Re: carbon

Sam Hoskins

Very interesting perspective, Bob. Your project will be good to watch. How
soon do you expect to start cutting foam?

I think it would be fun to build and fly a Glassair TD.

Sam Hoskins
Murphysboro, IL

On Sat, Dec 19, 2009 at 11:59 PM, <bob@...> wrote:

Lighter is always better.

I built two Glasairs -- #102 (the first kit sold) and #123 -- and brought
both in under 1000 lbs empty, which is rarely done. It helped that I built
102 right next to the prototype in Washington with a lot of input from the
designers (I was their guinea pig). This was after I built an earlier
composite aircraft, a Rand KR-1, which had skins made of Dynel, a synthetic
fiber known mainly for its use as artificial hair in wigs. Dynel is NOT
good. Here are some interesting things I learned from building those
aircraft, both of which had substantial wing spars and did not take skin
strength into account in ANY stress calculations. That is, the skins were
not required to carry anything other than air loads and -- in the case of
the Glasair -- to keep the gas from leaking out. If that's the case with the
Quickie, then ONE layer of glass on the 45-degree bias should be enough.
That's all Kenny Rand used on the KR-1, he didn't even use the fabric on a
45-degree bias, and it was crappy Dynel to boot, which was great at
following compound curves but also stretched so much it transferred the
loads completely to the spars anyway.

"Yes, but this Q is a Rutan design we are talking about," you say. "It's
different from those others."

Not according to Burt Rutan when I asked him the specific question of
whether his wing designs required the skins to carry other than air loads to
meet strength targets. Rutan told me he designed the spars to take the loads
in all his homebuilt designs because it was simpler that way from a
computational standpoint. And his spars were designed with ultimate loads
double the service loads as opposed to 1.5X in a metal structure. That is to
meet a 4.4-G Utility category or a 6-G Aerobatic category where an aluminum
structure would have been designed to fail above 6.6-Gs or 9-G's.
respectively, Rutan designed JUST THE SPARS to carry 8.8 or 12-Gs.

An important thing to remember about Burt Rutan is that he worked at
Edwards AFB as a FLIGHT TEST engineer. His design process was always minimal
while his testing was rigorous, because testing is what Burt likes best. And
there is nothing wrong with that. Look at the original VariEze prototype,
which had a VW engine and no ailerons. Burt thought he could get away with
under-powered so he threw another 70 lbs of engine on board without changing
ANY of the structure except to put some lead in the nose, further increasing
the weight. Ailerons, too, were added because of testing nightmares (canard
elevons turned out to be a bad idea). That same airframe today carries up to
an O-320 and is STILL plenty strong.

These planes don't BREAK, we BUST them.

These aircraft use standardized cloth that doesn't so much take into
account the needs of the design as it does the inventory of the supplier. So
on wings of this type (where the spars carry the majority of loads) a single
layer of cloth on the 45-degree bias offers enough strength to carry any
torsion loads and keep the insides of the wing on the inside. But because we
live in a real world, most designers make the skins two layers thick simply
so they will hold up better to manhandling. Others may opt for three layers
of UNI (0-degrees, 45-right, 45-left) because that's the textbook way to get
the highest performance wing -- performance that wing IS NEVER ASKED TO GIVE
because the spars are carrying the loads.

Here's a dirty little secret about composite aircraft design: most
prototypes aren't "designed" at all -- they are just built. Two layers on
the outside and one on the inside if it is a sandwich structure. And most
are left just that way. Or the prototype is too heavy so they redesign it a
little lighter, which usually means making it lighter then seeing if it
breaks. Because of the variability in materials and production techniques
there is a lot more make-and-test here than there is Finite Element
Analysis. Maybe that will eventually change but not until computers get
better or composite materials get -- like aluminum -- a lot more

Martin Hollmann did the structural design on all the early Lancairs --
AFTER they flew. There was a guy who wanted to fly his Lancair 320 around
the world so he asked Martin to take as much weight out of the airplane as
he could while, at the same time, increasing the gross weight and adding
extra fuel tanks. This may have been the first time a composite aircraft was
scrupulously (re)designed for minimum empty structural weight. Hollmann
dropped the strength target to the Normal category (3.8-Gs), added exotic
materials where he could, accepted a 1.5X safety factory (instead of 2X) and
managed to take 200 lbs out of a 320, dropping the weight to around 850 lbs,
of which 400, remember, was engine, accessories, and prop. Those wings had
single-ply outer skins.

There's another very interesting aspect to this. We go to a lot of trouble
and waste a lot of materials putting two or more layers of 45-degree cloth
on wings and fuselages because that's what we're told we need to carry the
torsional loads. Just roll the fabric out on the wing (0-90) and the
torsional strength is reduced by almost half. But wait -- aren't those two
layers twice as strong as they really need to be? Sure. So in practical
service you can meet the same strength with one layer at 45 or two layers at
0, with the two layers being sturdier. Well, heck, why would anyone do it
any differently than that? Kenny Rand didn't (he was a TERRIBLE engineer, by
the way) and hundreds of KR-1s flew without falling out of the skies.

Which brings me back to my point: these airplanes are under-designed and
over-built to compensate.

Look at the Qs in particular. The only real structural change was adding
carbon spars to the canard and that was in an attempt to keep bad pilots
from breaking their planes during Pilot-Induced-Oscillation (PIO) on
landing. It's questionable whether that really helped, by the way, but other
than carbon spars and improved tail springs (also a PIO issue) there were no
significant STRUCTURAL changes.

It's your plane, take some weight out of it if you like, being sure to keep
the CG where it belongs. Heck, most builders go the other way and add weight
back in for the darnedest things. DON'T DO THAT.

But here's my caution. While composites are easy to make, they don't
fatigue in a traditional sense, and they are generally so over-built that
you can make lots of changes with relative impunity, THEY WILL FLUTTER if
you try to go too fast or too high, which is why I am looking at all-carbon
(and 100-percent mass-balanced controls) for my Q1.


-----Original Message-----
From: L.J. French [mailto:LJFrench@... <>]
Sent: Saturday, December 19, 2009 09:20 PM
To: Q-LIST@... <>
Subject: RE: [Q-LIST] Re: carbon

I am building a Q and would like to make it as light as possible. Do you
think I could get by with 2 ply as long as I am careful to not hit my
with it?
LJ French

-----Original Message-----
From: Q-LIST@... <> [mailto:
Q-LIST@... <>] On Behalf Of
Robert X Cringely
Sent: Saturday, December 19, 2009 2:36 PM
To: Q-LIST@... <>
Subject: Re: [Q-LIST] Re: carbon

What are the constraints on this design? On most composite designs the
deciding factor in how many layers to use on the wing skins, for example,
hangar rash. Yes, hangar rash. Less glass could always be used but it would
be damaged too easily. So we sit around speculating about the implications
of changing materials on a design that's
overbuilt in glass OR carbon. What is the history of structural
failures on Quickies? Zero. Change it to carbon and it will still be zero.


On Dec 19, 2009, at 1:50 PM, "rick_nordgarden" <grnordgarden@...<>

--- In Q-LIST@... <>, "Robert X.
Cringely" <bob@...> wrote:

An ALL-CARBON Q1 should carry its loads exactly like an ALL-GLASS
This is an example of how risky an untutored "common-sense" approach
to engineering can be. Make two identical foam wing cores, then skin
one with fiberglass and the other with carbon fiber. With the same
number of layers of cloth of the same weight per square yard the
carbon-fiber wing will be stiffer -- and therefore weaker. Uniformly
stiffening a wing's skin alters its spanwise load distribution,
shifting load away from the tips and toward the centerline; the
wing's load-carrying capacity and its g-limit at a given load are
both thereby reduced. Stiffness and strength are not necessarily
complementary properties; to a great degree they're antagonistic.
This problem can be overcome by altering the number and/or weight of
the plies when switching materials, but that means re-engineering
the structure -- the fuselage and bulkheads as well as the wing-
skins and spar layups. Before you can build a *safe* all-CF Quickie
you'll have to design one.

Rick Nordgarden
Council Bluffs IA
Dragonfly MkIIH under construction

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