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by Martin HolllDann

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Martin Hollmann

Published by Martin Hollmann Printed in the United States of America Monterey, California

Copyright © 1983 by M. Hollmann. This book or parts thereof must not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author.

AIRERAFT DESIGnS,lnC. fOl ....._---~~

2959 Monterey-Salinas Highway Monterey, California 93940


Page CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1

CHAPTER 2. ADVANTAGES OF COMPOSITES - -- - - - - - - - - - - 5

CHAPTER 3. MATERIALS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13

3.1 Fabrics and Fibers - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13 3.1.1 Fiberglass - - - ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13 3.1.2 Graphite - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 16 3.1.3 Kevlar - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 19

3.2 Resins and Hardeners - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 22 3.2.1 Epoxy Resin Systems - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 22 3.2.2 Polyester Resins and Hardeners - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 25 3.2.3 Vinyl Ester Resin "Derakane" - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 26

3.3 Prep reg Materials - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 27

3.4 Core Materials - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 27 3.4.1 Urethane Foam - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 27 3.4.2 Styrofoam - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 28 3.4.3 PVC Foam - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 29 3.4.4 PV-Rohacell Foam - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 30 3.4.5 Honeycomb - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 30

3.5 Parting Compounds - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 31

3.6 Adhesives - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -. - - - - 31

3.7 Finishing Materials - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 32 3.7.1 Bondo Lightweight Body Filler - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 32 3.7.2 Feather Fill - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 33 3.7.3 Microspheres - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 33


Page 3.7.4 Primers and Thinners - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 33 3.7.5 Paints - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 34 3.7.6 Gel Coat - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 35

3.8 Tools for Working with Composites - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 35 3.8.1 Resin Balance - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 35 3.8.2 Hot Wire Cutter - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - 35 3.8.3 Docket Spray Gun - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 36 3.8.4 Kerosene Heater- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 38

CHAPTER 4. FABRICATION TECHNIQUES- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 39

4.1 Layup over Foam - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 39

4.2 Wet Layup in a Mold - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 44

4.3 Foam Sandwich Fabrication - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 50

CHAPTER 5. DESIGN AND ANALYSIS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 53

5.1 Netting Analysis - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 77

5.2 Rule of Mixture - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 79

5.3 Foam Sandwich - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 80

5.4 Designing and Sizing a Composite Spar - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 84

5.5 Thermal Loads - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - 91

CHAPTER 6. MATERIAL PROPERTY TESTING - - - - - - - - - - - - 95 CHAPTER 7. CONCLUSION- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 99 APPENDIX A. GLOSSARY - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 101




APPENDIX C. REFERENCES - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 117

APPENDIX D. COMPUTER PROGRAMS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 119

1. COMPOSITE for the IBM PC andMacintosh PC - - - - - - - - - - 119

2. SPAR - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 123


Burt Rutan's Next Generation Trainer, top, and the-Long-Eze bottom, are two high performance all composite aircraft which have pioneered the use of the fiberglass/foam construction technique.

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Composite materials have significant and decisive advantages over materials such as aluminum, wood, and steel for specific aircraft design applications. It is these advantages that will revolutionize the aircraft industry within the next 20 years, and we will witness the development of more fuel efficient, lighter, and higher performance aircraft. Hopefully, we will be involved in the development of these aircraft.

For the designer to realize the advantages of composites, he must be familiar with first, the various materials available, the fabrication techniques, and design and analysis rational such that proper selection and sizing of the . aircraft structures is possible to assure the structural integrity of the aircraft i for a minimum weight and/or minimum cost. This book deals mainly with the practical use of composite materials for lightweight aircraft structural

applications. Simple equations for estimating composite material properties are given and references for those interested in the detailed mechanics of composite materials is listed. Material sources, prices, comparisons with recommendations are made. This book is intended as a composite material primer for those who already know how to design metallic and wood aircraft structures, and it is intended to stimulate interest in the generation of aircraft designers who will be building better and more efficient aircraft of the future.

When designing with composites, the aircraft designer has many variables and variable combinations such as resins, fabrics, fabric styles and makes, laminating techniques available to him. He must evaluate these variables and variable combinations before making a final design decision. As the designer becomes familiar with these variables and the advantages and limitations of composites, he soon recognizes that for each application, only a limited number of options are feasible and only one or two are optimum. Finding these optimums is one of the most exciting and




rewarding experiences, and it is the purpose of this book to help the designer make the proper decision. There are constantly new composite materials being introduced on the market. However, in this book we will deal with only those which are presently being used on aircraft structures and are affordable by the aviation community. These materials are grouped into three categories: fabrics, resins, and foams. The fabrics can be purchased in a variety of styles. However, we are going to limit our interests to unidirectional, U.O., fabrics and bidirectional, B.D., fabrics. The U.D. fabrics have a majority of the fibers running in one direction such that the maximum strength and stiffness of that material is oriented in that direction. The B.D. fabric has close to half of its fibers oriented in one direction and close to half oriented at 90 degrees to the first fibers as shown in Figure 1.

Transverse 2


U.D. Fabric

- B.D. Fabr t c

Figure 1. Unidirectional, U.D., and Bidirectional, B.D., Fabrics.

The B.D. fabric has approximately equal mechanical properties in direction 1 and direction 2. However, at 45 degrees to direction 1, low mechanical properties are realized for the B.D. fabric. Low mechanical properties are realized for the U.D. fabric in direction 2 since only the resin provides strength and stiffness in that direction. The four fabric fibers which are of interest are E-glass fiberglass, S-glass fiberglass, intermediate strength carbon which is also known as graphite depending on the amount of carbonization, and Kevlar. Kevlar is a DuPont tradename for aromatic polyamide fiber known as "aramid" fiber which is processed by a highly




guarded process only known to Du Pont.

The two generic resins which we are primarily interested in are polyester and epoxy resin. Vinyl ester resin is a polyester resin which because of its excellent properties deserves special attention. Each of these resins has many chemical formulations and various curing agents such that a large variety of mechanical and physical properties can be achieved. Each of these resins are best suited for a specific application in building aircraft.

The four foams that are most used are: styrofoam, polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride foam commonly known as just PVC foam, and polyvinyl foam known as PV. Because of their high strength and flexibility, honeycomb cores are also used.

The ideas, materials, methods, and techniques presented in this book are based on my 20 years of experience working in the aerospace industry designing composite material structures which includes evaluating, designing and optimizing the world's largest graphite structure, the MX canister. Six of these 16,000 pound filament wound launch tubes were built and tested. The space shuttle solid rocket boosters were designed using this same technology. I also had the opportunity to design the world's first all composite sandwich armored personnel carrier. My experience also includes designing a graphite wing spar for the F-1S; designing fiberglass airducts for Pioneer F and G; designing, and testing various fiberglass rotor blades for gyroplanes; designing, building and flying a composite aircraft called the Condor made of graphite, fiberglass, aluminum, and steel; and performing the stress analysis on the Lancair 200.

There are a large number of people who have recognized the potential use of composite materials for aircraft structures but there are only a few who have actually been successful in using and promoting these materials for aircraft use. Among these people are my friends, Burt Rutan, Jim Kern, Lance Neibauer, Hans Neubert, Richard Tracy, and Jim Irwin. Without their dedication and without the realization of their dreams, the wide acceptance of composites would not be where it is today in the aviation community. I am especially grateful to Richard and Susie McWilliams for their many recommendations and enthusiastic support and to Carlene Clark who typed




the original version. This version is printed on a Macintosh Personal Computer Laserwriter.

Two suggestions when building composite aircraft.

Don't Answer the Phone When You Have a Hot Batch of Resin

Don't Subst itute the Wrong Materials






Cost and weight are among the two most important variables that determine which type of material is used. Typically, the lower the weight, the higher the cost and vice versa. This relation, however, is not always true. The end cost of a structure is comprised of fabrication and tooling cost in addition to material cost. Composite material fabrication techniques allow complex shapes to be fabricated in a single operation such that labor and fabrication costs are low compared to metal or wood structures. The end cost of a composite structure is usually less even though the material costs are higher as shown for a typical composite structure in Table 1.

Table 1. Cost of a Typical Structure, Graphite/Fiberglass vs.


Material '$230 $175
Labor and Tooling 100 200
Total $330 (12% less) $375
Weight 35 Ibs (30% less) 50lbs The labor costs for the aluminum or wood structure are high because it is assembled out of a large number of smaller pieces which are riveted, bolted, bonded, or welded together. The composite structure is fabricated as one or two assemblies in a female mold or over a foam core. My Condor was made out of a total of 32 composite parts. The Lancair 200 uses 34.




Complex contours and shapes can be easily accommodated which are normally difficult to form with metal or wood. This allows the aircraft designer to contour a structure to his specific needs and we can expect to see new aircraft shapes emerge as composites become widely accepted for aircraft structures. Figure 2 shows some of the aircraft that we might see in the far future. Because rivets and lap joint with surface discontinuities are not present on the outside surface in composite structures and tighter sealing is obtained, the overall aircraft drag can be reduced by more than 17 percent which means that our composite aircraft can fly faster, burn less fuel, and fly further for a given power setting.

The Lancair 200, for example, has a maximum airspeed of over 210 mph using the same engine as a Cessna 150 with the same useful load. The sailplane designer have discovered this a long time ago and they are among those who have pioneered the composite aircraft technology. It is interesting to know that a comparison of drag data for a typical metal fuselage to a composite fuselage does not show significant drag reduction. For example, the fuselage drag coefficient for the all metal P-51 Mustang is almost identical to the drag coefficient of the very clean 0-2 composite aircraft. Both aircraft have a fuselage drag coefficient of about 0.0036. If we compare the drag coefficient of a smooth NACA 4412 airfoil to a rough one, Cd smooth = 0.006 to Cd rough = 0.010, and the maximum lift coefficient of

CI smooth = 1.55 to CI rough = 1.28, we realize that large parasitic drag reductions are possible in the wing. The higher CI maximum for the smooth airfoil which we can achieve with a composite wing structure will allow us to reduce the wing area by (1.55- 1.28)/1.55=17 percent. At cruise, the wing parasite drag is about 35 percent of the total aircraft drag so that the total drag reduction of our laminar composite aircraft is 35 x 1.28 x 0.006/(1.55 x 0.010) = 17%. It should be realized that this is a theoretical best. Small bugs on the leading edge, moisture, and any protrusion higher than 0.004 inches on the wing will trip the laminar boundary layer and reduce our theoretical reduction in drag. However, if we keep our composite wing clean, we will improve our performance significantly. This is also true for composite rotor blades used on gyroplanes and helicopters.








Figure 2. Composite Aircraft Designed for Specific People.




The mechanical properties of composites vary significantly and depend not only upon what types of materials and styles of fabrics are used, but upon the fabrication techniques which in turn control the void content, resin content, and resin properties. Knowing that these differences exist, makes it difficult to compare the strength and weight of a composite laminate wh ich may have high unidirectional strength properties or maybe high bidirectional properties, orthotropic, to an isotropic material such as aluminum or steel which have somewhat uniform mechanical properties in all directions. It is interesting to compare composites to metal for a wing spar cap application or rotor blade application where the primary loads are oriented in one direction and isotropic material mechanical properties are not needed. The ultimate strength of U.D. graphite, Kevlar*, and E-glass laminates is shown as a dot in Figure 3. It can be seen that these materials have more than twice the strength of aluminum.

The density and strength of each material is shown in Table 2 to demonstrate that not only are composites stronger, but they are also considerably lighter. The prices are 1985 dollars for prepreg materials. These prices are greatly reduced for wet layup material constituents. For example, the price of a prepreg graphite is $48.00 per pound as shown in Table 2, compared to about $22.00 per pound for the same graphite in a dry fabric with a separate resin and hardener as used in a wet layup. This low price makes graphite and fiberglass especially attractive for general aviation aircraft.

Kevlar looks attractive at first glance. However, it is important to realize that the compressive strength of Kevlar is only 40,000 psi. Since most structures must be capable of taking both tension and compression loads, Kevlar is not attractive for such applications as wing spars or rotor blades which are subjected to high bending and compressive loads. Kevlar has found wide use in such structures as fairings and filament would rocket motor cases where only tensile loads are realized from the internal pressure of the burning propellant. Furthermore, it should be noted that,

* Trademark, E.I. DuPont de Nemours




although the material data of Table 2 looks very attractive, material properties obtained for wet layup, room temperature cured composites are lower than those shown in Table 2.

40% by volume epoxy resin prepreged, vacuum bagged, and temperature cured composites


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Stress, ksi






strain. inches/inch

Figure 3. Stress/Strain and Tensile Strength Comparison.

Fatigue characteristics of graphite are excellent when compared to aluminum as shown in the S-N fatigue diagram of Figure 4. The excellent fatigue resistance of the graphite means that a higher ratio of working stress to ultimate stress may be used in most structural applications. In addition to the good fatigue properties, the vibration damping of composites is superior to steel as shown in Table 3. This characteristic is used in composite fishing rods to achieve a longer casting length. The free vibrations dampen out sooner when the rod is made of composites which results in less friction between the line and the guides. Tennis rackets made out of graphite are also superior to aluminum or wood ones. Both my son and my wife are fanatic tennis players and they both use graphite rackets. My son had purchased an aluminum one but soon his elbow started hurting from the undamped vibrations. With the graphite one he never has that problem.




Table 2. Material Properties for U.D. Prepreged Vacuum Bagged and Temperature Cured Epoxy Resin Composite Laminates.

Ultimate Tensile Tensile Modulus, Density, $/Pound

Strength,Ftu,ksi 1 E,msi 2

AISI4130 Steel





2024-T3 Aluminum+





"Thornell" 225

T300 Graphite




Kevlar 495 200

1 1



E-Glass5 160





1. ksi = 103 pounds per square inch.

2. msi = 106 pounds per square inch.

3. Union Carbide Corp., similar to: Hercules AS-4, Celonese Celion 3000


4. Per MIL-HDBK-5.

5. Per MIL-HDBK-17.

6. 1984 quotes from suppliers of resins and fabrics.




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Cycles to lailure Figure 4. Fatigue Behavior of Unidirectional Composites.

Table 3. Decay of Free Vibration.

Loss Factor x 10-4

Stainless Steel Graphite/Epoxy

F i berg 1 ass/Epoxy Kevlar 49/Epoxy Cured Polyster Resin


17 29 180 400

Loss Factor= An/CAn + 1)



1 1







A good basic understanding of materials is absolutely essential in working with composites because the proper selection of each constituent and the proper combination of constituents is necessary if you want to obtain the best performance from a laminate and avoid costly and time consuming mistakes. If you are not certain of a specific material combination or if you are trying something new, you must be willing to make a few test specimens and test them, and sometimes not even that will tell you the whole story. For example, I wanted to find out if a certain gelcoat would soften and wrinkle, "alligator" as it is called, after the application of different resins over gelcoat. None of the test specimens showed "alligator" However, when I made the full size part, the gelcoat showed "alligator" on some surfaces .and I ended up scraping a large expensive piece. I discovered that air had to circulate over the gelcoat for a proper cure. The mold for the large piece had several cavities which did not allow the gelcoat to cure adequately, so that the resin softened the somewhat already soft gelcoat. Proper mixing and a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit were also necessary to fully harden the gelcoat.


The selection of the fabrics and fibers is extremely important since the fibers and fabrics are usually not only the most expensive items, but they also determine to a major extent the strength and weight of our structure.

3.1.1. Fiberglass

Fiberglass is the most widely used material because it is low cost, low weight, has good strength, and has a high strain to failure as shown in Figure 3. Two types of fiberglass are available, S-glass and E-glass.




The S stands for structure and E stands for electric. Because of the lower cost of the E-glass, it is used in most structural applications In addition to being used in the electronic industry.

Table 4. Glass Fabrics and U.S. Weavers


Construction Thickness,

Warp x Fill inches

Weight, ozlsq.yd

Tensile* Strength

Cost** $/yd

7781 57 x 54


1543 48 x 30


1800 16 x 14


7500 16 x 14


7533 18 x 18


7544 28 x 14




590 x 400









675 x 85



450 x 350



450 x 350


230 x 220




745 x 830

* Minimum average breaking strength, pounds per inch ** 38 inches wide roll

1. Hexcel Corporation

11711 Dublin Blvd., Dublin, California 94566 Telephone: 415 828-4200

2. Clark-Schwebel Fiber Glass Corporation

5 Corporate Part Drive, White Plains, New York 10604 Telephone: 914 694-9090

3. Burlington Glass Fabrics Company Link Drive, Rockleigh, New Jersey 07647 Telephone: 201 767-4610




To handle the glass, it is best purchased in a woven fabric form and there are several large glass weavers in the U.S.A. from whom fiberglass cloth can be purchased as noted in Table 4. Each weaver has a variety of styles of fabric in which the two size of the strands of glass, yarn, and the two count per inch vary in the longitudinal direction, warp, and at 90 degrees to the warp direction, fill. The number of yarns per inch is generally known as the construction or count, and the weight of the dry fabric is given in ounces per square yard. The most common aircraft grade glass fabric is style 181 which weighs about 9 ounces per square yard and which when purchased is known as style 7781 or style 1581.

Style 7781 is almost the same as 1581 with the exception that style 7781 is less expensive since the very tight quality control used in fabricating the style 1581 is not employed. Style 7781 is most commonly used in the aircraft industry since it has excellent strength properties and each ply thickness is 0.009 inches. This is about the minimum thickness we can practically use, and one to two layers are typically used for outside skins.

When highly U.D. strength properties are needed, style 1543 fabric is commonly used. Styles 7781 and 1581 are both a tight weave and it will take extra effort wetting out the fabric and removing air bubbles in wet layups. When strength is not important, it may be better to use common boat cloth which is typically sold by weight. The boat cloth has a looser weave and can be layed up considerably easier than the style 7781 fabric. Weave pattern is important in many applications. If a part has curvatures or angles, a looser weave, such as the CFS, would be used because of its good drapability characteristics. However, if a relatively flat part is to be produced, a plain weave would suffice.

Shown in Figure 5 are four common weave patterns. Keep in mind that each pattern can have different properties depending on the amount of yarns per inch in the construction.

Fiberglass cloth requires a finishing process to improve the bond between the resin and glass. The most common finish is Volan* bonding agent. Volan is a complex in which methacryfic acid is coordinated with chromium. Various other finishes are available. . However, the Volan




finished fabrics are most commonly used with epoxy, polyester, and vinyl ester resins.

Straight cutting shears or large scissors are used to easily cut the dry fiberglass cloth in a cool, dry, and dark place to minimize the aging of the finish which is important to the quality of the bond between the resin and glass.

Fiberglass cloth fabrics are commonly sold in 38 inch wide rolls with about 125 yards per roll for the style 7781 and boat fabrics and in 200 yard rolls for the style 1543. The style 7781 roll weighs 75 pounds and costs $260 in 1984 dollars. The style 1543 fabric in a 200 yard roll weighs 114 pounds per roll and costs $440. The names and addresses of common U.S. fiberglass weavers and fabrics are listed in Table 4.

3.1.2. Graphite

Although fiberglass is the least expensive material, graphite fibers are the most promising for aircraft structures because of their low weight, high strength, and high stiffness as shown in Figure 3. Many airframe manufacturers are making extensive use of graphite fibers in their products.

Boeing for example has replaced about 14 percent of their aluminum structure with Union Carbides "Thornell" T300 graphite fiber in their new 757 and 767 passenger jets. The Starship and Voyager are completely built out of graphite and honeycomb and we can expect to see more and more complete aircraft built out of this material.

There are two types of commonly used graphite fibers: high strength, HTS, and high modulus, HMS. A comparison of the strength, stiffness, and cost of U.D. laminate made of these fibers in Figure 6 shows that as the stiffness increases, the strength decreases and the cost increases. Graphite fibers are manufactured from a polyacrylonitrile, PAN, precursor. The manufacturing process is made up of three stages as shown in Figure 7; oxidation, carbonization, and graphitization.

Graphitization takes place at te-mperatures up to 54000 F.






















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5 HarnessStatn Weave (SHS), over 4, under 1


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Crowfoot Satin Weave (CFS) over 3, under 1

8 Harness Sat in Weave (8HS), over 7, under 1

Figure 5. Popular Weave Patters.




(/) 150
C 100
0 0.0025 0.005 0.0075 0.010

5trein, inches/inch

Figure 6. High Modulus vs High Strength U.D. Graphite Laminate.

There has been a real need for a lower cost HMS graphite fiber for some time since the cost of the Goodyear GY-70 at $350 per pound is simply too high for most applications. Union Carbide has developed a high modulus "pitch" base graphite which uses pitch instead of PAN fibers. The pitch base material is extremely interesting since the modulus can be increased or decreased, at the expense of strength, to any required level. Their P75S pitch is somewhat equivalent to the high priced PAN base GY-70 at a fraction of the cost. Union Carbide's Thornell P55S pitch base graphite is also attractive at a current fiber price of $18 per pou nd compared to $20 per pound for AS -4. AU. D. P55S epoxy laminate has a typical strength of 150 ksi and a tensile modulus of 34 msi. Its compressive strength of 70 ksi is however low. Union Carbide started producing the pitch base fibers in March 1982. The most used fibers are Union Carbide's Thornell T300 and Hercules AS-4 graphite fibers which sell in a dry woven fabric for about $30 to $70 per pound depending on the size and quantity purchased. Prepregs cost about twice this amount.




It should be recognized that these prices are attractive when we realize that first, when combining the fabrics with 50 percent resin by weight, the price drops to about half of the fabric price per pound of structure and that second, only a small amount of graphite need be added to a fiberglass structure to greatly enhance the structural stiffness of a structure.

spectet Acrylic Fibers




Oxt di zed Acryll c Tow

Figure 7. Graphite Fiber Manufacturing Process.

3.1.3. Kevlar

Kevlar 49 Aramid has a higher tensile strength, higher tensile modulus, and a lower density than fiberglass. However, because of Kevlar's low compression strength, Kevlar has found limited structural application in aircraft primary structures. Kevlar is difficult to work with and special tools are needed. At almost $16 per pound for the woven fabric, Kevlar is considerably more expensive then fiberglass which sells for about $2.50 per pound. Kevlar is available in a number of fabric styles. With the exception of Textile Products Inc., the weavers listed in Table 5 weave Kevlar. Significant weight savings are possible by using Kevlar in fairings and secondary structural elements. Laminated Kevlar




structures have a density of 0.050 pounds per cubic inch compared to 0.076 for fiberglass and 0.058 for graphite.

Table 5. Graphite Fabric Weavers

1. Fiberite Corporation 501 West Third Street Winona, Minnesota 55987 Telephone: 507 454-3611

2. Hercules Incorporated P.O. Box 98

Magna, Utah 84044 Telephone: 801 250-5911

3. Textile Products Inc. 2512 Woodland Drive Anaheim, California 92801 Telephone: 714 761-0401

4. Knytex

P.O. Box 5293

Midland, Texas 79701 Telephone: 915 694-8912

5. Hexcel Corporation 1171 Dublin Blvd

Dublin, California 94566 Telephone: 415 828-4200

Textile Products Inc. will sell graphite fabrics in small and large volume and they weave some very useful styles as listed in Table 6.




Table 6. Textile Products Dry Carbon Fabrics.


Construction Warp x Fill

Thickness, inches

Weight, ozlsq.yd



1210U.0. 10 x 0 3 inch wide



Courtalds $2.90/yd $58/1b

4163 B.D. 12.5 x 12.5 42 inch wide





$25.44/yd $70/1b

4243 B.D. 24 x 23 42 inch wide





$37.00/yd $54/1b

4116H B.0.11 x 11




$30.00/yd $44/lb

"Similar to AS-4 and T300

.. ~~ ......•....... ~ ~ ..

.... I··~······ ~.~I

................. ~~ ...

•••••••• ••••••• ••••••

.. . ~ .. ~

•••••••••••••••••••• ••••••••• ~ ••••••••••• II

····._t~I~ •.•.....•••.. . ~~~~~.. .. . .. ~ .. ... ..... .... .~ I ••••••••••••••••••••

•••• •••• • ••••••••• • ••• ••••••• •••• ••

• ••••••• ••• •

.. . ~

• •••••••••••••••

•• -- •••• ~ ••• 1I ••••••••• ~1 ••••••••• I1I ..

•••• • •••••••••••••••

II •••••••••••••••••

I ••••••••• lI ••••••• ~.1I.·1

• ••••• ••••• • ••

........ ~.~.

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••••••••••••• ·1 •• 11 •••••••

•• •• •••••• • ••• I., •• •••••• IIII ••• III •••• I1

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••••• •••• III ••• ,~~. ••••• •• •••••• 11. III

•••••••••• t. .'11 ••••

Style 4163 Graphite Fabric.




3.2. Resins and Hardeners

Three types of resins with a variety of hardeners and promoters as shown in Table 7 are commonly used. Epoxy resins are most commonly used for structures because they have excellent adhesives and mechanical properties. Polyester resins are used for lower strength parts where low cost, ease of producibility, low viscosity, and good wetting out are needed. A resin that has the good qualities of both polyester and epoxy is a vinyl ester resin called "Derakane" which is made by the Dow Chemical Company. Derakane is used where good mechanical properties and good workability are needed.

All three resins can be used with fiberglass. However, only epoxy and Derakane can be used with graphite, and only epoxy will bond to Kevlar .

. 3.2.1. Epoxy Resin Systems

Presently the best known structural epoxy resin is Shell Epon 828.

This resin is a generic chemical resin produced by the reaction of hisphenof A with epichlorohydrin and it is identified by other producers by their designations. For example, Dow DER 331, Ciba Giegy 604, and Union Carbide 2774 are all equivalent to Epon 828. Because Epon 828 has an extremely high viscosity at room temperature, it is difficult to wet out fabrics. Shelf sells Epon 815 which is Epon 828 plus a reactive diluent. A commonly used diluent is butyl glycidyl ether, BGE. With BGE, Epon 815 has a low viscosity which allows wetting out of dry fabrics. Epon 815, however, has a lower heat distortion temperature and a lower creep strength than Epon 828 and Epon 815 is toxic and a strong sensitizer. Dow produces DER 330 which is equivalent to Epon 815. However, this resin does not contain the reactive diluent and obtains its lower viscosity from a special processing so that its toxic rating is low and the resin is only mildly irritating. DER 330 is one of the most commonly used resin systems for aircraft structures. It is most economically purchased in 50 gallon drums, 525 pounds, for about $660 from a Dow sales office. Smaller quantities of DER 330 and other composite materials can be purchased from Columbia Plastics, Inc., P.O. Box 275, Columbia, MD 21045 .

. 22



A common polyamide hardener used for room temperature cure of Epon 330 is Versamide 140 which is a product of General Mills Chemical Corp. Versamide 140 is one of the least irritating with a SPI rating of 2.

Table 7. Resin Systems.

Polyster Epoxy Vinyl Ester

Orthopthalic Isothalic Dow330 Safe-T-Poxy Derakane 411 APCO 2410

Catalyst, MEKP MEKP Versamide APCO 2183 Cobalt Naph-

Hardener 140 thenate,MEKP

Viscosity,cps 1,000 1,000 8,800

at 770F



Gel Time, min. 180 180 234

at 770F



Cost $Igal. 7.30 9.50




HDT*, of 160 190




Toxidity, SPI** 3 3




Laminate with*** A





Manufacturer Silmar Dow Chemical Chemtron Midland, Mi. Fresno, CA

Telephone: 209 456-1500 517636-1000

Applied Dow Chemical


EI Segundo, CA

213 322-8050

* HDT = Heat Distortion Temperature ** 1 = Non-irritating

2 = Mildly Irritating

3 = Moderately Irritating

***A = Fiberglass B = Graphite

C = Kevlar




The Society of Plastics Industry, SPI, rates the hazard of toxic materials from class 1 non-irritating, to class 6, suspect carcinogen In animals.

Class 1 - Practically Non-Irritating Class 2 - Mildely Irritating

Class 3 - Moderately Irritating Class 4 - Strong Sensitizer

Class 5- Extremely Irritating

Class 6 - Suspected Carcinogen in Animals

Pacific Anchor Chemical Corporation in Richmond, California produces Ancamide 350A which is equivalent to Versamide 140. Normally 60 parts of Ancamide 350A are mixed with 100 parts by volume of liquid resin and some latitude in mixing ratios is permissible. The gel

time is 234 minutes at 770 F.with a total cure time from 2 - 7 days at room

temperature. -

Ancamide 400 is similar to Ancamide 350A. A gel time of 80 minutes at 770 F with a typical mixing ration of 50 parts per 100 parts of resin is realized. Total cure time is 7 days at room temperature. Ancamide 400 has a storage life of at least 12 months and it is not known to produce toxic symptoms but normal handling precautions should be observed. Fifty gallons of Versamide 140, Ancamide 350A, or Ancamide 400 sell for about $640.

Applied Plastics Co., Inc. APCO for short, of EI Segundo, California was recently purchased by Hexcel Corp. APCO is known for their special resin system formulations. They produce a resin and hardener called Safe-T-Poxy which has a SPI rating of 1. The resin system is currently used by all homebuilders on their Long-EZE and 0-2 aircraft. Mixing ratio of hardener to resin is 50 to 100 parts by volume. The resin designation is 2410 and a 55 gallon drum sells for around $2,000. The hardener designation is 2183 and a 30 gallon drum sells for about $800. Gel time is 45 minutes. This resin is the most commonly used resin and it is extremely easy to work with compared to the Dow 330. It should also be pointed out that some people are naturally sensitive to epoxy resin and they should only consider using SPI class 2 or less materials. SafeT-Poxy was developed especially for these people. The average shelf life of most epoxy resins is three years if they are kept in a cool and dry place in a well closed container.




3.2.2. Polyester Resins and Hardeners

Polyester resins are generally lower in strength and do not adhere to metal as epoxy resins do. However, polyester resins are more viscous and considerably easier to work with than epoxy resins. Polyesters also have a lower moisture absorption and high chemical resistance which makes them well suited for fuel tanks. Because of their low cost and ease in wetting out, polyester resins are used extensively in the boat industry and in fabricating fiberglass molds. One of the least expensive orthopthalic polyester resins is distributed by Tap Plastics, Inc., San Leandro, California. Their bonding resin is normally cured by adding 2 ounces of methyl ethyl keton peroxide, MEKP, to 1 gallon of resin. The pot life is about 20 minutes and a cured part can be obtained in 6 hours at room temperature. Full cure is achieved in 24 hours. MEKP sells for

. about $16.80 per gallon. A 55 gaUon drum of polyester will cost about $460. Because the bonding resin leaves a sticky surface, a surfacing resin can also be purchased. The surfacing resin contains wax which comes to the surface and arrows the exposed surface to cure to a hard layer. If post cure sanding of a part is necessary, it is advisable, but not compulsory, to coat the surface of the laminate with surfacing resin after the laminate has started to gel. Normal caution should be used in handling the MEKP since it is a strong sensitizer and you should wash your hands immediately if you come into contact with it. MEKP can cause blindness if allowed to come into contact with your eyes. In the past 20 years of working with MEKP, I have had one occasion when a drop hit my eye. I immediately rushed to a water faucet and thoroughly washed my eye with clean water. Luckily I did not incur eye injuries.

The Tap Plastics polyester resin can be purchased in small quantities from retailers in California.

Another common commercial grade orthopthalic resin is Silmar 8-583 which is sold by Chemtron Systems of Fresno, California. 8-583 is mixed with 1 ounce of MEKP to 1 gallon of resin. A gel time of 13.5 minutes is realized. A 55 gallon drum sells for $420.

One of the best structural polyester resins is Silmar S-821 isothalic




resin which is also sold by Chemtron Systems. One ounce of MEKP per gallon of resin is used and a gel time of 17 to 22 minutes is realized. Considering the cost of S-821 at $430 per 55 gallon drum and the better structural performance, the S-821 is preferred over the orthopthalic resin.

For high temperature and chemical resistance, Silmar produces 8- 262 polyester resin. This resin has a heat distortion temperature of

about 4200F after a post cure which includes cycling to 4250F for 19 hours. Most epoxies and polyester resins do not exceed a heat distortion temperature of 2000 F. Derakane has a heat distortion temperature of 3000F. 8-262 is normally room temperature cured with

.. the addition of 1 ounce of MEKP per gallon of resin and the heat distortion temperature for the room temperature cured resin is 2190F. The cost for a 55 gallon drum is $560. 8-262 has a low viscosity of 600 cps and wets out like most polyester resins. A good use for this resin is in the fabrication of engine cowls, baffles, and molds. The molds shown on the cover of this book are made by Task Research, Inc. and are made using 8-262. The red color is a gel coat.

3.2.3. Vinyl Ester Resin "Oerakane"

"Derakane" is a polyester resin. However because of its unique properties, we treat it as a separate resin. There are various formulations of Derakane. However, Derakane 411 is the most common used. Derakane is manufactured by Dow Chemical Co. and sold by Dow. The cured resin has excellent mechanical properties. The Glasair is made of Derakane 411. A 50 gallon drum sells for $700 in the unpromoted state. The resin should be airated every month by allowing air to bubble up through the resin. This is done by using a small compressor and plastic tube. Prior to use, the Derakane is promoted by adding 11 ounces of cobalt naphthenate 6% per 55 gallons and thoroughly mixing. Of course any quantity of resin may be promoted since the shelf life is decreased for the promoted resin and you will not want to promote more than you are going to use in the next two months. A small amount of dimethyl aniline can also be added to increase the mechanical properties. The gel time is 63 minutes at room temperature.





To help reduce the labor costs of manually wetting out the dry fabrics and to improve control of the resin content, many composite material laminators use prepreg materials. In the prepreg the resin and hardener are. impregnated in the fabric and the prepreg is stored at very cold temperatures to prevent the resin from curing prior to use. When stored at cold temperatures, prepregs have a shelf life of 3 to 12 months. Resin content in the laminate is controlled more accurately than in wet layups and layup time is greatly reduced and the exposure of people to resin and hardener is minimized when using prepregs. Because of these advantages, prepregs are used extensively in the aerospace, commercial aircraft, and kit aircraft industry. The Lancair 200 is made out of prepreg fiberglass and graphite. The material prices of prepregs are typically twice as high as the price of the constituents and hence prepregs are seldom used by the homebuilder who is building one of a kind aircraft. Hexcel Corp., the 3M Company, Fiberite Corp., and Hercules, Inc. are some of the common known suppliers of prepreg graphite, fiberglass, and Kevlar tapes and fabrics.


The low density, 2 to 15 pounds per cubic foot, and good formability of rigid foams makes these materials ideal cores for composite aircraft sandwich structures. The four common types of foam are: polyurethane or just urethane, styrofoam, polyvinyl chloride, PVC, and polyvinyl, PV. Most foams are structurally degraded when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and they should be stored in a dry, cool, and dark place. Most foams will also degrade above 170 to 1 BOOF. A summary of the most common foams available and their suppliers is listed in Table 8.

3.4.1. Urethane Foam

Urethane foam Is used extensively in the 2 lb/cu ft density form for fuselage and fuel tanks because it is completely fuel proof and easy to carve and contour with a saw and rasp. Its color is green to brown and it is not dissolved by the styrene in Derakane or polyester resin systems. The 2 Ib/cu ft density material can be purchased in large quantity from




Vertex, Inc. in Oakland, California or in large or small blocks from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. in Fullerton, California. Clark Foam in South Laguna, California produces a 4 to 5 Ib/cu ft density urethane foam which is sold in sheet form varying from 118 to 4 inches. This foam was originally used in the surfboard industry and is presently used in making wind surfers. It is used in the sandwich structures of the 0-2 fuselage

and Glasair. .

Clark Foam provides an ideal core material for sandwich panels in which fiberglass is laminated to each side of the foam core. The sheets can be purchased scored on one or both sides so the material can be bent when layed into a curved mold.

3.4 .. 2. Styrofoam

Styrofoam is a DuPont tradename for a 2 Ib/cu ft density insulation foam which is white to blue in color. This material is easily hot wire cut to form wing and control surface contours. It is dissolved by styrene and should not be used with Derakane or polyester resins. Do not confuse styrofoam with white expanded polystyrene which is the type seen in the common picnic coolers and drinking cups. The strength of the white expanded polyester foam is very low. However, it is used in several ultralight aircraft such as the Goldwing. blue insulation styrofoam is purchased from a local insulation company or Aircraft Spruce & Specialty.

Dow Chemical Co., manufactures an orange 1.5 to 2 Ib/cu ft polystyrene foam which is sold by most marine stores as floatation billet. This foam can be hot wire cut and it is used in the wings of the 0-2. Since this foam is impervious to ultraviolet radiation and it is low cost, it is preferred to the styrofoam. The polystyrene foam has a very porous surface which should be sealed with microslurry before laying up fiberglass over it to reduce the weight of the resin that will soak into the surface.




Table 8. Foams.
Urethane Clark Styrofoam Polystyrene PVC PV
Density, pcf 2 4.5 2 2 2-20 2-20
Color Green,Brown White Slue Orange, Blue Many White
Use Insulation Surfboard Insulation Floatation Aerospace Aero
Cost,$/1 "x 1.10 1.20 0.40 0.50 1.80 2.40
sq. ft
U.V. Resistance No No No Yes Yes Yes
Max Temp.,OF 170 180 165 165 220 350
Fire Resist. No No No No FAR 25.853
Compatibility A B* A,S A A A,B A,S
, Manufacturer Vertex Clark Foam Dow Chemical

Oakland, S. Laguna, Midland, MI


Telephone: 415569-9681 714831-1431

American Klegecell Grapevine, TX


• A = Epoxy

B = Polyester, Urethane

** Cyro Industries Woodcliff Lake, NJ 201 930-0100

3.4.3. PVC Foam

One of the most used core materials in the aerospace industry ;s a PVC foam manufactured in Germany and sold by the American Klegecell Corp. in Grapevine, Texas. This material, just as the other foams, comes in a variety of densities. Four densities from 2 Ib/cu ft to 15 Ih/cu ft and a variety




of thicknesses varying from 1.8 to 1 - 1/2 inches are available. Sheet sizes up to 4 by 8 feet can be bought. This material has a high strength and it is used as a core material in many high performance European sail planes and aerospace structures. It has good chemical resistance and excellent aging properties in addition to resistance to ultraviolet radiation. It is the only foam which meets the FAR Part 25.853 fire extinguishing requirements. Klegecell is compatible with polyester, epoxy, and polyurethane. It is interesting to know that it can be thermally formed by

heating with a large hair dryer or heat gun to 2200F. Klegecell cannot be hot wire cut and it is normally formed by sawing, carving, or routing. Klegecell is moderately priced as noted in Table 8.

3.4.4. PV - Rohaeell Foam

This is one of the strongest and toughest foams available and it is also the most expensive. Densities vary from 2 to 20 pct and it is self extinguishing. It is tormed at 3500F and it can normally withstand this temperature. After reaching 3500F it will expand. It is one of the best foam cores available and it is being used in limited application on the Stareship. I used this material exclusively on the FMC composite armored personnel carrier because of its excellent physical characteristics. It has a closed cell surface which must be "needled" and primed for the resin to stick to it. Needling is done by rolling a special roller over its surface. This roller has thin tapered needles protruding from its hub.

3.4.5. Honeycomb

Although honeycomb is very expensive to use it is finding more and more application in kit built aircraft such as the Silhouette and the Lancair 200. It is also used on the Stareship and the Voyager. It is the strongest and lightest of all the core materials. The most common honeycomb is HRH - 3/16 - 3.0 Nomex core made by the Hexcel Corporation in Dublin, California. To obtain a good bond to the honeycomb a film adhesive such as FM250K, 5 mills thick must be used. This film adhesive can be purchased from the American Cyanamide Co. of Havre De Grace, MD. Their telephone number is 301 939-1910. The adhesive is stored in a




sealed bag in a refrigerator and is normally cured at 2600F. Usually the honeycomb material is used exclusively with prep reg face sheets. The prepreg face sheets, the film adhesive, and the honeycomb are vacuum bagged and placed in an oven or autoclave to cure in one operation. The honeycomb can be purchased from Hexcel as a hexagonal cell for flat surface and as an over expanded cell called OX for highly single contoured surface. The OX core is used for highly contoured surface in one direction and mildly contoured surface in the orthogonal direction. Honeycomb core is also purchased as FLEX-CORE which easily bends in all directions and it is therefore used in fuselage shells which consist of highly contoured shapes.


To assure separation of a composite part from another such as a part made in a mold, it is imperative that the correct parting compound is used. There are a large number of compounds to choose from. However, after trying about 10 different kinds, I have found only one that really works and which is used extensively. The only really good parting compound is a green liquid called polyvinyl alcohol or PVA for short. PVA can be purchased from most plastic supply houses such as Tap Plastics, Inc. of San Leandro, California. It is water soluble and it is easily sprayed into a mold or on a pattern using a very fine mist. Usually a half hour is required to air dry the PVA before another thin layer can be applied. Only two to three coats are needed to prepare a mold. If PVA is sprayed too thick, it will form small droplets called "fish eyes". Some composite fabricators will plasma spray a thin zinc coating into their molds to assure a closed surface of the mold from which the part will easily separate without the use of PVA.

Without the zinc coating, it is recommended to first prepare the inside of the mold with Melax-3F mold conditioner and sealer. This material is made and sold by Axel Plastic Research Laboratories, Inc. in Woodside, New York.


Although epoxy laminating resins can and are used to bond composite materials to each other and to metals, epoxy adhesives provide




considerably higher strength bonded joints and are recommended. An excellent two component epoxy adhesive which was designed to bond aluminum to aluminum aircraft structures is 3M "Scotchweld" 2216 AlB Gray adhesive. Part A is mixed with part B in a ratio of 3 to 2 by volume or 7 to 5

by weight. Pot life is 1.5 hours and all bonding should be done at 600F or above. Because of its gray and sticky appearance, this material is often referred to as "gorilla snot". Scotchweld has maximum shear strength of 2,500 psi with about 1,500 psi being the average. For design purposes however, you should use about 800 psi as a shear strength. Cost for 1 U.S. quart is about $36.

A lower cost epoxy adhesive used in the aerospace industry to bond composite parts to each other and to metal is Hysol EA941 O. This adhesive is mixed with 4 parts A to 1 part B by volume or 100 parts A to 23 parts B by weight. Thorough mixing is important. Pot life for a mixed batch is 30

minutes at 750F and a full cure is achieved in 72 hours. Cost is $22 per quart. Hysol EA941 0 is made by Hysol Division in Industry, CA.


The finish of an aircraft is important since it will determine to a large extent the appearance and smoothness of the surface. With structures made in female molds, less work and less weight are realized in the finishing than for parts made over foam cores in which the fiber weave must be filled.

On the average at least 1/16 inch of finishing material is required for parts made over foam cores. For a small aircraft with a surface area of 250 sq ft., the finish will add about 60 pounds of weight. Because a lot of hand work in sanding is required in finishing an aircraft, it is important to select materials that will last a long time and will not flake off and require extra labor to redo or repair. Following are the most common finishing materials.

3.7.1. Bondo Lightweight Body Filler

I have tried six different body fillers commonly referred to as Bondo and I prefer a Bondo made by Dynatron Bondo Corporation. The Their Bondo is lightweight, 6.5 Ibs/gaUon, low cost at $16 per gallon, and readily available in most automotive stores. All Bondos are mixed with a very small quantity




of hardener on a scrap piece of aluminum or cardboard. A tongue depressor is used as a mixer. After mixing, a working life of about two minutes is possible. Full cure before sanding is about 15 minutes at 750F. It should be pointed out that a very small amount of hardener is needed and that most people use too much hardener.

Bondo is used extensively in making patterns for fiberglass molds and in filling large and small irregularities in the surface of fiberglass laminates prior to priming. Bond is without a doubt one of the most useful materials in building composite aircraft.

3.7.2. Feather Fill

Feather fill is a sprayabfe polyester filler/primer used for filling minor surface irregularities such as scratches, blemishes, and weave patterns before final sanding and priming. Feather fill cures and is ready to sand and paint in 45 to 60 minutes. It drys very quickly and care must be exercised in spraying it so that it does not dry before reaching the surface. The cost per gallon is about $30 and it can be purchased in most automotive paint stores or from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co.

3.7.3. Microspheres

Microspheres are actually hollow glass spheres. "Micro" is used to fill voids and low areas, to glue foam blocks together and as a bond between loams and glass cloth. Glass "spheres" are mixed with resin to form Micro. No care need be given to accurately measure the glass beads. They are simply poured in a sufficient typically 50/50 percent volume, to yield the consistency desired. Micro should never be used between layers of liberglass since it degrades the resin shear strength. Micro is used extensively to seal the foam prior to applying layers of fiberglass. The dry glass bubbles are purchased in small bags from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. or Tap Plastics for $10 per pound.




3.7.4. Primers and Thinners

Various automotive urethane or acrylic paints and primers are used by homebuilders to finish their aircraft. However. for priming I have found that DuPont "100S Gray Multi-Purpose Acrylic Lacquer Primer Surfacer" adheres well to both aluminum and ftberglass. This primer is thinned with 2.5 parts thinner to 1 part primer by volume with Du Pont "36618. Mid Temperature. Acrylic Thinner" for spraying. Once this primer has been applied as a base coat, DuPont 70S Dark Gray primer mixed with 2.5 parts lacquer thinner to 1 part of primer by volume can be applied over the base coat. The 708 sands much easier and it contains 15% carbon black which provides some ultraviolet radiation protection for the fiberglass and foam.

It is an excellent surfacer in preparation for the finish paint. It should be cautioned that a fiberglass part painted with this primer may well exceed surface temperatures of 2100F when placed in the sun so that you must work with this primer in the shade at all times. All painting should be done in the shade to obtain the proper finish.

3.7.5. Paints

Just as with the primers, automotive acrylic or urethane paints are used. I recommend using DuPont polyurethane enamel instead of acrylic enamel. The urethane is more expensive per gallon at about $60 compared to $35 per gallon for the acrylic. However. when one realized that it will take at least three coats of acrylic enamel compared to two coats for the urethane to obtain good coverage and therefore save weight. that the urethane will last 10 years in the sun compared to 5 years for the acrylic. and that the urethane is more rugged, one must agree that the extra cost of the urethane is worth the extra money. Fiberglass and foam structures must be painted light colors so that the structures do not heat up and creep and degrade in the sun. It should be noted that most epoxy and polyester resins have a heat distortion

temperature of less than 2100F and that styrofoam and urethane foams will structurally degrade above 170 of. A black painted structure can easily reach temperatures of 2100F in the sun. A white structure will be




at least 50 of less in temperature under the same conditions. Several white colors are available. I recommend DuPont IMRON S08U "White" polyurethane enamel and DuPont 44162U "Solar Yellow". The enamel is mixed in a ratio of 3 volumes of enamel to 1 volume of DuPont 1925 activator and reduced 20% with reducer prior to spray painting. The reducer is a must if no "orange peel" and a perfectly smooth finish is desired.

3.7.6. Gel Coat

To fabricate fiberglass pieces in a female mold, a gel coat should be brushed or sprayed into the mold and allowed to cure prior to laminating the part. This gel coat not only gives a smooth and pit free surface, but allows the fiberglass part to separate from the mold. For epoxy, polyester, or vinyl ester layups, one to two coats of polyester RAM gel coat are used. RAM Chemicals of Gardena, California sells the gel coat in 5 gallon drums for about $85. Although many colors can be used, RAM "Cloud White" No. 50 is normally used. The gel coat is thoroughly mixed with 30/0 MEKP and sprayed or brushed into the mold and allowed to cure for at least 6 hours. Gel coats are not used for the moldless foam core aircraft structures. The gel coat used on the Glasair adds about 40 pounds to the total aircraft. If gel coat were not used, more than 40 pounds of Bondo and primer would be needed to fiJI in the weave.


A small number of special tools are needed as described herein.

Most of these tools can be made at a low cost.

3.8.1. Resin Balance

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. sells an epoxy ratio pump for about $150. This highly recommended pump, aptly caJled "Sticky-StuffDispenser", will save about $150 in epoxy in building a typical small aircraft plus time, mess, and risk of a bad batch are minimized. The balance assures accurate measurements of low viscosity, under 3,500 cps, unfilled epoxy resin. The standard model A dispenser pump is set for the Safe- T -Poxy and delivers a ratio of 100 parts resin for 44 parts of





A pump conversion kit allows mixing other resins in other ratios. This kit costs $50 and a do-it-yourself conversion is possible. If a person does not want to buy a pump, a simple balance, as shown in Figure 8, can be easily made. Prior to balancing resin, add weight such as large bolts or nuts, to the short end to balance the scale with paper cups whetted and placed on the scale. Fill the 3 ounce paper cup with hardener and add resin to the 8 ounce cup until the balance moves. Pour resin and hardener into a large paper bucket, mix the resin thoroughly and apply to laminate. All paper cups must be unwaxed and flat bottomed. Medical tongue depressors, 3.4 inch by 6 inch are great for mixing small quantities. A box of 500 depressors cost $10. The tongue depressors and paper cups can be bought at a drug store.

3.8.2. Hot Wire Cutter

Airfoil sections are usually cut out of styrofoam using a hot wire cutter.

Two hot wire cutters are often needed. A large one is used to cut large pieces up to 70 inches long. The large cutter is made of a 2 x 4 inch timber about 72 inches long. Two pieces of 3/4 inch diameter by 0.12 inch thick steel tubing and 0.040 inch diameter 302 stainless steel safety wire as shown in Figure 9 are used. The voltage control unit is a CALRAD Variable Voltage Control unit which is sold by Alpha Plastics. for about $85. The safety wire is also available from them for $6 for a 1 pound spool. Input to the voltage control is 115 volts AC and the output is variable from 0 to 130 volts AC at 5 amps. A fuse should be installed in the second circuit to protect the control in case of a short circuit.

3.8.3. Docket Spray Gun

The Docket Spray Gun is a must when working with composites. No paint flows through the gun and it is easy to clean. It uses disposable paper cups and operates on a siphon tube principle. Fillers, primers, and paint can be easily sprayed with this gun. A compressor capable of producing 90 to 95 psi is needed. The Docket and very useful tools are available from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. and I recommend ordering their catalogue for $5. A complete list of composite material suppliers is listed in Appendix B .

. .





8 oz Paper Cup


3 oz Paper Cup

Add ~'leight, Large Nut



1jLS r-:


1/4 i



'2.'2..0 ~ .

O.D. cono~ l-

or Alumi~~~ 1.O~

Figure 8. Epoxy Balance




1/2 0.0. x .12 Steel Tube
.040 Stainless Steel 7re



Voltage 18 Volt
Control 2 x 4
L\lr.'ber 6 I Long Figure 9. Hot Wire Cutter

3.8.4. Kerosene Heater

Although the cure temperature of polyester resin can vary from 500F and above, to properly cure epoxy resins a temperature above 770F and preferably above 850F must be maintained for at least 12 hours. Working at 850F also reduces the resin viscosity and layups are easier to wet out. If you are working in your garage, you will need to heat it and I have found that a 30,000 BTU/hr kerosene heater works well to heat a two car garage. The heater can be purchased from Sears, Roebuck and Company for about $210. It holds 2.25 gallons of kerosene or number 1 fuel oil and it will burn for 12 hours. The model number is 583,409910. Caution should be used in operating it and some ventilation is needed.





Making parts out of composites can be very rewarding. Shapes unobtainable by other techniques can be readily made by either the layup over foam technique or by making a mold and layup inside the mold. Both techniques have a large number of fabrication variations. If a small number of parts, one or two, are to be built, it is advantages to build the part by making a foam core and layup the reinforcing materials over the core. If more than several parts are to be built, it is better to first make a pattern, make a mold, and then make the part inside the mold. Because the technique of building a fiber reinforced structure around a foam core is the easiest, we will discuss this method first. Also see Reference 14 in Appendix C.


The rigid foams that we are using in aircraft structures have two unique properties. They are lightweight and they can be easily cut and formed. The layup over foam method was well developed in the surfboard industry in the early 1950's when lightweight foam/fiberglass surfboards replaced the heavy balsa wood and hollow plywood boards. Surfboards were produced and sold by the millions by custom shaping a urethane foam core and wet laying two layers of 20 ozlsq.yd of B.D. fiberglass cloth with a polyester resin over each side. To finish the surface, the. fiberglass was

. sanded and coated with one brushed on coat of surfacing resin or gloss coat. These surfboards were beautiful, tough, and light and their avaifabiJity generated a "surfamania" in those regions of our world which are blessed with a warm coastal climate and the proper coastal geometry and swells to allow surfing.




. The new composite aircraft wave is similar to the "surfamania" of the 1950's and it is interesting to note the similarity in the construction techniques of our present composite structures.

Let us now consider a complete aircraft airframe by first considering the fuselage. There are several methods for making the fuselage core. One technique uses several plywood or foam bulkheads which are held together by wood stringers as shown in Figure 1 O.





Figure 10. Making the Fuselage Core

A quick curing resin, polyester or epoxy, is usually used to bond 2 inch thick urethane foam sheets to the wood frame as shown in sequence 2 of Figure 10. Once cured, the foam panels are shaped to the final dimensions.




It should be noted that styrofoam or PVC foam can also be used. In fact, a higher density PVC foam may be required for shear and bearing strength. However, these foams are considerably harder to hand shape. Usually a rasp file, hand saw, and 50 grit coarse sandpaper are used to shape the contours. The large flat sides are shaped using coarse sandpaper bonded the 2 foot long by 6 inch wide wood slate. This slate is used to evenly remove foam. Cardboard templates are used over a urethane core. However, the higher strength of the epoxy and vinyl ester favors using these resins. To help reduce weight, it is advantageous to first seal the foam with a coat of microslurry. The microslurry is made by mixing a normal batch of epoxy resin with a 500/0 by volume glass microspheres. The micro is properly mixed and squeegeed onto the foam. Excess micro should be scraped off and placed back into the bucket. Once the micro has gelled, the layers of fabric are laminated over the foam. Brush the resin into each layer of fabric before placing the next layer over it and be certain to "stribble" with an up and down motion of the brush. After all layer of cloth have been thoroughly whetted out, squeegee out any access resin. Because of the short pot life of the resin, it may be necessary to work on a small area at a time. It should also be pointed out that microspheres should never be mixed into the laminating resin since microspheres greatly reduce the interlaminar shear strength of the laminate between the layers of fabric.

After one side is cured, turn over the core and laminate the other side.

Usually 1 inch of overlap is allowed between fayers of fabric. It is important that this overlap is smooth and free from grease and dirt which could degrade the mechanical strength of the lap joint. Sometimes peel ply, a Dacron fabric tape available from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty is placed over the last ply in the overlap area. This peel ply is peeled off after the resin has cured, before the overlap of the second laminate is resined in place. After the laminate is cured, the surface is coated with a thin layer of micro which is used to fill in the weave of the fabric. After the micro has cured, the surface is lightly sanded and readied for Banda and primer. While sanding, avoid sanding into the layers of fibers. If an air bubble is sanded into, repair the damaged area with layers of fabric and resin and resand. At this point some people prefer to spray Feather Fill onto the surface. However, I prefer to only use Bondo.




Banda is squeegeed onto the surface in a very thin layer so that all imperfections are filled. After the Banda has hardened, the surface is sanded with 50 to 90 grit sandpaper. Usually two to three coats of Banda are needed to fill the fabric patterns and any pits. After Bondo, spray a coat of lacquer primer over the surface and sand with 180 to 220 grit wet and dry sandpaper to fi!1 all scratches. Respray and sand as necessary before applying the finish coat of enamel or urethane. paint. The inside of the fuselage is also carved out and covered with several layers of fabric.

!love hot w i r e out and ~-rernove top foam. Then move hot w i r e in and out bot torr. contour.


Figure 11. Preparing a Core for Hot Wire Cutting




The wing and tail surface cores are made quite differently from the fuselage core.

Two Ibs/cu.ft light blue styrofoam or, better yet, blue or orange styrofoam floatation billet is used because this material is easily hot wire cut and very _ little sanding is required to shape the core. A wing core is typically fabricated by making a template the shape of the root and a template the shape of the tip. Using nails, which are pushed through holes in the templates and into the foam core, the templates are held in against the sides of the foam core as shown in Figure 11. Small pieces of steel are used as weights to hold down the foams on a flat table. Two people are needed to guide the hot wire cutter over each template. Each template is divided into an equal number of spaces and each space is numbered. One person calls out the number where his wire is located on the template and the other person makes certain that his end is at the same number.

The template should be about 0.020 inches oversize since the wire cuts a little deeper than the template. The temperature of the wire should be adjusted so that the foam is cut smoothly with little hairlike strands coming from the foam surface. The cutting speed should be almost 6 inches per minute. If the cutting speed is too fast, the wire will sag excessively and the cut surface will be bowed.

If the cutting rate is too slow, excessive foam is cut away by the hot wire.

It is advised to make a cutting try on some scrap foam. Hot wire cutting foam is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in building composite aircraft parts. After the core is cut out, remove surface irregularities with sandpaper, seal the surface with micro, and layup the laminate as with the fuselage. Remember that only epoxy resin can be used. The styrene in the polyester and vinyl ester will dissolve the styrofoam and polystyrene foam. Urethane and PVC foam cannot be hot wire cut. Finishing is the same as for the fuselage.

It should be noted that wire cutting thin sections is difficult because the thin layer and heated foam tends to distort or warp the material. When making thin sections such as trailing edges, it is advisable to only cut one side as shown in Figure 12. After the cut side is reinforced with fiberglass,




the thin section is sanded to its final shape as shown by sequence 3 in Figure 12.


There are several reasons for why this process is one of the nicest ways to fabricate parts. First parts made in a female mold are usually easy and quick to build since no time is required to shape a foam core. The shape is in the mold and the part will duplicate that shape. Secondly, the parts are lighter since the surfaces in contact with the mold are "glass" smooth and require considerably less sanding and finishing. Thirdly, the resin in a part made in a female mold can be controlled better since there is not foam to soak it up. The most difficult and time consuming job is to make the pattern. The pattern can be made around a urethane foam core which is carved out slrnilar to the fuselage. Once the urethane foam core is ready, a light fiberglass cloth, 4 - 10 oz/sq.yd boat deck cloth is layed up. The deck deck cloth and resin are allowed to thoroughly harden and the surface is coated with Bondo and sanded.

After three to four layers of Bondo, the pattern is primered and sanded and finally painted with a good enamel such as Rustoleum. Rustoleum should be allowed to dry at least 24 hours. It may be necessary to make a split mold to make certain that the part can be easily removed. The split line is easy to incorporate into the pattern and an easy method is defined. After completing the initial pattern, a thin piece of aluminum, 0.020 to 0.060 inches thick, is cut out to fit along the split line as depicted in Figure 13.

The aluminum is usually tacked in place with Bondo on one side. Three to four light coats of PVA are sprayed over the non-Bondo side of the pattern. Although the mold may be made using epoxy resin and fiberglass, I prefer using an inexpensive polyester such as the orthophthalic resin sold by Tap Plastics. To make the mold, first brush or spray on a thick layer of either RAM Red or Black tooling gel coat.

A layer of polyester resin may also be used instead of the tooling gel coat. Allow the gel coat to cure until it is hard. Then brush on a coat of laminating resin and layup one layer of 10 oz/sq.yd fiberglass boat cloth. Work out all air bubbles. make certain that the fabric is thoroughly whetted




out, and allow the resin to gel. It is important not to have air bubbles located between the gel coat and this first layer of fabric since the inside surface of the mold cannot be porous. After the resin has gelled, about one hour after mixing resin, apply one to two layers of heavy matting, 20 to 30 oz/sq.yd, which can also be purchased at Tap Plastics.


1. Template is secured to foam.



2. Hot wire cut out shape.

3. Glass one side and sand foam flush with fiberglass as shown before adding layers of fiberglass fabric.

Figure 12. Forming a Thin Trailing Edge Out of Foam




Thoroughly wet out the matting with resin and squeegee out as many air bubbles as possible. Before the resin has a chance to gel, 15 to 20 minutes maximum, lay one ply of 10 oz/sq.yd fiberglass boat cloth over the matting. This final layer will give a nice texture to the outside of the mold and also increase its strength and stiffness. Flat surfaces of molds have a tendency to bow. It is therefore important to reinforce unsupported straight edges with wooden slats which are also covered with fiberglass matting and fiberglass cloth. After the reinforcement has been glassed in place, the sheet of aluminum, which has formed a parting line, is removed and the other half of our pattern is sanded, painted, and coated with PVA. The second mold half is made in the same manner in which the first half is made. After it has cured, at least 24 hours, 1/4 inch holes are drilled through the parting flanges; the mold is pried apart with a large screwdriver and pieces of wood, and using an electric circle saw and an electric sander, the edges of the mold are trimmed. PVA is water soluble and therefore the molds are cleaned with water.

The inside surface of the molds can be coated with a thin film of mold surfacer sold by Axel Plastics. This conditioner is rubbed into the surface with a soft rag. It does not replace our PVA release agent and it is not absolutely necessary to use. It does help to release the parts in the mold and often we will need all the help we can get.

The quaJity of the part will depend on how accurate the plug is made. It is therefore important to spend time in making a good plug with accurate and smooth surfaces. One may spend a month making a plug and only one day making a mold, and one-half a day making a part from that mold.

With the mold finished, the inside of the mold is sprayed with three to four thin coats of PVA. Allow the PVA to dry between coats. For both epoxy and polyester resin parts, a coat of RAM polyester gel coat is sprayed or brushed into the mold and the gel coat is allowed to fully cure. One layer of 10 oz/sq.yd or one layer of 7781 glass fabric is layed up inside the mold. Next, a 2 inch wide strip of glass cloth is layed up along the edges to provide reinforcement to where the part will be fastened, and a second layer of glass fabric is layed up into the mold. All excess resin is squeegeed out and the part is allowed to cure for at least 12 hours for polyester parts and at




least 24 hours for epoxy parts when cured at room temperature.

Foam and Fiberglass Plug


1. Attach aluminum to plug.

2. Turn plug over and lay UD nold on one side.


3. Remove aluminum and lay up other half of mold.

Figure 13. Making A Split Fiberglass Pattern




At elevated temperatures, cure cycles can be as short as 5 minutes with special fast curing resin systems. A two ply laminate as described above is suitable for most fairing such as engine cowls, wing tips, and wheel fairings. Wing and fuselage structures may require more plies depending on structural and stiffness requirements as discussed in Chapter 5.

After the part is cured, it is removed from the mold and the edges are trimmed by shearing with a large sheet metal shear. Removing the part from the mold may require a little friendly persuasion with a screwdriver, pliers, and rubber mallet. Be careful not to damage the part.

Because of the difficulty in cutting and machining Kevlar, special working procedures and tools are used. For hand shearing the dry fabric, serrated shears marketed by Pen Associates and Technology Associates work especially well by preventing the material from slipping out from between the cutting surfaces. Some of these serrated shears are supplied with a coating for increased durability and wear. The addresses of these shear companies are given below. '

Pen Associates, Inc. 3639 W. Robins Drive Wilmington, DE 19808 Telephone 302 995-6868

Shears No. WR-12C-6, 6 inch coated

Technology Associates, Inc. P.O. Box 7163

Wilmington, DE 19803 Telephone 302 475-6219 Shears No. EHD 6-155. 6 inch

The drilling of laminated Kevlar requires a single point self centering serrated drill available from Pen Associates. Inc. as shown in Figure 14.





., .: . . !


Figure 14. Tools for Working with Kevlar

Conventional drills can be used but firm backup of the laminate is needed. A special counter sinking tool as shown in Figure 14 can be purchased from Pen Associates Inc.

Band sawing of Kevlar is accomplished with a fine toothed blade, 14 to 22 teeth per inch, and surface speeds of 4,500 to 6,500 feet per minute. The band should be reversed so that the heel of the tooth enters the laminate first and the band saw teeth should be honed as shown in Figure 15.
















4.3. Foam Sandwich Fabrication

One of the best methods of making a lightweight and stiff shell is to utilize foam sandwich in which foam or honeycomb is sandwiched between two layers of fiberglass.



{ ',;


The Glasair's fuselage, wing, and tail structures, the Lancair 200 wings, and the 0-2's fuselage are constructed out of foam-fiberglass-sandwich and in each case the sandwich is layed up and cured in two and sometimes in one operation by first laying two outside plies of fiberglass cloth into a female mold and wetting out the fabric with resin if a prepreg is not used. Secondly, before the resin starts to gel, the 4.Slb/cu.ft density Clark foam is placed into the mold against the fiberglass. If the contour is curved in one direction, the foam core can be purchased cut so that it will easily bend. I If the curvature is in two directions, the foam can be purchased diced for a little extra money. Holes should be punctured into the foam prior to installing. These holes are made using a curved board with nails protruding from the board at about 2 to 3 inch intervals. The board is rolled over the foam sheet.

With the foam sheet in place, the inside ply or plies are layed against the foam, and a polyvinyl chloride sheet vacuum bag is placed over the laminate and sealed along the edges. A vacuum is puJled on the sandwich and the atmospheric pressure holds the sandwich against the inside of the mold as the resin for the inside and outside plies cure. Usually a 12 hour cure cycle is used for room temperature curing resins. The holes in the foam are necessary to allow entrapped air to escape from the first plies of fiberglass through the foam and out through the vacuum system.

Various foam cores and fiberglass resin systems can be used.







T he design rational used in designing most aircraft structures is summarized in Figure 16, and it is seen that most of the steps are identical to those used in designing conventional aluminum structures. For example, the process of determining the aircraft requirements and loads should be and are the same for a composite aircraft as they are for an aluminum or steel and fabric covered aircraft. However, the second, third, and fourth steps are unique to composite structures and this chapter will discuss these steps in detail.

To select a composite material structural configuration, it is important that the designer have a thorough knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of the various fabrication techniques used in building Chapter 4. Usually a specific structural configuration is selected for ease of construction, low tooling and fabrication costs, lightweight, or a combination of the above. For example, Figure 17 shows the weights of two wings in pounds per linear inch of span as a function of the airfoil thickness. The wing spar is identical for both wing structures. One wing structure uses a solid 2 Ibs/cu.ft foam core with a thick fiberglass skin and this wing is represented by the steep sloping line in Figure 17. The shallow sloping line represents a fiberglass/foam sandwich structure capable of taking the same aeroshear loads as the foam core structure. If the designer has decided to use a thick airfoil section such as a 17% chord thickness, he may using Figure 17 as a guide, decide to utilize a fibergJass foam sandwich since this structure is lighter than the solid foam core. On the other hand, a control surface may only have a 10% thick section and the designer may opt to build a solid foam core structure which is easier to build and requires very little tooling.




.: Determine Requirements end Leeds

Celculete Stress, f f:P +Mxc

- --



No Good

Eveluete Cost vs Weight

Figure 16. Composite Material Design Logic.





s: u c

<, VI '0 C ;:, o a,



.-J s:




c o


.-J U CL> (f)








Percent Thickness, hie

Figure 17. Comparison of a Solid Foam Core to a Sandwich Foam Wing.

Once a type of composite structure has been selected, dimensioned cale drawings or layout s are made and the preliminary structural sizing of Ie components and laminates can proceed using standard structural nalytic techniques together with the simple optimization techniques and ~uations presented in this chapter. These optimizations deviate msiderably from the mechanics of materials equations presented in eferences 1,2, 3, and 5. However, they are extremely practical and easy

use and they provide a useful tool to the composite structural designer 10 is aware of their purposes and their limitations.




Loads analysis and the classical analysis of metallic structures are covered in References 8,9,10, and 11 and the reader is advised to use these references together with the equations presented herein.

Fibers of glass, graphite, or Kevlar are woven into bidirectional, B.D., fabrics or unidirectional, U.O .• fabrics, tapes, or rovings. The mechanical properties of laminates made up of these fibers vary according to the angle

9 at which the load is applied as shown in Figure 18. Since the U.D. materials have almost all of the fibers oriented in the longitudinal direction L, the maximum tensile strength and stiffness is achieved when the load is

applied parallel to the primary fiber direction or e = 00. The minimum strength of a U.D. ply laminate is achieved when the load is applied

transverse, T. to the longitudinal fibers ore = 900. The tensile strength of the U.O. ply laminate in the transverse direction is dictated by the tensile strength of the resin which is normally 7.000 to 10,000 psi. The B.D. fabrics have about one-half the fibers oriented in the lon'gitudinal direction and half in the transverse direction such that their strength and stiffness characteristics are orthotropic. To achieve isotropic or approximately equal mechanical properties in all directions, it is necessary to cross ply B.D. fabrics. Usually a minimum of three B.D. plies are needed with the longitudinal axis of the second ply located 600 from the longitudinal axis of the first ply and the longitudinal axis of the third ply located 600 from the longitudinal axis of the first ply in the opposite side of the longitudinal axis of the second ply.

The mechanical properties and design tensile strength of typical laminated composite materials are summarized in Table 9. These values are lower than material supplier's published data since these values are design properties. For example. the design tensile strength for most composite laminates is determined by averaging the tensile strength from actual mechanical tests and subtracting two standard deviations. See Chapter 6. It should be noted that the compressive strength of most composite laminates is lower than the tensile strength. This is especially true for Kevlar which, as shown in Table 9, has a tensile strength of 60,000 psi and a compressive strength of 23.000 psi. Because of this Jow compressive strength. Kevlar is almost solely used for fairings, wheel pants, engine cowls. and other fairings in aircraft structures.




The mechanical properties listed in Table 9 were acquired from actual material tests and design manuals used in the aerospace industry. The 50% resin content is typical for most hand layups. If vacuum bagging and temperature cure cycles are used, the resin content may be reduced to as little as 30% which would increase the mechanical strength and reduce the weight of the structure. It is also important to note that these values are representative of epoxy and Derakane resin. Polyester resin laminates will usually have lower mechanical properties.

Table 9. Typical Laminate Material Properties, 50% Fiber

Volume. -

Fiberglass Cloth Graphite Kevlar Resin
Style 7781 1543 1800 T300,AS4,C3000 49
B.D. U.D. B.D. B.D. U.D. B.D.
Tensile Strength, ksi
L* 33 66 28 75 130 60 7
T 33 8.5 28 75 7.5 60
Tensile Modulus, msi
L* 2.3 4.4 2.0 7 15 4.4 0.3
T 2.3 1.2 2.0 7 1.2 4.4
Compressive Strength, ksi
L* 24 43.5 72 23
T 24 25 23
Density 0.076 0.076 0.076 0.055 0.055 0.05 0.042
Cost, $/Ib 2.00 2.20 2.20 26.00 26.00 9.00 1.30
• L=Longitudinal, T = Transverse , DESIGN



Let us now review some rules of mechanics. When we pull on a composite material, or infact any material, with a load P, the material will

elongate by ~I as shown in Figure 18. If the behavior is elastic and linear, we can define the stress, f, (load P divided by the cross selection area of the

material, A) as equal to the elastic modulus, E, times the strain, E. This equation is known as Hook's law. Remember E is elongation ~L divided by the original length L. See Eq 1. It should be pointed out that for some materials, and in some cases for composites, the stress-strain plots as shown in Figure 19 are not linear. However, to simplify our calculations, we assume that for all of our composites the elastic modulus is constant and Hook's Law can be applied.

- ,.~----;,:? _rF'-

4---- /' .'

,:_uu_( :'

1 _

--..J ~L I.. - L--~.I

Test Coupon

Materi al Fail ure Point



.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Where, f = P


£ £ = ~L



Figure 18. Stress versus Strain, Hook's Law.

E is also known as the stiffness of the material and we already know that the stiffness and strength of most composites will vary depending on what angle the load is applied at in the plane of the material.




The stress applied in Figure 18 is referred to as a single dimensional state of stress. We can also define the stresses in two dimensions as shown in Figure 19. However, before discussing the two dimensional case, let us calculate the stiffness and strength of composite material laminates for any symmetric ply stacking in one dimension. To do this, we first determine by testing the stiffness and strength of a single oriented laminate or single ply, lamina, in the longitudinal and transverse direction and record these values as we have done for various composites in Table 9. The stiffness or strength of the lamina for any other orientation can be calculated using Eq 2 or 3 for B.D. or U.D. materials and by knowing that the

stiffness or strength at 8 = 450 is equal to 0.74 times that in the longitudinal direction for B.D. lamina made of fiberglass. The stiffness or strength at 8 = 450 for U. D. lamina is almost identical to its transverse stiffness or strength at e = 900• These equations were derived by the author and compared to other techniques to verify their accuracy.

For a B. D. lamina at 8 = 00 - 900 we have,

E = E 1 + Eo + (E 1 - Eo> x cos 4x9

2 2


For a U.D. lamina at e = 00 - 450 we have,

E = E 1 - (E 1 - Eo> x SIN 2x9 Where,


E1 = modulus or strength in the longitudinal or warp direction Eo = modulus or strength at 8 = 450

8 = angle of the longitudinal fibers from the applied load

The values of Table 9 are now used to calculate the tensile modulus of 7781 B.D. and 1543 U.D. fiberglass lamina as shown in Figures 22 and 23 respectively.





~-~2 Dtrecti on

Figure 19. Two Dimensional State of Stress, Plane Stress.

For example, from Table 9 for7781 style fiberglass, E1 = 2.3 ksi and Eo = 0.74 x 2.3 = 1.7 ksi. Substituting E1 and Eo into Eq 2 we have,

E = 2.3 + 1.7 + (2.3 - 1.7) COS 4x8 or

2 2

E = 2.0 + 0.30 COS 4x8

This equation is plotted in Figure 21. In a similar manner the shear moduli for style 7781 and 1543 fiberglass lamina are calculated and plotted in Figure 23.

Let us now go back to our problem of calculating the mechanical properties of a laminate which is made up of any number of lamina. The stiffness of a laminate can be easily determined by summing the products of each ply modulus and its thickness divided by the total thickness of the laminate as expressed in Eq 4.




E = E, + Eo + (E, - E
2 2



- E





Elastic Modulus of B.D. Fabric/Resin

0) COS 4xS


E, -

[\_ E =E, - (E, - Eo)x

SIN 2x9

Elastic Modulus of U.D. Fabric/Resin

Figure 20. Graphical Presentation of Equations 2 and 3.


2: Ekx tk k=l

E = ----

. (4)




Equation 4 shows how to determine the modulus for the laminate. The definition for the terms in Eq 4 are,

1: = summation sign

Ek = elastic modulus in the desired direction, ksi

tk = ply thickness, inches

n = total number of plies

k = ply number

Next we calculate the maximum strength of each ply in the direction of the load by substituting the strength from Table 9 into Equations 2 and 3. Simply replace all the E's by F's in these equations. For example, for a style 7781 fiberglass ply, Fl = 33 ksi, Fo = 0.74 x 33 = 24.4 ksi. From Eq 2,

F = 28.7 + 4.3 COS 49


Using Eq 3, the strength of a style 1543 fiberglass ply lamina is,

F = 66 - 57.5 SIN 29


Now calculate the strains for each lamina in the direction of the applied load using Eq 1 which is rewritten as,



F = calculated from Eq 5 or 6

E = determined from the plots or equations in Figure 3 as described previously

The minimum strain is selected and using the "Maximum Strain Failure Theory" we claim that the laminate will fail when the failure strain of the weakest lamina is reached. Therefore, the maximum strain of the laminate will be equal to the strain of the least strain lamina.







.. ~ e

p p

II I 1 II I 1 11 LI~l~ll_ll
S1 I I I I I I I I I I I I I II I "1.
~~ = 2.0 + 0.30 COS 4X9




8- 11

~ ~

I A:l


E, k



00 22.50 s 450 67.50 900

Figure 21. Elastic Modulus for B.D. 7781 Glass/Epoxy


I I 1 II I
I I I I ( (
For e = 00 - 450 ..

E = 4.4 - 3.2 SIN 2xe

I I I I I 1 I I b I I I 10
For e = 45 - 90

E = 1.2 ,



r- 3.0-

E, kS1




o 22.50 s 450 67.50 900

Figure 22. Elastic Modulus for U.D. 1543 Glass/Epoxy






t-t-H-1r-H-t-t-t+-t+t-t-H-iH-i::.:+-+~-t+tt ... 7 7 8 1 G 1 ass I E pox y 1-t--H-iH-t-++++++-++-H-IIf+-t-++++-++-++-G = 0.78 - o. 1 8 COS 4 x 8


G, msi

::t:~~t:::::::::::::::tt:~~:::::::t!ttt:::1~~::::::tt:::,} 543 G 1 ass / E pox y

0.8 - G = 0.64 - 0.24 COS 4x8

o. 4 -·A-t-+-FHf-~-+-+







I II I I I I I I I I'" I II "1" I


o ~1~±±~~~~±±~~±b~±±~I~±b~~

0° 22.5° 45° e 67.50 90°

Figure 23. Shear Modulus for 7781 Glass/Epoxy and 1543 Glass/Epxoy

Using this strain and knowing the elastic modulus of the laminate from Eq 4, the failure strength of the laminate is, per Hook's Law, Equation 1,

F = Exe


It should be noted that other failure criteria such as the "Maximum Stress




Theory" and the "Tsai-Hill Theory" and the "Tsai-Wu Tensor Theory" exist and that according to Reference 1 the best one for glass/epoxy is the 'TsaiHill Theory". However because the "Maximum Strain Theory" is the best understood and the most used theory, we will not present the others in this book. It is interesting to note that even though a lamina fails, adjacent laminae fibers are often capable of picking up the loads from the failed ply before total failure of the structure occurs.

To better understand the laminate strength calculations, let us now determine the failure strength of a laminate using style 7781 and 1534 fiberglass epoxy as shown in Figure 30. Using Figure 22 and Equations 5, 6, and 7 the strains are calculated and tabulated in Figure 24. Using Eq 4 the elastic modulus of the laminate is,

E = (4x4.4xO.01 +2x1.7xO.009 + 2x2.15xO.009 +1.2xO.01)x106/O.086 = 3.0 x 106 psi

From Figure 30, it is seen that the lowest strain is 0.007 in/in at ply number 5. Therefore, the laminate stress or strength at which ply number 5 fails is, from Eq 8, -

F = 3.0 106 x 0.007 = 42,000 psi

Obviously it is a poor choice to include ply number 5 for the applied load P shown in Figure 24. Unless there is some other reason, ply number 5 should be omitted from the laminate.





CD..r:. o t.:

• C

n, O·,..f

c .,..f

,- III C,.._ ... .,..f- 0 • •

.. [T 0




- III tn-

~ .

II) \D

• [T \D ~W




" ... - -~ '"

~ e ~

o •

• J.4 'I;f ~~


C 0 .l£

U 0 >,.,..f •

~..r:. 0 -~ ....

M 'I;f III
















0\ o o



CD ,.._


CD ,.._







o M




0\ o o



,.._ o o














o M




0\ o o



CD ,.._








0\ o o



CD ,.._


III ..-















Figure 24. Laminate Strength Calculation using Maximum Strain Theory.




With an understanding of the single dimensional stress case we are better prepared to understand the more common two dimensional or plane stress case for a specially orthotropic material. See Figure 19 for stress designation. Hook's Law, Eq 1, is written in matrix form as,





or, {f} = [a] {£}


{f} = column matrix of stress [a] = stiffness matrix

{£} = column matrix of strain

Qll = E"

(1 - V,Z V2l)

Q22 = E22
Q'2 = Q21 = V21 E11 = V,2 En
(1 - V,2 V21) (1 - V,2 V21)
Qss = G G = shear modulus u = Poisson's ratio

1 st subscript = side 1 or side 2

2nd subscript = direction 1 or 2 or 3, only direction 1 or 2 for plane stress

For example, E11 is the elastic modulus for a load acting on side 1 and in




direction 1 and subscript 6 is used to denote shear properties. See Figure 19. For thin laminates, the plane stress case, the stress and strain in direction 3 are set equal to zero.

Just as in Eq 7, the strains can be determined from,

{e} = [S] {f}


Where, [S] = compliance matrix = the inverse of [Q]

The off axis orthotropic lamina properties can be determined using a transformation matrix [T] as follows.

( 1 1)

. E 1 EX 2
E2 = [T) Ey
E3 !...xy X
2 2
m2 n2 2xmxn
[T) = n2 m2 -2xmxn
-rnxn mxn m2-n2 m = cos e and n = SIN e




Equations 11 are analogous to the equations in Figure 20 in which the lamina mechanical properties are determined as a function of e. Equations 9, 10, and 11 are now used to show that the stresses in any lamina within a laminate are equal to,

fx Ex
fy = [Q 1 k Ey ( 12)
fz k E xy
Q11 Q12 Ou;
[ Q ] k = Q12 Q22 026
QIS Q26 Oss k The definition for the terms in Equation 12 are,

and, m = COS a, n = SIN e. k = lamina number




The in plane loads N for a balanced ,specially orthotropic, laminate, that is a laminate in which for every lamina at plus e orientation, there is a corresponding similar lamina at minus e orientation, are defined in Ibs/in by Eq 13.

Nx A" A'2 0 EX
Ny = A21 A2z 0 E Y ( 13)
N xy 0 0 Ass E xy
Where, n = total number of plies k = lamina number

The strains can also be expressed in terms of the loads N as,

EX a 11 a 12 a,S Nx
Ey = (14 )
a2l a22 a2S Ny
E xy aSl aS2 ass N xy
Where, [a] = [A] -1 To demonstrate the use of Eqs 9 through 15, let us calculate the margins of safety in a simple two ply laminate subjected to N1, N2 and Ns as shown

in Figure 25. For ply 1 and ply 2 the QijS are calculated from Eq 9 as follows.




_ 2.3 x 106 Q 11

(1 - O.2xO.2)

= 2.4x 1 06

Q22 - 2.3 x 106

(1 - 0.2xO.2)

Q _ 0.2x2.3x 1 06 __

= 21-

(1 - 0.2xO.2)

0.48x 1 06

Q66 = 0.6x 1 06

Figure 25. A Two Ply Laminate Subjected to In-Plane-Loads.

MATERIALS for Sample in Figure 25 Thickness, inches Orientation

Ply 1 P1y 2

7781 Fiberglass/epoxy 7781 Fiberglass/epoxy

0.009 0.009

00 450

Poisson's ratio t>12 = t>21 = 0.2 Es = G = 0.6 msi

Interlaminare shear strength = Fs = 6 ksi Other properties per Table 9.




LOADS for Sample in Figure 25:

Nx = 200 Ibslin

Ny == 100 Ibslin

N xy == Nyx == shear load == 40 Ibslin

We can now calculate the Os from Eq 12 as follows. For ply 1 , e = 00 and m == 1 and n= o. Therefore, substituting into Eq 12 we have,

Q 11 = Q 11 = 2.4xl0S
Q22 = 022 = 2.4xl0S
QSS = Os, = 0.6x 1 OS
Q12 = 012 = 0.48x 1 OS
For ply 2, e == 450 and m == n == 0.707 Q 11 = 2.04x lOs
Q22 = 2.04x 1 OS
Qss = 0.96x 1 OS
Q12 = 0.64x lOs Qa = Qu = 0

From Equation 13 we have.

All = {Ql1)lxtl + (Qll)xt2 = 0.040xl0' A22 = (Q22)lxtl + (Q22)xt2 = 0.040xl0'

A12 = A21 = (Q12)xt1 + (Q12)2xt2 = 0.012xl0'




[A] = 10& 0.012 0.04 0




0.04 0.012 0


We now take the inverse of [A] to calculate [a] as follows,

[a] = [A] -1 = 10& -8.16 27.5 0

o 0 71.3

27.5 -8.16 0

Using Equation 14 it can be shown that,

ex = 27.5x200x10-6 - 8.16x100x10-6 = 0.0047 inlin

ey = -8.16x200x1 0-6 + 27.5x1 00x1 0-6 = 0.0012 in/in

exy = 71.3x40x1 0-6 = 0.0029 intin

From Eq 7, the failure strains of the style 7781 fiberglass are,

= 33x 103 = 0.014 in/in 2.3x 10&

£2tu - 33xl03 = 0.014 in/in 2.3x 1 0&

£ssu = 6xl03 = 0.010 In/In

0.6x 10&

It is seen that for ply 1, which has its natural axis system aligned with the




laminate axis system, e = 0°, the applied strains do not exceed the ultimate strains. For ply 2 we must use Eq 11 to transform the above laminate axis

strains into the natural axis system of ply 2 for which e = 45°. From Eq 11 we have,

0.5 0.5

IT) = 0.5 0.5 - 1

-0.5 0.5 0

E1 = 0.5xO.0047 + 0.5xO.0012 + 0.0029 = 0.0059 in/in

E2 = O.5xO.0047 + 0.5xO.0012 - 0.0029 = 0

Es/2 = -0.5xO.0047 + 0.5xO.0012

= -0.0018 in/in

Es = -.0.0036 in/in

The above strains in the axis system of ply 2 are also less than the ultimate strains of ply 2. It can therefore safely be said that the laminate will not fail under the applied loads specified in Figure 25. Margins of safety for each of the above strains can be calculated to show that positive margins of safety, M.S., exist as shown in the following calculations.

For ply 1:

= 0.014 2xO.0047

- 1 = + 0.48 ult

M S - 0.014

• '2

2xO.00 12

- 1 = + 4.83 ul t


= 0.010 2xO.0029

- 1 = + 0.72 ult




The 2 in the denominator is the safety factor which is commonly used for composite materials and only a margin of safety greater than 0 must be demonstrated:

For ply 2:
M.S., = 0.014 - 1 = +- 0.25 ult

M.S·2 = 00
M.S·s = 0.010 1 = + 0.38 ult

2xO.0036 The foregoing calculations can be easily performed on a TI 58C or TI 59 calculator with the Math Module in place. Appendix 0 shows a listing of a BASIC computer program written by the author for the Macintosh PC and the IBM PC which will perform the above calculations in seconds. The user is prompted to input material properties, loads, and material ply orientations and thicknesses. The output includes actual material strains in the natural axis system of each ply and failure strains.

Two very versatile sizing techniques, "netting analysis" and the "rule of mixtures", wi" now be discussed in some detail.

Netting analysis assumes that only the strength or stiffness of the fibers in a laminate are considered and that the resin only serves to hold the fibers in place such that the strength or stiffness of a laminate can be represented by trigonometric functions which are shown as dashed lines in Figure 26. It

is obvious that at angles of e at which the resin properties determine the laminate characteristics, netting analysis will give erroneous results. The properties and angles for which netting analysis cannot be used are shown as a shaded area in Figure 26. When a solution to a design problem falls within these regions, it is advised to recalculate using the mechanical properties of the resin matrix.

The "rule of mixture" assumes that the total stiffness or strength of a




laminate is equal to the sum of the products of stiffness or strength of each ply times its thickness divided by the total thickness of the laminate. See Equations 15.

Netting Analysis


For E) = 00 - 45° f = FxCOS2 2xE)


00 450 e 900

Rule of Mixtures


E1 = E11xT, + E21xTz T 1 + T 2

Ez =E12xTl+E2ZxT2 T 1 + T2

( 15)

F 1 = F 11 xT 1 + F 21 xT 2 T 1 + T 2

Fz =F12xT,+F2ZxT2 T 1 + T2

Figure 26. Preliminary Sizing Techniques.

The rule of mixture is recognized as giving good results for stiffness




predictions. However, even though its ability to predict strength is questionable, it can still be used to estimate an optimum ply combination for a two ply set laminate as shown on the next pages. Equations 15 can be used to approximate stiffness, E, or the strength, F, in directions 1 and 2 for a two ply direction laminate. The total thickness of all pries with their longitudinal axis aligned in the same direction is labeled T 1 and the total

thickness of all plies with their longitudinal axis aligned in another direction is labeled T 2' The stiffness or strength of each group of aligned plies is

labeled Eij or Fij where the first subscript represents material stack 1 or 2 and the second subscript designates the direction in which the properties are desired. To help clarify the use of these equations, a more detailed discussion with an example is given in the next pages.

5.1. Netting Analysis

Let us assume that we wish to find the optimum helical angle, E> at which to filament wind a cylindrical fuselage shell subjected to normal loads N from bending and shear load S from torsion as shown in Figure 27. The

tensile or compressive strength of the LJ.D. fibers is given as FtxCOS2x2E> and we know that the design limit stress given as NIT must be equal to or less than 1/2 the ultimate material strength as shown in Equation 16. A safety factor of 2 is required for composite material ultimate loads, and hence, the ultimate material strength is divided by 2. A similar equation is set up for the shear strength as shown in Equation 17 and both equations are solved for the thickness, T, by setting them equal to each other and

solving for E> as shown in Equations 18 and 19. If we assume that our fuselage is made up of U.D. fiberglass which has an ultimate tensile strength of Ft = 100,000 psi and the fuselage shell is subjected to a normal

load of N = 2,000 Ibslin and a shear load of S = 500 Ibslin, and we substitute these values into Eq 19, we calculate a helic wind angle e of 32°. Substituting this angle and the proper values into Eq 18 a laminate thickness of 0.21 inches is determined. It should be noted that we have assumed that the fibers are supported such that the buckling strength of the fibers is equal to their tensile strength. We have also assumed that the compressive strength is equal to the tensile strength which is in most cases




not so. If the buckling strength or compressive strength is lower, the lower strength should be used and a new helic angle and material thickness must be calculated.

For 9 = 0° to 45°

F t = F t X C052 x 29

N = 2,000 lbs/in

5 = 500 lbs/in

F t

F t = 100 kst

F s = 6 kst

Find Optimum 9:

f =!!. < F t COS2x29

t T 2-

f s = .§_ < F s SIN2x29

T 2

........... . . . . . . . . . .

T = 2xN =

F t COS2x29

( 16)


or 9 = j_ ARC TAN ~ (19)

2 V~

Therefore, e = _1 ARC TAN /66,000)( 500 = EPf,

2 V· 6,000 )( 2,000

Figure 27. Netting Analysis




5.2. Rule of Mixture

Quite often it is advantages to use two different materials, two different styles of fabric, or two different ply orientations. For any of these combinations, the rule of mixture can be used to estimate the optimum number of plies. For example, if we have a laminate as shown in Figure 28 made up of plies of style 7781 B.D. and plies of style 1543 U.D. glass fabric subjected to the loads N1 = 3 Ibs/in and N2 = 0.6 Ibs/in, we can use

Equations 20 and 21 to determine the optimum material thicknesses T 1 and T 2. Equations 20 and 21 represent two equations with two unknowns, T 1 and T 2, and we can solve for these unknowns as shown in Eqs 22 and 23. The strengths of the glass fabric Fij, are obtained from Table 9 and substituted together with the proper values into Eqs 22 and 23. It should be pointed out that if the longitudinal axis, warp direction, of the fabric is not aligned with the direction of the load, we can estimate the strength of the material in the direction of the road by using the equations in Figure 20 as explained previously.

Equations 22 and 23 yield a material thickness of 0.015 inches for the style 7781 fabric and 0.084 inches for the style 1543 fabric. Since each ply of fabric is 0.010 inches thick, 2 plies of style 7781 are needed and 9 plies of style 1543 are needed to give a total laminate thickness of 0.11 inches. Any stacking sequence may be selected. However, to minimize warping of the laminate, the stacking sequence should be symmetric about the center of the laminate. That is, the ply orientation of the outside plies should be the same on each side of the laminate. The ply orientation of the second from the outside plies should be identical, and so on.




N2 N, = 3 lbs /In


style 1543 U.D. fibergl ass


Style 7781 B.D. fiberglass

N2 = 0.6 lbsl1n

Find Optlmum Thickness T 1 and T 2:

f 1 = N 1 < .£J = F 11 xT 1 + F 21 xT 2

T 1 + T 2 2 2x(T 1 + T2)


Therefore, F 12xT 1 + F22xT 2 > 2xN2

(21 )

Two equations wtth two unkowns, T 1 and T 2, therefore,

T, = 2N,xF22 - 2NzxF21 = 6x8.5 - 1.2x66 =

F 11 xF 22 - F 21 xF 12 33x8.5 - 66x33

0.015 inch


T 2 = 2N 1 xF 12 - 2N2F t 1 = 6x33 - 1.2x33 =

F21xF,2 - F"xF22 66x33 - 33x8.5

0.084 Jnch

~ - 1.


Figure 28. Optimal laminate

5.3. Foam Sandwich

To help stabilize a composite skin subjected to compressive or bending loads or to increase the section moment of inertia of a panel in bending, a




lightweight foam core is sandwiched between two this composite face sheets as shown in Figure 29. This construction technique is often used in wing and fuselage panels subjected to bending and compression. However, to optimize, minimize the weight, of this structure it is important to calculate the proper material thickness. The weight of a unit length of a

foam sandwich, WT, is given by Equation 24 where P1 and P2 are the densities of the face sheets 'and the foam respectively. The other dimensions are shown in Figure 29. The panel is subjected to a bending moment, M. By substituting the moment of inertia divided by the centroid into the stress equation we can show that the thickness of each face sheet, T, is given by Equation 25. Substituting T into Eq 24 yields Eq 26. If we take the partial derivative of WT with respect to the sandwich height, H, and set equal to zero, we can determine the minimum weight height of the sandwich structure as shown by Equation 28. Substituting the proper values of our example into Equation 28 gives an optimum height of 1.18 inches and when we substitute this value into Eq 25 we determine that a face sheet thickness of 0.009 inches is needed. One ply of style 7781 glass fabric is needed on each side of the sandwich.

It is important to perform a shear stress check on the foam core. If the moment, M, in our last example of Figure 29 is produced by a load P applied at the center of the panel as shown in Figure 431, a shear force of P/2 is reacted by the foam core. The shear stress, fs, is calculated using

Equations 29 and 30. For the 2 Ibs/cu.ft density PVC foam an average shear strength of 22 psi can be achieved per Reference 6, so that a positive margin of safety is calculated using Equation 31. Again a safety factor of 2 is used as shown in the numerator of Equation 31. If a negative margin of safety is realized, a higher density foam core with a higher shear strength must be used or the height, H, must be increased so that a positive margin of safety is shown. If a higher density foam is used, Equations 28 and 25

must be used to recalculated a new optimum Hand T. -

Let us now use Equations 28 and 25 to determine the optimum foam sandwich dimensions for a typical horizontal tail. From performance and stability calculations of a specific aircraft, we determine that a horizontal tail with a span of 68 inches and a width of 24 inches is needed. A 30 percent chord elevator is used so that the horizontal stabilizer fin is 16 inches wide.




The 68 inch span was selected so that the horizontal tail fin and the elevator can be hot wire cut in one operation.


f Foam Core

M = 3,600 in.1bs B = 20 inches

I I Composite = Style 7781 fiberglass/epoxy

j.-8-.j P1 = 0.076 lbs/in3, F = 33,000 psi

Foam = PVC, pz = 0.00121bslin3

Find Optimum Hand T:

WT = 2x8xTxPl + 8xHxpz IIc = Hx8xT


f = Mxc = I

M < F

- ,

Hx8xT 2

Therefore, T = 2xM FxHx8


WT = 4Mxp, + 8xHxpz FxH

aWT = _ 4MxP,

aH FxH2 + 8xpz = 0, Therefore,




4MxP1 = Fx8xpz

4x3,600xO.076 33,000x20xO.00 12


1.'16 :,nches


T =

0.009 .Incnes

Figure 29. Optimum Weight of a Foam Sandwich




Shear Load = V max = P/2 = 200 lbs

f s = VxTx8xH and


Therefore, f = _:y_ =

s Hx8

I = H2xBxT 2

200 = 8.5 psi

1. 18x20



For P2 = 2 lbs/cu.ft (0.0012 lbs/

PVC foam, Fs = 22 psi. The margi n of safety is,

M.S. = ~ - 1 = 22 -1 = elltl

2xf s 2x8.S - ---


Figure 30. Shear Stress in a Foam Sandwich.

From the Federal Aviation Regulations, FARs Part 23, we determine that the horizontal tail must be capable of carrying an average load ot 38 pst. The total horizontal tail load, P, is simply calculated by .multiplying the average load by the horizontal tail area. P = 38x24x68/144 = 431 Ibs. The maximum bending moment, M, at the center of the tail fin is M = 431 x68/(2x4) = 3,664 in.tbs. Now substituting the correct values into Equation 28, the height, H, of the foam sandwich at the root of the tail should be,




H = 4x3,664xO.076 =

33,OOOx 16xO.OO 12

1.33 inches

The thickness to overall tail width is 1.33x1000/0/24 = 5.5%. Since the thickness of an airfoil section varies along its chord, an airfoil with a maximum thickness of 9.00/0, such as the NACA 63009 airfoil is chosen. The fiberglass thickness is calculated from Equation 25 as,

T =

2x3,664 33,OOOx2x 16


0.007 .Inches

A single layer of fiberglass is 0.009 inches thick, only one layer is needed over the entire foam sandwich core. It is, however, necessary to add extra plies locally at the tail-to-fuselage and elevator-to-fin hinge attach areas. The warp direction of the style 7781 fiberglass cloth is oriented parallel to the longitudinal axis of the fin so that the maximum strength of 33,000 psi may be achieved in the bending direction. Using Equations 30 and 31, a simple shear stress check is made for the foam core.

fs = 216/(2x16) = 6.8 psi

The margin of safety for the foam core is,

M.S. = 16/(2xB.8} -1 = + 0.18 ultimate

Our conclusion is that the tail will take the ultimate loads without failing.

5.4. Designing and Sizing a Composite Spar

One of the primary advantages of using composites in a wing spar is that the spar cap and shear web thicknesses can be decreased towards the tip of the wing so that a lightweight structures can be realized. However, before the spar can be sized, it is necessary to determine the air load, shear load, and bending moments along the span of the wing. David Peery discusses several methods for determining the spanwise airload distribution in Reference 8. However, I would like to show a simple




technique that gives excellent agreement, to within 2 percent of Peery's methods for non-twisted, tapered wings.


+ 2XxCT) 8

'---. x

x = 8/2

x = 0




M = 2Wxn (CRxX2 _ CRxX3 + CTxX3) _ WxnxX

8(CR+CT) 2 38 38 2

- Wxnx8 (2C + C ) + Wxnx8

12(CR+CT) R T· 4




Figure 31. Load Distribution on a Tapered Wing




The wing geometry is shown in Figure 31. We assume that the airload distribution is proportional to the chord length so that the wing airload distribution for an aircraft having a gross weight less wing weight of Wand designed to a limit load factor of n can be given as,

W = 2xWxn (CR _ 2xXxCR + 2XXXCT)

B(CR+tT) B B


Where a, x, CR, and CT are in feet as defined and shown in Figure 31.

Since the shear load is defined as fdV = IWdx, we can integrate both sides to give,

v = 2xWxn (CR _ W2xCR + X2xCr) _ Wxn

B(CR+Cr) 8 B 2


It the wing has a constant chord so that CR = Cr = C, then,

v = Wxn (~ - !_) 8 2


_ The bending moment along the span of the wing is M = JVdx. Integrating Equation 33 with respect to X we can show that the bending moment is,

M = 2xWxn (CRXX2 _ CRxX3 + CTxX3) _ WxnxX

B(CR+Cr) 2 3x8 3x8 2


For a constant chord wing, Equation 35 simplifies to,

M = Wxn( X2 X + ~)

28 2 8





With the load distribution known, we can now design the wing spar.

Since the shear stresses due to the wing torsional loads are proportional to the cross section area of the wing or box beam, and since the spar cross section area is normally an order of magnitude smaller then the wing cross section area, we will assume that all torsional loads are reacted by the wing skin and that no torsional load shear stresses are reacted by the wing spar. The spar is only sized to take wing bending moments and shear loads. Most spars are designed as box beams and our spar is also designed as a box beam with the dimensions a, h, t1, t2 given in inches as shown in Figure

32. The spar cap will be made out of U.D. material with all the fibers oriented along the longitudinal axis of the spar. The shear web is fabricated

out of B.D. fabric with the warp direction at ± 450 to the longitudinal axis of the spar so that the maximum shear strength, Fsu, is obtained. The fabric

is laminated over a foam core which helps to stabilize the spar caps and shear webs. The foam does not take loads and hence a 2 Ib.lcu.ft density foam can be used. We first size the cap thickness, t1, by setting the cap

stress equal to one-half the ultimate tensile strength, Fru, of the cap material. The cap stress is,

f t = 1 2xMxc = F TU




and, = hxtl x a



M = bending moment as calculated in Equation 35 or 36 12 = to convert from fUbs to in.lbs

t1 = cap thickne,ss, inches

h = spar height, inches

a = spar width, inches

2 = safety factor of 2 is required for ultimate loads




Equation 37 is rearranged to give,


The shear web thickness, t2, is determined in a similar manner. The maximum shear stress is at the neutral axis, N.A., of the spar and the shear stress is approximated as,

f s = ...:!_ = F SU

2hxt2 2


Rearranging terms, we have,


t2 -hxFSU


Where, V is determined from Equations 33 or 34.

Let us now size a typical wing spar for a small two place aircraft with a gross weight less wing weight of 1200 Ibs, a positive limit flight load factor, n, equal to 4.6 and a wing span, B, equal to 28 ft. The root chord, CR, is 4.8

feet and the tip chord, CT, is 2.4 feet and a NACA 63415 airfoil is used. We will place the spar a the 300/0 wing chord so that the spar height is approximately equal to the maximum thickness of the airfoil which is 15 percent of the wing chord. Therefore, for a tapered wing,

(41 )

h = o. 15(C R - 2xXxCR + 2xXxCr)






For the upper cap, use compressive strength for U.D. fiberglass =

43,500 psi (notice thicker laminate) ~-ti}4--+-t2 all :!: 45u plies

For lower cap, use a tensile strength of 66,000 psi for U.D. fiberglass

· ..

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· ..

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· ..

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .

· .


Wing Station, feet o




12.6 14 I



Shear Web Layup Schedule, Number of Plies 2 Pl aces

Materi al: Style 7781 E-glass, [:!:450]


Bottom Cap Layup Schedule, Number of Plies Material: Style 1543 U.D. E-glass, [00]

Figure 32. Spar Construction and Layup Schedule




Substituting the proper values into Equations 41 and 42 and remembering to multiply by 12 to convert from feet to inches, we can show that,

h = 8.64 - 0.309xX


Substituting the proper values into Equations 19 and 21, we obtain,

v = -4.69xX2 + 262.9xX - 2,760

M = 1.57xX3 + 131.4xX2 - 2,760xX + 17,173

(44) (45)

The wing spar is divided into 10 equal segments along the span as shown in Figure 38 and using Equations 43,44, and 45, the values of h, V, and M are calculated for every value of X and tabulated in Table 10. Our spar cap will be made our of U.D. 1543 fiberglass cloth which according to Table 9 has an ultimate compressive strength, Feu, of 43,500 psi and an

ultimate tensile strength, FlU. of 66,000 psi. The shear web will be fabricated out of layers of B.D. style 7781 fiberglass cloth which has a shear strength of 6,000 psi for our + 450 orientation. The shear web plies should be wrapped over the U.D. spar plies and should overlap by 1.0 inches as shown in Figure 32. We arbitrarily pick a spar width of 3.00 inches and substitute the proper values into Equations 38 and 40 to calculate t1, t2' and

t3 for every value of X. See Table 10. The number of plies can be determined by dividing the required material thickness by the thickness of each ply which is approximately 0.01 inches per ply. The number of plies along the spar are shown in Figure 32. It should be noted that it is good to round off to the top so that a positive margin of safety can be shown. It is also interesting to note that very few plies are needed at the tip of the spar. Since the loads are very Iowa the tip, it is often possible to transfer all the loads through the skin and shorten the wing spar by as much as 2 to 5 feet. After sizing. a stress check should be made using Equation 46 to show that a positive margin of safety, M.S., exists for every station X.

M.S. = F/(2xf) - >0





A list of a computer program named SPAR written in BASIC for the
Macintosh PC is shown in Appendix D. This program uses Equations 32,
33, 35, and 40 and allows quick and easy spar sizing.
Table 10. Spar Load and Laminate Thickness for a Small Aircraft
x h, inches V,lbs M, tt.lbs n. inch t2, inch t3, inch
Equation 42 33 35 38 40 38
0 8.64 -2760 17173 .36 .052 .24
1.4 8.21 -2401 13562 .30 .048 .20
2.8 7.78 -2060 10441 .25 .043 .16
4.2 7.32 -1783 .7783 .19 .038 .13
5.6 6.91 -1435 5563 .15 .034 .10
7.0 6.48 -1150 3754· .11 .03 .07
8.4 6.04 -883 2332 .07 .024 .05
9.8 5.61 -634 1271 .04 .018 .027
11.2 5.18 -404 544 .02 .012 .012
12.6 4.75 -192 126 .005 .006 .003
14 4.32 0 0 0 0 0 5.5. THERMAL LOADS

When joining dissimilar materials with different coefficients of thermal expansion, such as graphite and aluminum, it is important to realize that large thermal loads can be produced and that these loads may exceed the strength of the structure. For example, Figure 33 depicts a piece of graphite attached to an aluminum angle with a cross section area, A1, a

modulus of elasticity of E1, and a coefficient of thermal expansion of (X1'

If the structure is fabricated at room temperature, 750F, and heated to 125°F by placing in the sun, very high stresses can result as shown in the example of Figure 34. For the 50°F increase in temperature, the aluminum will increase a length, L1. However, the·graphite has a near zero coefficient

of thermal expansion and it will want to remain rigid and unchanged.




~T=125-75 = 50°F

Bolts, 2 Pl aces

Graphi te Properties A2 = 0.2 in2

E2 = 15x10& psi cx2 = 0

Aluminum Properties A, = 0.03 in 2

E, = 10x10& psi

cx 1 = 13x 10-& inhn/oF

U.D. Graphi te

pxL Lt = ~TxcxlxL -_A,xE,


L2 = ~ TX()(2XL +--


. pxL Pxl,

Smce Lt = L2, ~TxcxtxL - -- = ~TX()(2XL + -- (48)

AtxEt A2xEz

or, P = ~T (CXt - ()(2)xAtxEtxA2xE2 (49)

(AtxE, + A2xE2)


P = SOx 13x 1 0-6xO.03x 1 Ox 1 06xO.2x 15x 106 = 177.3 1 bs (0.03x10 + 0.2x 15)x 1 0-6

f 2 = 177.3/0.03 =

Figure 33. Thermal Loads