Pros and Cons of building materials? - RC Groups
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Nov 04, 2017, 05:30 PM
Registered User
Discussion

Pros and Cons of building materials?


As part of project I am working on I need to understand the pros and cons of different building materials and methods for a R/C fixed wing aircraft. I cannot find much online that compares of all these with any significant depth. Let's say it will have a roughly 1.5m wingspan. What would be the benefits and costs of all the common build materials, such as balsa, hardwood, carbon fiber, different foam, fiberglass, etc.? I am interested in understanding necessary methods and tools needed for fabrication of each material, as well as qualities such as strength, weight, and really anything that would effect flying qualities. Hopefully you guys can provide some insight.
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Nov 05, 2017, 01:41 AM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
You're literally asking for a book. And not a thin one either.

Even to cover the basics without any real detail would be easily 6 or 8 pages to do any justice at all to that many factors.

As you surmise it's not ONLY about the characteristics of each material but also in how it is used. It is possible to build both excellent and horrible model airframes with each of those choices. And then you start looking at using one over the other in a mixture where each particular material and technique is excellent in it's own way.

The most you'll get out of any responses here, unless someone writes a 6000 to 8000 word reply, is going to be peeks through a crack in the door into a very large and filled room of information.

Sorry.....
Nov 05, 2017, 06:35 AM
Registered User
AA5BY's Avatar
Back during the late 1980's, a local aeronautical engineer designed and kitted a rather nice aerobatic design of which I still have a flight worthy example. The kit included pre-built (uncovered) wing panels and a partially framed fuselage constructed by his son who at the time was a high school student socking college money away. He is now an airline pilot.

The wing design used balsa capped foam wing ribs and incorporated carbon fiber reinforced spars. The wing panels are very light with the final design emerging using a technique of continuing to lighten the design, until failures occurred.

Most of us don't have that kind of patience or fortitude.

An interesting story.

Five years ago, both father and son attended a local club annual fun fly where the son (then age 43) flew the only remaining flight worthy air frame of his father's design and one that he had kitted as a teen twenty four years previous.
Nov 05, 2017, 08:38 AM
Registered User
Depends on the kind of plane, warbird, aerobatic, sport, golden age? I use different techniques and materials depending on the plane.
Edwin
Nov 05, 2017, 09:35 AM
An itch?. Scratch build.
eflightray's Avatar
There are probably two main 'cons' whatever the material -

Too heavy, and, too weak, for the jobs they are required to do.

Must admit I haven't tried concrete or steel girders, ........ yet
Nov 05, 2017, 10:14 AM
San Antonio TX.
sensei's Avatar
Designing an airframe is all about tradeoffs, The heavier you build, the heavier and stronger the airframe must be to support flight and landing loads. Make the fittings big and engineer the hell out of the upholstery, that is an old Nasa engineering group saying I picked up when I worked there 35 years ago. Anyway, for an aerobatic or sport type platforms, selected balsa, foam and basswood plywood airframe covered in plastic is going to be your lightest choice.

Bob
Nov 05, 2017, 12:53 PM
Registered User
There's lots to read on this website in the various categories to provide bits of answers to your overly broad/vague question - as BMatthews has said it seems like you are inviting someone to write an encyclopedic book for you..... do your reading and then, if you have specific questions, you are more likely to get a specific answer.

Michael in Ontario, Canada
Nov 05, 2017, 01:53 PM
Red Merle ALES VI
Curtis Suter's Avatar
I have not read these but perhaps it's what you're looking for...if not my apologies as I say I have not read them....yet.
https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...&postcount=126
Nov 05, 2017, 04:02 PM
An itch?. Scratch build.
eflightray's Avatar
Don't forget the latest 'in-thing', 3D printed models.

.
Nov 05, 2017, 06:42 PM
Registered User
Reads as 'research' for a High School assignment.
Effectively asking: "please give me predigested knowledge ".
Wayyy too much involved.. IMO a seriously significant effort required for whomever is willing.
Gonna have to meet halfway.. as a minimum involvement... if you want all encompassing information .. that's useful.
Nov 06, 2017, 04:28 PM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by francismchenk
As part of project I am working on I need to understand the pros and cons of different building materials and methods for a R/C fixed wing aircraft.
Why don't you get us started by telling us in detail what you already know. Then we can help with any corrections and additions needed.

(It's odd but whenever I suggest something like this the OP always seems to go very quiet ).

Steve
Nov 06, 2017, 05:19 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bare
Reads as 'research' for a High School assignment.
Effectively asking: "please give me predigested knowledge ".
Wayyy too much involved.. IMO a seriously significant effort required for whomever is willing.
Gonna have to meet halfway.. as a minimum involvement... if you want all encompassing information .. that's useful.
I've got nothing against being a partial source. But the scope of what he's asked to do right literally would require a book.
Nov 08, 2017, 10:52 PM
Registered User
Hello,
I see I may have asked for too much, so at this point I would appreciate really just any general information you could give me. I've been doing some research and have familiarized myself with a few different materials but would still like some help. I understand there are multiple kinds of foam, such as EPP and EPO, and while I could find much detail about the repair of these I couldn't find much about fabrication or flying characteristics. I know that crashed balsa planes are pretty much done for but also can't find much about characteristics and relative strength and weight. I also still would like some information about fiberglass and carbon fiber. Essentially, I would need to select a material for a large-ish plane that is not aerobatic or a scale model. I would prioritize stability and ease of control over aerobatic capabilities or speed as my only experience with RC aircraft are from a foam trainer.
Nov 09, 2017, 07:46 AM
San Antonio TX.
sensei's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by francismchenk
Hello,
I see I may have asked for too much, so at this point I would appreciate really just any general information you could give me. I've been doing some research and have familiarized myself with a few different materials but would still like some help. I understand there are multiple kinds of foam, such as EPP and EPO, and while I could find much detail about the repair of these I couldn't find much about fabrication or flying characteristics. I know that crashed balsa planes are pretty much done for but also can't find much about characteristics and relative strength and weight. I also still would like some information about fiberglass and carbon fiber. Essentially, I would need to select a material for a large-ish plane that is not aerobatic or a scale model. I would prioritize stability and ease of control over aerobatic capabilities or speed as my only experience with RC aircraft are from a foam trainer.
You are not going to find any information on the flying characteristics of any type foam or any other substrate. Flying characteristics is linked to aerodynamic design, the fabrication and development of that design, the materials used on that design, and your overall weight goal. You stated that a balsa airplane that crashes is pretty much done for, lets take plane A (balsa) weighing 3 lbs. and plane B (Composite) weighing 3 lbs. Both are identical platforms in shape and size, both are flying at 40 mph right into a block wall, the results are that both airframes will be pretty much be done. My point is whatever you decide to build with, you build to fly, not crash. In your design you make the fittings big and engineer the hell out of the upholstery. What that means is to design things like a strong firewall and surrounding area, same for the landing gear and mounting area, the wing spars and D-tubes, longerons and wing hold down areas. Most everything else is fairing/upholstery, so treat it as such in your design. Stability and ease of control is also a direct link to your design, not materials, and weight is a huge factor to consider when talking about ease of control.

Oh and your lightest choice for a trainer type platform is still going to be selected balsa, foam and basswood plywood airframe covered in plastic. Best of luck to you.

Bob
Last edited by sensei; Nov 09, 2017 at 07:54 AM.
Nov 09, 2017, 09:32 AM
Registered User
Well said. And without knowing your goal, it's sounds like a Kadet Senior will fill your needs.
Edwin


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