I am trying out different DIY, cheap approaches to be used as alternatives to expensive carbon plates. When you need strong, rigid plates that are light enough for a Quad, you're stuck with either fiberglass which is not so light and has the unconvenience of being  not so rigid (except in higher thickness wich is than even heavier), either with carbon plates that have other disadvantages : price, it is a conductor material and therefore gets in the path of radio waves. They are also difficicult to shape, cut and drill (plus their dust is toxic).

Therefore, I was wondering how we could find alternate materials, which would replace the above described GF/CF plates by having a good compromise on these criteria : to remain light, strong and rigid, to be cheap, to be able to home build them with basis off-the-shelve components, to not interfere as much with radio waves as full carbon plates.

I experimented previously succesfuly with a DIY plate, baptised Hugues'plate in the following excellent post of Frantz :

Frantz post about building copter with tubes

The result was this:




In this first version I used two thin balsa plates, with in the middle a sandwich of epoxy, and a cotton fabric (cotton provides very strong fibers in all directions, therefore reinforcing the linear fiber pattern of balsa wood). It gave pretty good results.

However the fact of having the external sides of the plate as balsa wood was not a good idea, because we all know in the boom theory and practice that the most external layers of a boom support the tension of the load. Therefore to obtain a more rigid plate, you need the most external layers of the plate to be stiffer and stronger than the inner core.

Solution is easy : reverse the sandwich.

This is what I tried herebelow but experimening other materials. I used still a 1.5mm balsa plate as the inner core. Then on both sides I applied first some UHU epoxy:


This is slow cure epoxy. Very messy but very strong. Even stronger when you heat it up during the drying phase. What is also a good trick to apply such epoxy in thin layers on a plate : mix well the two components in a heat resistant cup. Then take the air dryer of your wife (I already took her cotton fabric so she's getting used to my experiments) and blow hot air on the mix. You will get a very liquid exposy that you can apply with a paint brush quite easily on large surfaces.

Secondly, I applied kind of pultruded carbon "fabric", it is less than one mm thick and comes in rolls covered by a plastic sheet, very convenient to apply in laminated construction, without the epoxy coming through on your fingers:


The result is a balsa plate covered with this carbon laminated thing. Problem is that these are fibers aligned in one direction and it is very brittle if you flex it perpendicular to the fiber's direction.

Therefore I applied a second layer of a kind of very light cotton fabric that we call here "Japan paper"; it looks like this:


As I did not have anymore epoxy, I reverted as a second choice to wood glue to apply this fabric. I used that one:


I like this wood gllue because it is very fast set and quite strong. Much more than the usual white wood glue.

The plate was then put under pressure for a night.

The final result looks like this (close up of the sandwich):


Now some numbers:

Dimensions are : 2,9mm thick - 13 cm by 14,5 cm.

Mass is 26 grams.

Volumetric mass (Density) is thus : 0,47 grams per cubic centimeter.

Rigidity is excellent and I will use it as an attachment plate between my X8 and my brushless gimbal.



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  • MR60

    Sorry Daniel, I do not remember that link. I will look and let you know.

  • Please send me that video link if you find it.

    I'll have to try standard plastic wrap next time. At one point I did try a plastic release and it worked well, however it was a small piece.

  • MR60

    @Daniel, I have seen a tutorial the other day of how to make CF plates with carbon fabric and epoxy in layers. They also used glass to have a smooth finish. In order to avoid the glass to stick, they used plastic sheets that you use in the kitchen to wrap sandwiches! Never tried it so something to test maybe.

    Or you could use what professional moulders do : vaseline in spray.

  • Thanks for the inspiration Hugues! In the end, the glass release was much better. I'm going to use it for my new folding frame. I totally recommend the carbon tissue that I used. Maybe next time I'll use 3-4 layers.

    I'm not done with using the glass, maybe I need a release agent like oil or petroleum jelly. 

  • Thanks, CNC routing was the alternative I was looking at. I'm thinking that's probable the way to go instead of LASER.

  • I didn't buy one thankfully, its part of a public workshop. But its a 100w CO2 laser.

    But I would also consider using a CNC routing tool, since these composites can be tough to cut with laser.

  • MR60

    @Daniel, that surface looks very smooth indeed. Congratulations! Your experience confrims that getting the last 20% for perfection costs 80% of the time...

  • Daniel, Out of curiosity (and towards a possible future purchase) what wattage is your laser cutter?

    Cutting composite for model building is one of the main reasons I'm contemplating purchasing a laser cutter/engraver.


  • Hugues. I've attempted making the composite with the help of your post. I used 3mm birch ply with two layers of carbon tissue. My first attempt with a glass surface was barely successful, since it took hours to pry it off. However the surface was nice a smooth, and I was even able to laser cut it. This picture has the composite on the roll arm of the gimbal.

    My second attempt was easier but not as pretty. I used wax paper which left a waxy residue. As a result it was thicker than the first attempt. And it was not easy to laser cut double sided composites.


  • MR60

    Hi Daniel, this looks nice indeed.

    It looks so fine that you would really need multiple layers. Problem with mutliple layers is to avoid air bubbles in between layers. Normally to remove them you brush with your hands from the center outward. However with such a fine carbon tissue, as they call it, you would create wrinkles (it is too fine). It might even rip apart. But it might be worth trying.

    I'm curious to see results you could get with this carbon tissue. Let us know.

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