Market and Strategic Intelligence for the Advanced Composites Industry

Laminated Composite Planes

There is a not-so-old saying: “A man cannot live by triathlon alone.” Okay, well only an aspiring triathlete would say that. With that being said, I am in training from my next big race, the 2014 Arizona Ironman in November. I am often preoccupied by when I will run my next 13 mile training run, get on the bike, hit the pool, grab a meal…ohhh, and did I say work? But not wanting to let my two boys admire me only for my sports pursuits, I have rekindled a love of model aviation. Over the past couple of years I have casually explored origami folded airplanes. Soon, the boys were asking me to build them each something special, so I do one of the things that I love…go do some research.

I soon came across some laminated paper airplane designs that I could print off, as well as a number of resources on aircraft design principles. After fiddling with a couple of laminated paper designs it occurred to me that not only are these little planes potentially capable of inexpensively exploring a number of design concepts and platforms. Not wanting to be confined to traditional flat laminates, also began to consider the cross over between these laminated paper airplane designs and composites or aircraft and UAVs. Considering the state of toy radio control cars and planes available in the supermarket, which can include video streaming, first person viewer (FPW), stabilizer gyros, and other interesting features, the size of radio components, motors, and batteries is allowing these features to be added to much smaller aircraft. Already there are clubs of mini-free flight and radio controlled airplanes in Japan and China. The possibility of spending time exploring and building these types of aircraft seems like something a father and sons could remember for years…and evolve it to composites.

BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)

So I have come up with two goals to share with my boys and with you: 1) build design and build a small, low-speed electric powered paper glider that can be controlled from my smartphone; and 2) a high-speed paper airplane capable for flying more than 100 mph. Both airplanes are going to be made from laminated paper. To date, I have been using a small variety of printer paper, 65-lb and 105-lb card stock and Elmer’s white school glue – great for kids, inexpensive, and clean-up is fairly manageable.

Part of this long-term project with my kids is to have some fun, so progress is expected to be iterative. Giving us all a chance to growth in the process to pushing paper airplanes to the limit, I am going to develop a number of designs that I would like to share with you readers – perhaps it is something that you could do with your family as well.

As a new part of this blog – laminated paper is a composite after all – I will be posting some pictures and tutorials of designs and progress. I welcome you to download and build them, make constructive comments, or share in some of the fun. It may be possible for me to produce some limited edition versions of these models at the end of major design milestones in carbon fiber.Flying Fish prototype

Download the “Flying Fish”

The first design that I am posting is called the “Flying Fish” Mark 1. As you can see from this image, it has some unusual design features for a paper glider – the high vertical profile, full airfoil, positional ailerons, high tail boom, inverted V-tail, ruddervators, the heavy lobed nose. This airplane has a wing span of 16 inches and a length of 10 inches. I have gone through a number of iterations since the original concept was sketched out – dialing in the center of gravity and lift and construction details.

Supply List –

To begin with you are going to need the following materials:

  • a sharp hobby knife
  • white school glue
  • a couple of square feet of aluminum foil
  • a couple heavy books or flat weights
  • a cutting board
  • a flat edged paint brush
  • a popsicle stick
  • 3 sheets of 65-lb card stock, and 1 sheet of 100-lb card stock
  • Scotch tape or clear packing tape

General Assembly Instructions-

I don’t have construction instructions put together yet, but I will be adding those to the downloadable PDF for the paper pieces in a revised update. First, print off the three pages of cut out pieces onto the 65-lb card stock. The fuselage is supposed to be laminated in the following stacking sequences:

a)      Glue card stock with pieces 4-10 on it to the sheet of 100-lb card stock, let dry flat and thoroughly

b)      Fuselage: 9-7-5-3-1-2-4-6-8

c)      Wing:

  1. Center rib: 13-11-10-12-14
  2. Left rib: 17-15-16
  3. Right rib: 20-18-19
  4. Glue wing skin pieces (21 & 22) together, weaving the connection tabs “over then under”
  5. Glue center rib onto centerline of lower wing skins (assembled parts 21 & 22)
  6.  Glue left and right ribs to close out rib form on outboard ends of wing skins
  7. Attach wing tips (parts 23 & 24) to outboard wings
  8. Fold and glue lower wing trailing flap up and secure to rear of wing ribs.
  9. Glue top wing skin over and secure to wing trailing edge.
  10. Attach ailerons with tape at marks on wing trailing edge – with tape acting as a hinge

d)      Glue fuselage/wing joint and slide in the wing. Optional under-wing support braces (parts 25 & 26) can be added for extra stability.

e)      Unfold ruddervators and bend up wing tips at the vertical line near the curved wing tips

f)       Trim control surfaces for desired flight. Note: tape can be used to secure the ailerons into a more fixed position for flight.

Right now, the aluminum foil is used as a “bleed sheet” that is compressed between the work table and the book weights. The glue causes the paper to swell and curl if left to dry un-weighted. The full fuselage assembly can be glued together all at once, but it is imperative that the finished assembly be allowed to dry flat. Dry warm air can accelerate the curing and drying process. In all, it takes about two days from start to finish in order complete all of the steps and allowing things to dry at room temperature.  The airplane is easily launch by pinching the rear of the fuselage under the wing and launching at a flat angle, although, with a carefully repurposed staple the airplane can be launched with a rubber band or sling shot.

What’s Next?

The next major step for the Flying Fish will be the Mk 2 version. For this, the plane’s design will be scaled up to a wingspan of about 20 inches and include some sort of power.  The fuselage cross section will also be built differently to allow for internal storage and conformal 3D forms. The power is intended to come from a pusher prop located at the junction between the tail boom and the rear of the wing. Ideally I would like to include an electric fan and small Li+ ion battery to give the airplane a flight time of 10 minutes or so. I am considering alternative propulsion methods – including a rubber band powered ducted fan. I may also apply a carbon fiber weave pattern to the surface pieces to give the airplane that carbon fiber appeal.