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New TechnologyPark Pilot


Using foam to build airplanes


Lucas Weakley lucas.weakley@gmail.com


>>


One of the questions I am asked the most


from my videos and articles is, “What foam do you use for your builds?”


Although I could go into all of the science about how these foams are manufactured and formulated, in this article I want to discuss my experiences with the foams that I’ve used and, hopefully, give you some ideas for your projects. I also want to share my current go-to foam for building my new airplanes. Let’s get started! Believe it or not, the foam I used to build my fi rst airplane was Depron (depronfoam. com). This turned out to be fortunate because Depron is easy to work with. It cuts well with a sharp X-Acto knife and it’s easy to tape, sand, and glue.


Depron is a trademarked


brand of closed-cell extruded polystyrene that is sold as wall insulation and fl ooring substrate. Depron is also marketed for arts projects and RC modeling. There’s even a variety of Depron that is specifi cally manufactured for RC use called Depron Aero. I like this foam. Its stiffness means you rarely need spars or stiffeners. In most cases, the foam forms nicely with a bit of heat, and it’s


Here is a close-up of the foams discussed in the text. From top to bottom: BlueCor, Readi-Board, Depron, and Fli-Power XPS.


waterproof because there are no coverings. Sheets come in large sizes with tolerance thicknesses. This tolerance comes at


a price, though. Depron is usually several dollars per sheet. A box of the stuff can set you back a couple hundred dollars! Although this is expensive, any airplane you build out of Depron will have a long life and great performance characteristics. For some, that justifi es the costs.


Another foam I


experimented with in my early days was BlueCor. Also known as small-cell Styrofoam, this insulation foam was manufactured by Dow and was an extruded polystyrene foam, like Depron. It was waterproof and less stiff than Depron, but easy to cut and sand. It was great for wire-cutting wings and carving out fuselages. It was often used in building full-scale, moldless, composite, experimental airplanes because of its superior strength-to-weight ratio.


50 PARK PILOT [Summer 2018]


A similar foam by Dow, called UtilityFit, is available from Lowe’s (lowes.com). It is sold in 4 x 8-foot sheets that are 2 inches thick. Dow (dow.com) also manufactures UtilityFit in thicknesses of 1, 11


/2 , and 3 inches.


I built several airplanes from sheets of BlueCor when it was available. I sanded airfoils, shaped full fuselages, and even built a scale Cessna 152 from this material. It was also useful to keep around when I needed a thicker


This RCPowers F-18 (rcpowers.net) is made from 6 mm white Depron foam. The airplane is rock-solid and incredibly lightweight. Lucas expects it to last for many flying days.


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