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Mar 05, 2011, 03:13 PM
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Balsa vs Foam Plane Durability


I am pretty sure foam is a little easier to repair then a balsa plane but am wondering which is tougher. The only issue I seem to have so far with my foam planes is slight folding on the wings and a little bit of a beat up nose from a few mishaps

So i am wondering in a case of balsa would a foam wing fold end up a broken balsa wing in most cases?

Would a slightly smushed foam nose end up in a destroyed balsa nose?

I know all crashes are different but want a general gauge here.

I find it easy to glue back broken foam but hard to reform areas where I think balsa could be easier to reform
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Mar 05, 2011, 03:31 PM
AMA 537620
ChillPhatCat's Avatar
Balsa is stronger than foam, it can resist torsional and axial loads much better, but it is also more "brittle" in a non technical sense. So, you can build a balsa plane up and it doesn't require any composite reinforcement. In the end you can make either fly the same... the foam will hold up better in a crash almost always.

However, you can do a lot more with adhesives and covering etc with balsa, so when people are serious about scale appearance they will always choose balsa and fiberglass construction.
Mar 05, 2011, 04:34 PM
Xpress..'s Avatar
For durability, foam all the way. I've yet to see a balsa plane that can take a hit like an EPP foamy, and come out without damage...

EPP wings seem to win the durability contest. You can put them in as fast as they will go and the only damage you will see is maybe a bit of a pushed in nose..
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Mar 05, 2011, 04:54 PM
High Altitude Specialist
snivilous's Avatar
Foam can take heavier impacts better, though just small bumps will harm it. Though foam doesn't look good at all for scale stuff and is very weak without support.
Mar 05, 2011, 05:02 PM
Wake up, feel pulse, be happy!
Piece's Avatar
Quote:
EPP wings seem to win the durability contest. You can put them in as fast as they will go and the only damage you will see is maybe a bit of a pushed in nose..
Nothing even comes close to them simply because they squish. They spread impacts over a much greater period of time (even though it doesn't look any slower to us) so the force imparted on them is reduced.

A balsa plane, by constrast, will try to kill all of its momentum very, very suddenly, so the force per unit time is way higher for a given impact speed and weight. They just smash unless they're built really insanely strong, which costs a lot in weight and fiberglass, and even then there are no guarantees.

Think of it like this: Even though a brick is much stronger and more solid than a sponge, which one will survive being hit with a 12lb sledgehammer?

Most other foams don't have the suppleness of EPP so they crack, but they're still generally much easier to fix than balsa.

For some period of time, people tried to build "indestructible" planes out of aluminum, coroplast, dense foams, hardwood, and other strong materials. They held up, but in the end they'd just smash or break anyway.
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Mar 05, 2011, 05:03 PM
Ochroma Pyramidale Tekton
Fly Wheel's Avatar
For flying stresses, I believe that a properly covered (plastic covering preferred) would be stronger. Against impact (read: crash!) foam reigns supreme, especially resilient foams like EPP and Elapor. It will more likely bounce than break
Mar 05, 2011, 05:05 PM
Registered User
You don't often get a second chance from a hard crash of a balsa plane. The only balsa planes I own that have survived hard crashes are kits that I build myself.

If you build a plane very light, it has less mass (and flies more slowly) so is less likely to injure itself. I've got a several small balsa planes, built from kits, that have survived massive abuse.. But balsa ARFs -- not so much in my experience.
Mar 06, 2011, 09:23 AM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by snivilous
...foam doesn't look good at all for scale stuff...
I think that generally, this is very true. I did see some posts in the Dollar Tree thread that really surprised me though:

https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...0&postcount=82


And...

https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...&postcount=142


The whole thread is here:
Scratch Built Dollar Tree Foam Planes
https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...ghlight=dollar
Mar 06, 2011, 10:33 AM
On the Edge of Space
dLdV's Avatar
The saving grace of balsa is that damage usually looks much harder to fix than it will actually be, except in the case of the all out splat of ultimate destruction. More often it will be just a nose, landing gear mount, wing saddle, wing, tail plane or such area that is damaged. Once you get to splicing in the replacement wood it's not so bad. Just starting the job is the hard part.
Mar 06, 2011, 11:01 AM
High Altitude Specialist
snivilous's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MiddleMarc
I think that generally, this is very true. I did see some posts in the Dollar Tree thread that really surprised me though:

https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...0&postcount=82


And...

https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...&postcount=142


The whole thread is here:
Scratch Built Dollar Tree Foam Planes
https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...ghlight=dollar
Wow, that's impressive for some foam!
Mar 06, 2011, 11:13 AM
Registered User
I beleve much depends on the skill of the builder. On further consideration it is all in the hands of the builder.
Take a good long look at the work of Keith Sparks. That should eliminate all doubts about foam and scale models.

BM
Mar 06, 2011, 12:37 PM
Registered User
Prof100's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by photocycler
I am pretty sure foam is a little easier to repair then a balsa plane but am wondering which is tougher. The only issue I seem to have so far with my foam planes is slight folding on the wings and a little bit of a beat up nose from a few mishaps

So i am wondering in a case of balsa would a foam wing fold end up a broken balsa wing in most cases?

Would a slightly smushed foam nose end up in a destroyed balsa nose?

I know all crashes are different but want a general gauge here.

I find it easy to glue back broken foam but hard to reform areas where I think balsa could be easier to reform
Foam is repairable from crashes that would have totaled a balsa plane.
See below:

BEFORE REPAIR


AFTER REPAIR:
Mar 06, 2011, 09:29 PM
Registered User
E-Challenged's Avatar
In my experience with smallish scale balsa models vs foam (GWS) repairs are about the same difficulty though techniques differ. If you destroy/lose large pieces of foam, it is hard to make replacement pieces and make repairs look good. I have rebuilt munched balsa noses and shattered balsa wing panels to near new condition. If you build a balsa model from plans or a kit you can repair it more easily than a balsa/ply ARF model.
Mar 06, 2011, 09:59 PM
AMA 537620
ChillPhatCat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by E-Challenged
In my experience with smallish scale balsa models vs foam (GWS) repairs are about the same difficulty though techniques differ. If you destroy/lose large pieces of foam, it is hard to make replacement pieces and make repairs look good. I have rebuilt munched balsa noses and shattered balsa wing panels to near new condition. If you build a balsa model from plans or a kit you can repair it more easily than a balsa/ply ARF model.
Very true, especially when you have the plans for the model. You can build a new wing or new nose section and splice together prisitne sections til the cows come home. Just need to make sure proper reinforcements are made. I once spliced a wing spar together and the wing split in half the next flight. lol I since learned that you need to distribute the stresses a lot better in load bearing structures.


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