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ego1138 01-22-2015 09:29 PM

1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
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So because I dont have ENOUGH unfinished models laying around, I decided to start up another one. :)

The 1/72 Monogram Space Shuttle with ET and Boosters.

Just now in the planning stages, but want to accurize this thing as much as I can. And for me, one of the most important places to get right, are the thermal tiles on the underbelly and nose.

I've seen some GREAT work by others who've done this, most notably Phil Smith, who's shuttle is the gold standard in my eyes. For his tiles, he took some styrene sheet. Scored the entire length of it every 2mm. Turned the sheet 90 degrees, and then cut through it every 2mm, leaving him long strips that were 2mm wide, and with scored tiles every 2mm. He then layed each of these strips down, one at a time. Then went and filled in the gaps with little tiny cut pieces. He says in his writeup that this took him MONTHS to do. Was tedious as balls. Lost interest countless times.

I couldn't blame him.

So, I figured there had to be a better way . . . and I think I just discovered it.

Two things were key to this.

1. Finding a set of blueprints that were (at least as far as I can tell) accurate as far as tile placement and size. Of course, these were scaled to the same size as the model.
2. A paper cutting machine. I got a good deal on a Silhouette Cameo. If you're not familiar with it (which I wasn't), it's a computer controlled plotter with an exacto blade in it. It's designed mostly for scrapbookers and greeting cards, and vinyl stickers. It also has an adjustable height for the blade, which is key.

So instead of cutting shapes into paper, with the lowest blade height, and feeding in sheet styrene, I can actually just SCORE the sheet . . . in the EXACT design of the tiles.

So now, it's just a matter of breaking up that pattern into more manageable sized chunks. I'm figuring it will probably work into about 20 different pieces. Glue them on just like a puzzle, and boom, that months of work is done in an evening, with an accuracy that should be completely unmatched by anything out there right now.

Attached picture is the result of my first test. I'm about 90% impressed.

Two things that need improvement from what I can see . . . fresh blade with a steeper angle than the one supplied with the machine . . . . and I've noticed that in my original vector drawings, I have multiple lines over top of each other. Which are unnoticeable on the screen, but it's causing the machine to cut the same areas multiple times, which is making a couple areas look a little sloppy. So will fix that up.

The area in the picture is the underside of the orbiter at the nose. The nose gear bay doors are visible, and directly behind them (on the left of the picture) is the area where the orbiter would attach to the external tank.

Length of my test piece is about 48mm.

Anyways, VERY excited by my results and wanted to share as I start this build! :)


Rondie 01-22-2015 11:15 PM

Holy crap I'm impressed... Must say did not know of cutting plotters for the home user as well, great find and thanks for sharing! This build thread is going to be great...

ego1138 01-29-2015 10:37 AM

Re: 1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
1 Attachment(s)
Small update.

My cutting tests have been going well. I think I've found about the threshold for how deep I can cut, without cutting through the styrene sheet. The 0.010" sheet is thin enough that it really wraps nicely around the shuttle too.

I'm anticipating that the underside will comprise around 8 pieces (including seperate pieces for the gear doors, etc).

Just about finished the tile layout file for the underside of the orbiter, so, thought I'd share a picture of how that's coming along. Just the very rear left to be sized to the monogram shuttle.

Only thing I'm not liking is that with this being a cutting machine, it does leave the little ridges on either side of the engraved line, as opposed to using like a scriber. A light sanding helps a bit on that though.

Next steps:
1. once the underside layout is complete, create my sheets and glue them on.
2. Do the tops and sides of the nose area and under the cockpit windows, and glue them on.
3. That will leave an empty strip with no tiles for the transition between the underside, and the sides of the orbiter. Because of the rather complex curves in this area, will have to go back and map out the "void", and then map the tiles out in there. So this will be the area where perhaps some of the accuracy is lost, but, from my initial calculations, it shouldn't be TOO far off. I'm banking on about 6 "rows" of tiles being the height of this void, which seems to match up to the reference pics and blueprints I have.

Been a lot of hours invested in this so far (not to mention buying the cutting machine), but, with it mostly being spent on design software, it somehow seems to be a lot less tedious than spending those same hours glueing individual rows of tiles down. :)

The upside of course though, is at the end, this will all be able to be reproduced ad nauseum with 100% accuracy. (and hopefully scaled relatively easily to other scales and manufacturers)

(I'd like to even see what kind of results I get on this at 1/144 - but I have a feeling that might be pushing it)

ego1138 02-05-2015 09:49 PM

Re: 1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
1 Attachment(s)
Latest test sizing of the tile pattern. Had to do some minor tile rejigging. And came across a couple pics I hadn't seen before to help out with some tile placement. So far, I'd wager the tile sizes and placement will probably end up at 99% accurate. (the centreline on the paper isn't accurate . . . just there to aid in placement) :)

I've now got the sizing of the tiles down for the entire underside. Just need to readjust a few tiles near the nose.

Also been working on the tiles for the rear engine area. That and the nose I think will prove to be the most difficult.

Hoping that within the next week, I will have everything finalized, and will scribe up the sheets and lay the tiles! :)

youngtiger1 05-04-2015 10:44 PM

Re: 1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
This is looking nice. I have couple of the shuttle kits in my stash, but I need to grab the tile decals for them. Hopefully soon!


rpauly 05-05-2015 08:06 AM

Re: 1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
Hmm. I might be interested in buying a set from you, 'twere you interested in producing one...

jockdeboer 08-09-2015 02:10 PM

Re: 1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
I second that...

lowelker 12-15-2015 04:05 PM

Re: 1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
a third.

SCI-FI 12-15-2015 07:21 PM

Re: 1/72 Space Shuttle - With Accurate Tiles
I fourth (depending on price)...

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