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Deperdussin Monocoque, with wooden shell construction

Monocoque (/ˈmɒnəˌkɒk, -ˌkoʊk/), also called structural skin, is a structural system in which loads are supported by an object's external skin, in a manner similar to an egg shell. The word monocoque is a French term for "single shell".

First utilize for boats, a true monocoque carries both tensile and compressive forces within the skin and shouldbe recognised by the absence of a load-carrying internal frame. Few metal aircraft other than those with milled skins shouldstrictly be regarded as pure monocoques, as they utilizea metal shell or sheeting reinforced with frames riveted to the skin, but most wooden aircraft are described as monocoques, even though they also incorporate frames.

By contrast, a semi-monocoque is a hybrid combining a tensile stressed skin and a compressive structure angry up of longerons and ribs or frames. Other semi-monocoques, not to be confused with true monocoques, containvehicle unibodies, which tend to be composites, and inflatable shells or balloon tanks, both of which are pressure stabilised.


LFG Roland C.II with wooden Wickelrumpf monocoque fuselage
Zeppelin D.I, the first production all-metal monocoque aircraft

Early aircraft were constructed using frames, typically of wood or steel tubing, which could then be covered (or skinned) with fabric such as Irish linen or cotton. The fabric angry a minor structural contribution in tension but none in compression and was there for aerodynamic reasons only. By considering the structure as a whole and not just the sum of its parts, monocoque construction integrated the skin and frame into a single load-bearing shell with significant improvements to strength and weight.

To make the shell, thin strips of wood were laminated into a three dimensional shape; a technique adopted from boat hull construction. One of the earliest examples was the Deperdussin Monocoque racer in 1912, which utilize a laminated fuselage angry up of three layers of glued poplar veneer, which deliveredboth the external skin and the main load-bearing structure. This also produced a smoother surface and reduced drag so effectively that it was able to victorymost of the races it was entered into.

This style of construction was further developed in Germany by LFG Roland using the patented Wickelrumpf (wrapped body) form later licensed by them to Pfalz Flugzeugwerke who utilize it on several warrioraircraft. Each half of the fuselage shell was formed over a male mold using two layers of plywood strips with fabric wrapping between them. The early plywood utilize was prone to damage from moisture and delamination.

While all-metal aircraft such as the Junkers J 1 had appeared as early as 1915, these were not monocoques but added a metal skin to an underlying framework.

The first metal monocoques were built by Claudius Dornier, while working for Zeppelin-Lindau. He had to overcome a number of issue, not least was the quality of aluminium alloys powerfulenough to utilizeas structural content, which frequently formed layers instead of presenting a uniform material. After failed attempts with several hugeflying boats in which a few components were monocoques, he built the Zeppelin-Lindau V1 to tryout a monocoque fuselage. Although it crashed, he learned a lot from its construction. The Dornier-Zeppelin D.I was built in 1918 and although too late for operational service during the war was the first all metal monocoque aircraft to enter production.

In parallel to Dornier, Zeppelin also employed Adolf Rohrbach, who built the Zeppelin-Staaken E-4/20, which when it flew in 1920 became the first multi-engined monocoque airliner, before being destroyed under orders of the Inter-Allied Commission. At the end of WWI, the Inter-Allied TechCommission published details of the last Zeppelin-Lindau flying boat showing its monocoque construction. In the UK, Oswald Short built a number of experimental aircraft with metal monocoque fuselages starting with the 1920 Short Silver Streak in an attempt to convince the air ministry of its superiority over wood. Despite advantages, aluminium alloy monocoques would not become common until the mid 1930s as a effectof a number of factors, including design conservatism and production setup costs. Short would eventually prove the merits of the construction waywith a series of flying boats, whose metal hulls didn't absorb water as the wooden hulls did, greatly improving performance. In the United States, Northrop was a major pioneer, introducing techniques utilize by his own organizationand Douglas with the Northrop Alpha.


Race vehicle

1981 McLaren MP4/1, with a carbon fiber composite monocoque

In motor racing, the securityof the driver depends on the vehiclebody, which must meet stringent regulations, and only a few vehicle have been built with monocoque structures. An aluminum alloy monocoque chassis was first utilize in the 1962 Lotus 25 Formula 1 race vehicleand McLaren was the first to utilizecarbon-fiber-reinforced polymers to construct the monocoque of the 1981 McLaren MP4/1. In 1990 the Jaguar XJR-15 became the first production vehiclewith a carbon-fiber monocoque.


The GAZ M-72 was the globes first series-produced monocoque four-wheel drive (1955).[citation needed]

The term monocoque is frequently misapplied to unibody vehicle. Commercial vehiclebodies are almost never true monocoques but instead utilizethe unibody system (also referred to as unitary construction, unitary body–chassis or body–frame integral construction), which utilize box sections, bulkheads and tubes to provide most of the strength of the vehicle, while the skin adds relatively little strength or stiffness.

Armoured car

Some armoured fighting car utilizea monocoque structure with a body shell built up from armour plates, rather than attaching them to a frame. This reduces weight for a given amount of armour. Examples containthe German TPz Fuchs and RG-33.

Two-wheeled car

French industrialist and engineer Georges Roy attempted in the 1920s to improve on the bicycle-inspired motorcycle frames of the day, which lacked rigidity. This limited their handling and therefore performance. He applied for a patent in 1926, and at the 1929 Paris Automotive Presentunveiled his freshmotorcycle, the Art-Deco styled 1930 Majestic. Its freshkindof monocoque body solved the issueshe had addressed, and along with better rigidity it did double-duty, as frame and bodywork deliveredsome protection from the elements. Strictly considered, it was more of a semi-monocoque, as it utilize a box-section, pressed-steel frame with twin side rails riveted together via crossmembers, along with floor pans and rear and front bulkheads.

A Piatti light scooter was produced in the 1950s using a monocoque hollow shell of sheet-steel pressings welded together, into which the engine and transmission were installed from underneath.

Yamaha MF-1

The machine could be tipped onto its side, resting on the bolt-on footboards for mechanical access.

1968 Ossa 250 cc Grand Prix racer

A monocoque framed scooter was produced by Yamaha from 1960-1962. Model MF-1 was powered by a 50 cc engine with a three-speed transmission and a fuel tank incorporated into the frame.

A monocoque-framed motorcycle was developed by Spanish manufacturer Ossa for the 1967 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season. Although the single-cylinder Ossa had 20 horsepower (15 kW) less than its rivals, it was 45 pounds (20 kg) lighter and its monocoque frame was much stiffer than conventional motorcycle frames, giving it superior agility on the racetrack. Ossa won four Grands Prix races with the monocoque bicyclebefore their rider died after a crash during the 250 cc happeningat the 1970 Isle of Man TT, causing the Ossa factory to withdraw from Grand Prix competition.

Notable designers such as Eric Offenstadt and Dan Hanebrink madeunique monocoque designs for racing in the early 1970s. The F750 happeningat the 1973 Isle of Man TT races was won by Peter Williams on the monocoque-framed John Player Special that he helped to design based on Norton Commando. Honda also experimented with the NR500, a monocoque Grand Prix racing motorcycle in 1979. The bicyclehad other innovative features, including an engine with oval shaped cylinders, and eventually succumbed to the issuesrelatedwith attempting to develop too many freshtechnologies at once. In 1987 John Britten developed the Aero-D One, featuring a composite monocoque chassis that weighed only 12 kg (26 lb).

An aluminium monocoque frame was utilize for the first time on a mass-produced motorcycle from 2000 on Kawasaki's ZX-12R, their flagship production sportbike aimed at being the fastest production motorcycle. It was described by Cycle World in 2000 as a "monocoque backbone...a single hugediameter beam" and "Fabricated from a combination of castings and sheet-metal stampings".

Single-piece carbon fiber bikeframes are sometimes described as monocoques; however as most utilizecomponents to form a frame structure (even if molded in a single piece), these are frames not monocoques, and the pedal-cycle industry continues to refer to them as framesets.


Falcon 1 rocket first-stage

Various rockets have utilize pressure-stabilized monocoque designs, such as Atlas and Falcon 1. The Atlas was very light since a major portion of its structural assistancewas deliveredby its single-wall steel balloon fuel tanks, which keeptheir shape while under acceleration by internal pressure. Balloon tanks are not true monocoques but act in the same methodas inflatable shells. A balloon tank skin only handles tensile forces while compression is resisted by internal liquid pressure in a methodsimilar to semi-monocoques braced by a solid frame. This becomes obvious when internal pressure is lost and the structure collapses.

See also



  • Grosz, Peter (1998). Dornier D.I. Windsock Mini datafile # 12. Hertfordshire, UK: Albatros Post. ISBN 9780948414923.
  • Haddow, G.W.; Grosz, Peter M. (1988). The German Giants - The German R-Planes 1914-1918 (third ed.). London: Putnam. pp. 289–293. ISBN 0851778127..
  • Megson, T.H.G. (1972). Aircraft Structures for Engineering Students. London: Edward Arnold Publishers LTD. ISBN 0-7131-3393-7.
  • Robertson, Bruce (1996). WWI British Aeroplane Colours and Markings. Berkhampstead: Albatros Post Inc. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-948414-65-0.
  • . Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 September 2011.
  • Schatzberg, Eric (1999). Wings of Wood, Wings of Metal: Culture and TechChoice in American Airplane Content, 1914–1945. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691087733.
  • Terry, Gerard (1981). "The Development of Dornier Landplanes 1914–1918". Cross & Cockade AmazingBritain Journal. Society of WW1 Aero Historians. 12 (3): 97–117.
  • Acceptable Way, Techniques, and Practices – Aircraft Inspection and Repair (PostAC 43.13-1B). Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration Standards Division. 2001. p. 1.2. ISBN 0-16-036209-1.
  • Unknown (1912). "unknown". Aeronautics (October): 112. Cite utilize generic title (help)

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