfstream-III research aircraft, replacing its conventional flaps with a FlexFoil™ Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE). NASA joined the AFRL-FlexSys team in 2009 for the final phase of the technology maturation, the flight test of ACTE.

On November 6, 2014, FlexSys, AFRL, and NASA achieved a milestone that the aviation industry has been attempting to reach for 50 years - FlexfoilTM ACTE technology finally proved that a practical, lightweight, seamless shape-morphing wing is possible. This invention is expected to save 4-12% in fuel costs in an industry that spends over $200 billion yearly on jet fuel, and where improvements of a mere 1% are considered significant. FlexFoil™ technology also eliminates gaps that produce airframe noise and, according to NASA, it is expected to reduce aircraft noise by 40%. 

Funded by the Air Force SBIR program – (Phase I-1998, Phase 2 -2001-08, and Phase 3 -2009- 2015), totaling nearly $20 million, the technology has now matured to TRL 6+ ushering in a new frontier in aviation and enabling significant reductions in fuel burned, emissions, cost and noise. The company now has 7 full time and 5 part time employees with plans to hire two more fulltime employees this year. Dr. Sridhar Kota is also a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. FlexSys has actively engaged UM faculty through research contracts, provided part-time and full-time positions to UM students and has also licensed related technologies from UM.

About the Tibbetts Award

Named after Roland Tibbetts, who was instrumental in developing the SBIR program, the Tibbetts Awards are presented annually to those who are beacons of promise and models of excellence in high technology. Winners are selected based on the economic impact of their technological innovation, and the extent to which that innovation served federal R&D needs, encouraged diverse participation, and increased the commercialization of federal research. There are two types of Tibbetts Awards: awards for businesses that have participated in the SBIR Phase I and II award programs, and awards for individuals and organizations who have supported the SBIR Program.

More Information about the Tibbetts Award at SBIR.gov


ACTE Featured in Professional Pilot Magazine and More

The FlexSys/USAF/NASA Active Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project has been receiving a lot of press lately. We have compiled some of our favorites that best summarize the project.

Professional Pilot Magazine, billed as the magazine for aviation professionals, has one of the most comprehensive features. Beyond explaining the ACTE project, Professional Pilot examines the FlexSys technology behind it.

Like Wilbur Wright and others, FlexSys Founder & CEO Dr Sridhar Kota, a mechanical engineer and inventor of FlexFoil, has long had an appreciation for nature. According to Dr. Kota, "Nature is filled with strong, elegant, shape-shifting mechanisms." In nature, examples of designs that are flexible and yet strong include the wings of birds, the trunk of an elephant or tree branches. By contrast, in human technology most artifacts that are strong are also rigid and stiff with multiple parts and complex assemblies.

MORE: Learning from Bird Wings: Wing morphing experiment takes flight

The Air Force has released their own article with insights from within their organization.

After seeing a morphing wing demonstration, Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello, the AFRL commander, said, “Here’s another example of a successful government research partnership with small business to advance a very exciting aerospace technology for transition.”

MORE: Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge test last flight

NASA has published a couple of articles describing the flight test program in the context of their Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project as well as showcasing the G-III test aircraft as a testbed for other future technologies.

"Armstrong's work with ACTE is a great example of how NASA works with our government and industry partners to develop innovative technologies that make big leaps in efficiency and environmental performance," said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "This is consistent with the agency's goal to support the nation's leadership in the aviation sector."

MORE: NASA Successfully Tests Shape-Changing Wing for Next Generation Aviation
Green Aviation Project Tests Shape Changing Wing Flaps

Engineering Society of Detroit — Ann Arbor Firm's Shape-changing Wing takes to the Air by Matt Roush

Engineering Society of Detroit — Ann Arbor Firm's Shape-changing Wing takes to the Air by Matt Roush

ANN ARBOR — A feature of aircraft design unchanged for nearly a century may have been twisted into a new shape as a result of a revolutionary new structure being tested by NASA in the Mojave Desert.

A specially modified Gulfstream III jet successfully took to the skies over NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Nov. 6 using shape changing wings rather than the standard wing flaps.

Read More

FlexFoil™ Variable Geometry Control Surface YouTube Video, January 2014 FlexSys UPDATE — Long-Sought Seamless Wing Technology Introduced at AIAA SciTech 2014 Show

FlexSys UPDATE — Long-Sought Seamless Wing Technology Introduced at AIAA SciTech 2014 Show

ANN ARBOR, MICH — January 13, 2014 

The long-sought elusive goal of practical, seamless control surface technologies — chased the defense and aviation industries and researchers for several decades — has finally been realized with the introduction of a variable geometry airfoil, called FlexFoil, by FlexSys, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The technology was showcased at the AIAA convention in Washington, DC January 13–15. 

A Gulfstream business-jet retrofitted with FlexFoil TM - Variable Geometry Control Surface technology is scheduled for NASA/Air Force flight tests in July 2014.