Firewall insulation [31.0 hours]

I’ve been working on the firewall insulation. There’s a lot of material on VAF about this, I won’t repeat it here. Suffice to say I’m using an insulation material called Fiberfrax, 1/8″ thick, on the outside of the firewall. In order to hold it in place, a thin metal foil layer is required. I’m using 0.008″ thick Titanium for this layer (I previously bought some 0.002″ Stainless Steel foil but decided I couldn’t work it without having it crinkle up and/or tear. Impossible to drill a hole through it). The main purpose of firewall insulation is to give me some time to get the aircraft on the ground in some sort of controlled manner, in the highly unlikely event of an engine fire. A secondary purpose is to minimise the amount of heat that can be transferred into the RV-10 tunnel.

I found the best tool to cut the Titanium foil was an ordinary pair of scissors. Drilling small holes wasn’t a problem, but enlarging them with drill bits is not possible. I used a series of reamers for the smaller holes, the angled end of the flutes works well. To drill a #12 hole, for instance, I would first drill a #42 hole, then #39, #35 using drill bits, then #30, #19 and finally #12 reamers. The back of the foil must be supported of course.

For larger holes, a step drill works, but to finish the hole or enlarge anything beyond around 9/16″, I used a 1/2″ round sanding attachment in a die grinder. These wear out quickly, I went through around twenty of them. Doing these large holes with the die grinder worked well, as long as the foil was supported right up against the stainless steel firewall.

In an ideal world, all of the firewall nutplates and pass-through positions would be known when the firewall was laying on a bench, before ever being attached to the fuselage. That doesn’t happen, so I had to find a way of accurately drilling holes through the foil for all of the nutplates etc. To do this, I 3D printed a lot of disposable drill guides. For any purpose, I designed a drill guide, printed it, and used it to accurately drill a #42 hole through the center of whatever I needed to. In this way, I worked around the firewall and made all of the holes required in the Titanium foil. I used #6 screws through the AN3 nutplates to hold the foil in place while I worked on it, and clecos where appropriate.

With the foil prepared, I cut the Fiberfrax to shape, sandwiched it between the foil and firewall, and then worked my way around all of the holes, cutting the Fiberfrax as necessary with a sharp modelling knife. For the engine mount points, I completely removed the foil and ‘frax. All of the gaps will be filled in later with Fire Barrier 2000+.

I then set the Fiberfrax and foil aside. I can’t attach it permanently until the upper forward fuselage assembly is riveted in place. In fact, all I seem to have done for months now is to prepare parts, and set them aside.

One of the downsides of adding firewall insulation like this is that it makes future firewall modifications difficult. It is possible to drill through the foil and firewall, but deburring is a problem. I tried to anticipate everything I could, and for pass-throughs I put in more than I needed, it’s easy enough to plug up unused pass-throughs. I also made a separately mounted plate that attaches to the right side of the firewall, for mounting electrical components on. At some future time, if the electrical requirements change, I can simply make up a new mounting plate for them, rather than rely on firewall mounted nutplates for each individual component.

  • f37a
    f37a
    3D printing a drill guide
  • f37b
    f37b
    Drilling holes in Titanium foil
  • f37c
    f37c
    Drill guide to go through AN3 nutplate
  • f37d
    f37d
    Drilling center hole through Titanium, from the rear
  • f37e
    f37e
    Drilling holes for oil cooler mount
  • f37f
    f37f
    Marking out upper Titanium foil sheet
  • f37g
    f37g
    Cutting upper Titanium foil sheet
  • f37h
    f37h
    Holes cut out in top Titanium sheet
  • f37i
    f37i
    Titanium foil insert for center section
  • f37j
    f37j
    Titanium foil insert for center section
  • f37k
    f37k
    All the drill guides used for Titanium foil
  • f37l
    f37l
    All holes and cutouts done, except for center
  • f37m
    f37m
    Engine mount cutout
  • f37n
    f37n
    Engine mount cutout
  • f37o
    f37o
    All holes and cutouts done, except for center
  • f37p
    f37p
    Fiberfrax stored for later use
  • f37q
    f37q
    Pass-thru's riveted on
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