Designing “Wings for Humans” Requires Precision

Hang gliding is about as close as a human can get to actually flying. In hang gliding, a pilot flies a non-motorized apparatus made out of a frame with fabric stretched over it. He or she controls it by shifting his or her body weight. “It’s the most closely coupled experience to having your own wings,” said Steve Pearson, President and Principal Design Engineer at Wills Wing, a company that designs and manufactures hang gliders. “You can feel your body flying, and that’s not an experience you get with any other aircraft. With a hang glider, it almost feels like the wings are coming out of your back.”

Designing Hang Gliders is an Art

Like most aircraft, hang gliders pose special design and manufacturing challenges. They need to be strong enough to support a person’s body weight on the wind, yet light enough to fly. Engineering the wings needs to account for the fact that they change shape depending on the load they are subjected to. Crafting a safe, powerful, and controllable non-motorized aircraft is a specialized art. Wills Wing in Orange, California is devoted to this art. They have been designing and manufacturing hang gliders, harnesses, and accessories since 1973.

Accuracy is Critical in Cutting Sails

Pearson has personally designed and built over a hundred gliders. He uses Autometrix cutting solutions to design and cut the fabric that is stretched over the hang gliding frame to become the sail. “Very small changes in the fit of the sail have huge consequences in the controllability and qualitative behavior of the glider,” said Pearson. It is critical that their fabric cutting machine be precise, which is one reason they chose Autometrix. If you are creating a unique product that is as innovative and in a niche market, reach out to us and learn how our partnership can support your business.

Designing and Cutting with Autometrix Solutions

Ever wonder how a hang glider is designed and manufactured? Want to get a bird’s eye view of being in the pilot’s seat of a hang glider? In the short film (21:56 minutes) Building Dreams, Steve Pearson shares his passion for hang gliding as well as his insights into what it takes to design, build and test some of the world’s most advanced hang gliders. You can see the manufacturing process (and get a glimpse of one of our cutting machines in action) at minutes 10:08 – 13:26.