13 Replies Latest reply on Jan 4, 2013 10:45 AM by Anna Wood

    How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?

    Karthik A



      I am designig an aircraft and i am familiar with all the parts of it and i want to know how to divide the parts of aircraft for 3-D modelling, where and which part of the aircraft to begin with. Please advice.



        • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
          Paul Cullen

          Hi Karthik


          I know nothing about modeling aircraft, but I would suggest building up your model the same way as you would build a plane in real life, start with the chassis / frame and start adding parts from there to build your model. That's how I generally model my parts and assemblies.


          If you were building a house you would start with the foundations and work up from there to the roof, not the other way around, its no different when building up a model you have to start with a good foundation to build the rest of your model upon.



          • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
            Peter Farnham

            There's are some good tutorials on youtube of aircraft designed in Solidworks.

            here's one for example, though you have to be Data from Startrek to catch it all!



            • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
              Rick McWilliams

              Aircraft models begin with a planform drawing, and an fuselage inboard profile. The wing is easy to approximate using a sweep of the airfoil section. Make the airfoil section two splines one for the upper surface and one for the lower surface, set them proportional. Use only a few points for a smooth result. A detailed wing will have section changes twist, taper and sweep. The fuselage is a shape that is best generated with conic surfaces that span from the upper profile line to a maximum width curve. The lower quadrant uses the same maximum width curve and a bottom edge. If you do not have conic surfaces use a two point spline with handles tangent to horizontal wnd vertical. Horizontal stabilizer is just a small wing. The vertical fin is another wing that often has stylish fairing into the fuselage. I like to do a sweep with a curved leading edge that becomes almost tangential to the fuselage. The surface trims will be a bit unstable so save yourself. Of course do the airplane as multiple parts and assemble the parts. Split line is very useful for canopies and windows. Split line is good for swoopy wing root fairings.


              If you are really serious about airplane design buy the GW3D add in from cadcamcomponents.com. The conic surface is worth the price, and ther are a bunch of other useful features. Features from the add in can be viewed and manipulated by other Solidworks users without needing to buy the add in.

              • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
                Rick McWilliams

                The best quality surfaces are four sided surfaces. Avoid having many sections as these will result in ripples of a boundary surface. I like to have the key curves be a projected curve from a top and side view. Projected curves that share an end point will often not quite reach that point. You may need to convert entities in a 3d sketch and add a little splined tail to the point. A bug that has been around since 2003. Learn to use curvature display to inspec turf aces for ripples, curls and tits. After you get good shapes knit and form a solid. Check the quality using zebra stripes.


                I use one model for the outer mold line. This is frozen by saving as step and then imported into detailed parts. That makes sure that the detail designs cannot mess up the rest of the airplane. The file sizes will be much smaller. Never trust Solidworks surfaces, project split lines and measure to make sure.

                • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
                  John Burrill

                  Karthik, if you're starting from an empty file, I'm assuming you're doing this design as a conceptual study or because you really like drawing planes.  Maybe you're going to make toys or trophies or props for an animation.  My advice is that your attempt to construct a skeleton of the fuselage using 2D sketches for bulkhead stations and 3D Sketches for guides.  To fill in the wire frame, you'll skin the model using lofts, boundary features and surface fills. 

                  Once you've got the basic fuselage, you can work the wings, elevators and alerons in similar fashion.

                  Before you start, you should take a Solidworks surfacing class or at least do some surfacing tutorials.

                  If you have no idea of how to design a plane, I emphatically hope your not going to assume that you'll learn everything you need to know from the Solidworks discussion forums.

                  CAD naked.


                  • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
                    Anna Wood

                    We need a bit more info on the scope of your project.


                    Is this a full scale airplane, RC model or for some other purpose?


                    Are you planning to model up the outside surfaces only or the entire structure?


                    I am going to guess this is for a school project of some sort.


                    Give us more detail on the scope of your project, then we can offer proper advice to help you with your query.





                      • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
                        Karthik A

                        Hi Anna,

                        This is an RC model, I have all the airofil sections and design molded through calculations and experimental results. I can deisgn a part if given a real model and dimensions, but for a full airplane assembly i dont know where to start.


                        When put simply, i am trying to make a CAD of a real model.

                          • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
                            Anna Wood

                            One place to start is to do a google search for modeling rc aircraft.




                            There are also plenty of 2D aircraft drawings on the internet to review and learn from.


                            Before you even start modeling you need to define your known requirements. What is the planned mission for the model?  SAE heavy lifting competition, SAE autonomous flight competition, fun flyer, aerobatic competition, etc?  Basic overall size, construction methods, wing airfoil and desired wing planform, what power plant you plan to use (glow, gas or electric), what fuel/battery system is needed, what guidance system do you plan to use (Futaba, JR, etc), landing gear system, propeller, etc?


                            You will want to have basic packaging info all of these components.  Then you can start a general arrangement of these components in SolidWorks.  You want to place them in their proper locations so you can package your fuselage structure around those components.


                            Be always mindful of how you plan to construct the model.  Your construction techniques and materials used will help guide your design.


                            Layout sketches of your planform and side elevation, with layout sections at key points along the various stations to start.  Add in your major components into the design using your layout sketches as a giude.  Then start building your model around that.  I would likely model up the wing first, then the tail group, establish the firewall forward, then work in the guidance and fuel system bay and landing gear.  Then I would tie them all together with the fuselage.


                            It is not a process where you go down a neat list and check off items.  Each sub system will have an affect on the others.  You will morph your design as you go through each sub-system and make your design compromises along the way.


                            Have fun, you will learn a lot about design and engineering with a project like this.





                        • Re: How and where to start designing an Aircraft model ?
                          Tom Strohscher

                          I started working on the attached model last week.  It's called a Stick.  This airplane has been recreated by many modeler over the years because of it's basic design and construction.


                          I started with an Autocad drawing of a much larger version then what I wanted.

                          I imported the Autocad drawing into SW and cleaned up what I didn't need then saved it as a part template.  I included the template file.

                          Because I started with an Acad file some of the parts are not at the origin or on planes where I would like them.  But this is for me and not what I would do as a general practice at work.


                          I used a variety of tecniques to create the parts.  There are assembly features, assembly parts, mirrored parts, parts with configurations, parts were I converted the original drawing edges and parts where I sketched over a picture from a catalog.


                          Take a look at the parts, features, and sketches and pick apart how I created it.  There are many way to create things in SW.  Some ways are better then others and some people have their preferences.  This isn't the only way to do it and may not be the best but it's an example you might be able to learn from.


                          I haven't got to the drawings yet or started building it yet.  As I build it I plan to keep the model and drawings updated.

                          m_40 inch stick.jpg

                          Search for "jason niemier ugly stick" for original drawings.