Scale Model Plane for Hydrodynamic Testing

CNC Machining the fuselage plane

CNC Machining and fuselage

Case Study 4

The Brief:

The client approached us to create a scale model aeroplane, to be used in an aerospace testing environment to ascertain how a plane reacts to “ditching”; the process of making an emergency landing over water. The model had to be a scaled down version of a passenger plane, as well as being weighted perfectly to match the proportions of the plane. This would then allow the information gathered from the model to be used to predict what would happen to a full-sized passenger plane in a similar situation.

Installing lase cut supports to plane

Installing laser cut supports

The Solution:

With a detailed CAD model and manufacturing drawings, our design engineers could work out the size and weight of the finished model, and choose the best materials to manufacture the model to the client’s specifications. The model had areas for gyroscopes to be installed, which would then measure how the plane behaves during the ditching simulation.

While the scale model makers assembled and glued together the wooden planks needed to create the fuselage, the internal wooden support structure was designed and created using CAD designed by our design engineers, and manufactured using our laser cutter.

The finished passenger plane test model

The finished model

The fuselage was then shaped using one of our CNC machining centres, creating a smooth aerodynamic finish, while the wings, tail and engine sections of the plane were machined separately. All parts of the aeroplane were painted to a colour scheme designated by the client.

A metal support structure was built into the wings, to allow an electromechanical wing flap system to be implemented. This would allow the model aeroplane to mimic wing flap landing manoeuvres, to give a more realistic ditching test. The model was then assembled by hand with the utmost care, to make sure the dimensions and weight of the model were in line with the client’s tight specifications.

To accurately measure the dimensions of the model aeroplane, a FARO arm was used; this is a portable CMM (Co-ordinate Measuring Machine) which could be used to compare the finished model with the original CAD and the manufacturing drawings.

With the model completed, it was presented to the client for testing of the ditching process to begin; the model behaved as expected and allowed the client to collect useful data for the manufacturing and design of the full scale aeroplanes. Our model making team’s combined skills with mechanical and aesthetic model making allowed for this job to be completed on time and without any major problems, showing how our varied skills and services can be utilised to create flawless working models for a range of industries and purposes.