Materials Database

dCal Blog 2018 Jun 03

One of the best things about dCal is the Materials Database. It will be small at first but it will grow over time. I've ordered samples of carbon fiber plate and tubing from a number of different places. I've gone out to all my local arts and crafts stores to see what kinds of materials they have. Its kind of sad when I think about the large hobby stores that existed when I was younger. They're all gone now. Sure, you can order materials on Amazon and have them delivered to your door, but it was nice when you could go to a local hobby store and feel the different materials with your hands.

When building frames from scratch, I've noticed a few annoying things:

  • Some manufacturers use decimal inches like 0.0625", some use fractional inches like 1/16", and some use millimeters, like 1.59mm (all three of those are the same). When you enter dimensions in dCal, you can select inches, centimeters, or millimeters for each piece.
  • Few companies publish the weight of their products. When they do, its not very accurate, or the weight includes the packaging, or the weight is for a different size than you're buying. For the dCal database, I confirm the weight of each material on two different scales. If possible, I'll weigh multiple pieces to check consistency and get an average.
  • Some manufacturers are very consistent, others are not. Usually you pay for consistency. I've ordered 16mm tubing from Hobby King and I got 3 pieces that were between 15.9mm and 16.2mm. I also got one piece that was 15.3mm. If a material tends to be inconsistent, I'll put that information in the notes so you can decide if a different material would be better.
  • Photos of materials are usually not very good, or a company will use the same photo for 10 different products. They might use a stock photo of "carbon fiber tubing" instead of taking a photo of each type of tubing they sell. Others don't have any photos at all. Since I make a living as a photographer and filmmaker, I'll try to take a good photo of each material I add to the database.

  • Here are some dCal database photos I've taken so far:

    Dragonplate 14 x 15.5mm tubing Dragonplate 14x15.5mm Carbon Fiber tubing

    Rock West 15.26mm OD Carbon Fiber tubing Rock West 15.26mm OD Carbon Fiber tubing

    Sky Shark 7.0mm OD Carbon Fiber tubing Sky Shark 7.0mm OD Carbon Fiber tubing

    I take all of the tubing photos at the same scale, so you can visually compare sizes. For example, the Sky Shark tubing really is that much smaller than the first two. It is designed for kites but I've used it for my drone frames too.

    Lumenier 1.0mm Carbon Fiber plate Lumenier 1.0mm Carbon Fiber plate

    Midwest 1/16 Midwest 1/16" Birch Plywood

    Flat materials are also photo photographed at the same scale. Birch Plywood is actually lighter and much cheaper than similar sized carbon fiber plate. While it isn't nearly as strong as the carbon fiber, it is very strong when used for vertical bracing.

    Each material has a link to where you can buy it. I'd like to invite manufacturers to contact me if you want your materials listed in the dCal database. At some point I'll have a form with the specific details I need for each database entry.

    Much more to come!