Project: A Tribute to the Bell X-1 (Press-Fit Construction)

Machine(s): Laser Cutter | Material(s): Cardboard

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Official Assignment Description: 'design, make, and document a press-fit construction kit'

The Bell X-1 was the first aircraft to break the sound barrier under its own power. The aircraft was piloted by legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager and currently resides in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's 'Milestones of Flight' exhibit. This week's project will be a tribute to the aptly named 'Glamorous Glennis.'
Source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Design and Construction

Step 1: Do an example cut to become familiar with laser cutter protocol and press-fit tolerances.

Step 2: Obtain CorelDRAW (thanks Tom!) to avoid file type conversion complications. CorelDRAW was relatively straight-forward to learn and use...but seemed more suited to artistic projects than precisely dimensioned drawings.

Step 3: Find outline of Bell X-1; trace it to obtain shape in CorelDRAW.

Step 4: Make all pieces and arrange for printing. Be sure to use 'hairline' thickness for lines.

Step 5: Cut pieces and assemble.

Tips and Lessons Learned

  1. Make sure you use a file format that is compatible with the laser cutter (or that can be converted via Fab Modules). Test out the conversion process before going to your reserved time slot. You can avoid the conversion process by just building your files in CorelDRAW (thanks Tom!).
  2. Make a test cut prior to designing your actual project to figure out what kind of tolerances work well for press-fit. This is particularly important if your program does not allow parametric changes. I found 0.16in works well for cardboard. (Power = 65; Speed = 11)
  3. Use a Chamfer 0.05in at interface corners, and use a 0.005in contour to account for 0.01in laser burn path width.

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