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Payload container foam

Expanded Polystyrene

Typically white foam made from beads - used for packing - density 15 to 45Kg/cu m - thermal conductivity 33mW/mK (for typical 20Kg/cu m foam). Can be cut with a Hot Wire Cutter.

There are two types of Expanded Polystyrene - Open Cell and Closed Cell. Open cell is where there are gaps between the beads, and closed cell where there are not. Open cell is not waterproof and closed cell is (as in polystyrene cups).

Extruded Polystyrene

Extruded polystyrene is a thermal insulation material used in building construction. There are a couple of brands: Styrofoam by Dow and Polyfoam by Kanuf. Styrofoam (density 32Kg/cu m - thermal conductivity 27mW/mK) is light blue or pink in colour, while Polyfoam (density 38kg/m3 - thermal conductivity 35 mW/mK) tends to be orange or beige.

Extruded polystyrene has a foam texture, moisture resistant, significantly more rigid than Expanded Polystyrene and can be machined (with care). Can be cut with a Hot Wire Cutter.

Tips for working with Styrofoam:

Cutting: STYROFOAM™ brand foam cuts easily with a serrated knife, hacksaw, etc. Wax the knife blade with an old candle for easier, smoother cuts

Painting: Paint with an acrylic craft paint. Solvent-based paints may damage the foam. Daler Rowney System 3 acrylic paint works well and comes in Fluorescent Pink (other colours are available).

Gluing: For a fast, sure bond, use a low-temperature glue gun. Hot glue guns can be used but the hot glue may melt a small portion of the foam

Sanding: For smooth, rounded edges, “sand” the foam with another piece of STYROFOAM Brand Foam


Polystyrene foam tends to be difficult to glue - because the solvents in some glues attack it. Here are 3 glues that work well and don't attack polystyrene.

UHU Por glue - this is specifically for polystyrene foam. Coat each part, wait for 10 minutes then press together.

PVA wood glue - this works but you have to allow a long time for it to dry - especially on thick sections. Allow at least a day when working with sections of 1“ or more.

Epoxy resins - these set normally - between a few minutes to a day depending on type.

Silicone Rubber - as used for sealing plumbing & worktops - allow 24 hours to set.

Hot Glue Gun - set quickly and are relatively easy to apply. Use the gun on its low heat setting.


Braided Nylon cord

Indicative strength (natural colour):

DiameterBreaking Strain
1.0 mm22 Kg
1.2 mm35 Kg
1.5 mm45 Kg
2.4 mm130 Kg
2.8 mm170 Kg
3.2 mm220 Kg
3.6 mm300 Kg
4.0 mm350 Kg
4.4 mm480 Kg
6.0 mm680 Kg

Braided cord works better than twine as twine tends to twist/untwist during the flight - causing the payload to spin.


2" Wide Tape

Various 2” wide sticky tapes often used for covering payloads etc.

Tape TypeWeight (g/m)
White Duck Duct 12
Grey Generic Duct 9
Black Cheap Generic Duct 7
Ultratape single sided cloth tape 7
Aluminium 6
Spinnaker Repair 5
Clear Packing (Staples) 3.5
Pro-Gaff Fluourecent Pink Gaffer 16g
guides/materials.txt · Last modified: 2013/01/13 09:27 by rocketboy

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