Revisit your Childhood with SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation

Who’s paper plane will fly the farthest and highest is part of most childhood memories. But how do we validate that our paper plane design is achieving optimal performance? How to fly higher and farthest? With a little bit of help using SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation, you definitely can fly higher and farther.

Below is a paper plane example that we created in SOLIDWORKS.


Using this simple illustration, we are going to investigate the aerodynamic fluids effect on the flying plane when the paper plane flies.

With a little tweak to the model, half of the model now has an elevated angle of 16o.


Quick Knowledge:
How does a paper plane work?


As the paper plane launches, the swing moment of our hand will produce the Thrust for the plane to move forward. The wind motion that opposes the motion of the plane will create a Drag to stop the plane.

Due to the airfoil shape of the paper plane, as the motion of wind crosses the body of the paper plane, it will create a pressure different on the top and bottom region that creates a Lift on the paper plane. The mass of the plane will create a Weight imposed by the gravity pulling the paper plane downward.

We will then simulate a scenario during the flight of a paper plane, assuming that the paper plane will fly forward with a velocity of 5m/s. We will run 3 different similar studies to check the performance of our paper plane.


Now, let’s look at the results of analysis for our first configuration.

Configuration 1


Pressure plots on the wings

Pressure plots on the wings

We are interested in the pressure difference between the top and bottom region that creates the LIFT force that keeps the plane gliding in the air. The difference in value of pressure will determine the lift of the paper plane and a wide and uniform distribution will ensure a good gliding of the plane.

Configuration 02
Add wing flap flipping downward on both wings.

Configuration 2

Pressure plots on wings


Configuration 03
Add wing flaps flipping upward on both wings.


Pressure plots on wings


Comparing 3 different configurations

Configuration 1 Configuration 2 Configuration 3
paper-plane-configuration-01 paper-plane-configuration-02 paper-plane-configuration-03

Configuration 1 has a decent distribution in the pressure region on the wing, we should be expecting the paper plane to fly in a straight course for a while. This configuration will serve as a benchmark to the upcoming configurations.

Configuration 2 seems to have higher pressure in the middle of the wings as well as a more concentrated pressure region. We should be expecting the plane to fly higher compared to configuration 1 as the lift force is higher in this case. However, due to the low pressure region at the tail of the paper plane, it might result in higher drag force as the orientation of the paper plane changes along the flight, hence, the paper plane might not fly as far.

Configuration 3 has a high pressure region on the top face of the wings tail. This will probably cause the plane to make a sharp-turn in the air and topple, failing the moment after launch.

With all of this information on hand and different case studies carried out, we can definitely come out with the best paper plane that flies farthest and highest. So, next time you want to build a paper plane. Make sure you get it validated in SOLIDWORKS Flow before building it!




From our humble beginnings in 2008, ATE has grown from a single-office reseller into a powerhouse of engineering solution provider, with 5 office locations in Singapore and Malaysia, with a 70-strong workforce that can provide localized support and services to our customers. Today, we provide unrivalled 3D engineering solutions as an premium reseller of Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS. Along the journey, we have also added Altair and SolidCAM, together with many other world-class technology partners, with the single focus on extracting the best return on technology investment for our customers.