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Paper Plane Modeling

Posted December 12, 2012 8:02 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: aspect ratio Modeling paper plane

Allow me to set the stage for you.

North Carolina--fall 1903, and the brothers Wright are arguing over airfoil design. Wilbur wants a design with more aspect ratio, but Orville just wants to go crash things.

Wilbur has taken two trips back to Ohio for spare parts while Orville frets about the return of hurricanes; 1902 was particularly harsh on the U.S. Eastern seaboard. The brothers need a break, but Coca-Cola just stopped processing coca leaves and Kit Kats have yet to be invented. Forget alcohol, as temperance was in full bloom.

To settle this argument, the brothers turn to their extensive notes of wind tunnels and model aircraft.

Yes, that's right. Though inventors of the airplane, they are not the inventors heavier-than-air flight. In fact, to whose credit such can be attributed is impossible to assert, as Ancient China produced papyrus, and within a few decades the Japanese began practicing origami.

No matter which ancient Asians are responsible, paper airplanes began appearing an estimated 2,300 years ago. With such a lengthy heritage, revolutionary designs and ideas have taken ahold of "aerogami."


The design of paper aircraft was rather stagnant until after World War II, which typically relied y upon origami designs for airfoils. Children (and children at heart) were obviously the driving market behind paper aircraft, and designs in the early 1900s were often sold as toys or printed in the newspaper's Sunday comics. As powered flight became prevalent, plastic and metal toy models helped captivate a generation of youngsters. Once war broke out resources were reassigned and children were left with paper designs again. Yet during this entire time aerospace companies continued to use paper models.

There is a unique reason paper was used until World War II by companies such as Heinkel and Lockheed to test model aircraft. Compared to lightweight woods such as balsa, paper has a higher density and an in-scale strength-to-thickness ratio comparable to aluminum, and fiberboard is a suitable substitute for steel. Secured in a wind tunnel, engineers were able to measure the effects of thrust, lift, gravity and drag in an inexpensive, safe environment.

Even though a paper airplane does not resemble its real life counterpart, it helps illustrate several important aerodynamic principles. Perhaps the most important would be aspect ratio; the distance between wingtips is called wingspan, and the distance between the leading and trailing edges of the wing is called the chord. These two measurements formulate the aspect ratio, which helps determine appropriate materials for wing construction. Low aspect ratio wings have a longer chord than wingspan, require a higher velocity to produce the required lift, and are exceptionally more maneuverable. However, they are subject to great deal of induced drag. On the other hand, high aspect ratio wings produce more lift from less speed, are more much stable, and are subjected to more parasitic drag than induced drag.

The difference in aspect rations is best exemplified by two types of paper planes: the classic dart and the sailplane.

It's not mistake that the dart best resembles a fighter jet, while the sailplane is akin to bombers.

We cannot dissect paper planes without paying dues to other paper flying contraptions. Leonardo Da Vinci used paper models to test his parachute and ornithopter ideas. (One worked somewhat well. Can you guess which one?) Paper helicopters have been in fashion since at least 1967. It isn't limited to just autogyros, as several variations that produce lift have been crafted.

Eventually, manufacturers began using blueprints, computers, programs and other brainy, no-fun things so paper airplane development needed a boost from enthusiasts. In the 1980s, Professors E.H Matthews and Yasuaki Ninomiya of South Africa and Japan, respectively, began producing CAD-based origami designs that required cutting, pasting and assembly. These innovations, as well as online collaboration, have produced world record setting paper planes almost annually. Records are commonly set for distance (226' 10" by Joe Ayoob, 2012) and time aloft (27.9 seconds by Takuo Toda, 2012).

Since 2008, Japan's space agency, JAXA, has been exploring flying paper airplanes from the International Space Station to Earth's surface. Up to 100 planes made of silicon-coated, heat-resistant paper would demonstrate the feasibility of slow-speed, low-friction orbit reentry. The journey would take as long as several months. JAXA has all but abandoned the plan however, presumably after NASA and Roscosmos laughed in their faces after admitting that it could be impossible to track and find even a single plane. However, in 2011, Project Space Planes let go of 100 planes 23 miles above Germany. Assigned a memory card, planes were found in Australia, Canada, India, and South Africa.


So with all this talk of paper planes of course I'm to provide you, dear keyboard jockey, with two of the best paper plane tutorials I can find…for free! You should probably check now to make sure your boss isn't looking over your shoulder.

To build the classic dart as mentioned above, follow this link. I built one from memory in about 30 seconds. If you want to get right to the hard stuff, I found a paper model of the F-117 also on Amazing Paper Planes.

Here is how they turned out:

The dart flies straight as an arrow. I'll admit my Nighthawk looks awesome, but flies like a moth: haphazardly and lame.

If you decide to make one, I'd love to know how it turned out. Of course, I don't take any responsibility for the consequences of airstrikes into your coworker's cubicles.

Resources

Images credits: The Henry Ford Blog; Amazin' Avenue; Vimeo; Gstatic; Libertad Digital

Wikipedia - Paper plane; Paper plane launched from space

Project Space Planes

Berkeley.edu - The Science of Paper Airplanes

Amazing Paper Airplanes

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#1

Re: Paper Plane Modeling

12/13/2012 9:28 AM

Interesting blog!

Some years ago, some guy in NYC invented a paper airplane that was impossible to stall. '60 Minutes' did a piece on it....must have been over 20 or 25 years ago.

I wish i could find a link on how to fold it! Anyone have a clue?????

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Paper Plane Modeling

12/13/2012 9:42 AM

Ask, and you shall receive.

The Kline-Fogelman Airfoil.

If I get a free moment I'll make one.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Paper Plane Modeling

12/13/2012 9:49 AM

That paper plane is the forerunner of the Kline-Fogleman airfoil.

Here is an internet article that expands greatly on the Wiki article. Within the article is a link with instructions for folding one of your very own.

[edit] While I was composing, HUSH posted something for you too. Well done!

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#4

Re: Paper Plane Modeling

12/13/2012 6:12 PM

Thanks guy and gal for those links! VERY KEWL!!!!

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Paper Plane Modeling

12/14/2012 1:55 PM

or , whichever may be appropriate from me.

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