3D Printing rolling stock

mmyers05 Feb 25, 2012

  1. mmyers05

    mmyers05 TrainBoard Member

    137
    0
    8
    First off, a little background - in case my post count doesn't make this abundantly clear, I am new to Trainboard. I model the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad (Moffat line) in N-scale during the mid-1920s. This is a railroad (and era) for which, baring some miraculous set of events that I cannot imagine, no RTR rolling stock will ever be produced by any major manufacturer. Only a scattered handful of most D&SL cars and locomotives existed in the first place and quite frankly I recognize that no one could ever make a profit manufacturing these commercially.

    That leaves me essentially on my own when it comes to amassing my rolling stock fleet. While I love watching trains run as much as the next guy, for whatever reason, I have always found it enjoyable to make my layouts as technically and nit-pickingly accurate as possible (I am a self-proclaimed "rivet counter" as it were - about my own collection at least). That said, just sliding D&SL decals (that I need to custom print anyway) onto undecorated Micro-Trains cars just seemed wrong. Unfortunately however, I didn't see another option: while I greatly admire the work of the kit-bashers and scratch-builders of the world, I want entire trains (15-20 cars long) of some of these cars. Scratch-building that many cars was simply beyond my patience level.

    During late October of last year however, I discovered Shapeways 3D printing and "Frosted Ultra Detail." The photos of rapid prototyped items posted on this board (thanks for that btw :) ) inspired me to give this technology a shot! A few months later, I have to say I am convinced:

    Fowler Clone Test Shot 1 (6).jpg
    (D&RGW "Fowler Clone" Boxcar)

    Here is my D&SL/DNW&P 30000 Series Gondola as an example (I apologize for the photo quality, getting good pictures of these has proven a challenge) :

    D&SL 30000 Series Gondola (2).jpg D&SL 30000 Series Gondola.jpg

    They arrived fully assembled as shown. I cleaned, spray primed and brush painted them in order to get them into the condition pictured. I did no sanding, filing or any other smoothing. They smoothly negotiate a 9 3/4" radius curve (with MT "pizza-cutters") and are essentially RTR less MT arch bar trucks and a brake wheel (still need to add that). Price? A hair below $19 each (or less if I order several): okay, so it's not the cheapest rolling stock in the world... But hey, it's custom and built exactly to my specifications! :D That has to be worth something...

    As of today, I have three classes of gondolas, two boxcars and a caboose in various stages of completion. I have to say that I am completely sold on this as a modeling process. Even better, it is available to anyone with a computer and internet connection! (and bravery to try 3D computer modelling) Even the necessary software is free depending on what you use.

    Whatcha guys think?
     
  2. NIevo

    NIevo TrainBoard Member

    352
    0
    11
    They look really good! The only downside thats been brought up in the past has been the light weight of models created like this.
     
  3. Sierra117

    Sierra117 TrainBoard Member

    554
    1
    14
    First off welcome to TrainBoard!! Next it is nice to meet a fellow Shapeways modeller! I do have to agree with JJ though. You really need to take the weight of the material into account and allow for some way to add weight to the car. On the boxcar, may I suggest perhaps a removeable roof? They really do look awesome but take it from a guy who also deals with Z scale, you will be thankful (and so will your customers) when you get it on the track and you have a way to adjust the weight. The raw material is just too light on its own.
     
  4. mmyers05

    mmyers05 TrainBoard Member

    137
    0
    8
    I'm way ahead of you:
    The shell and frame come apart and press fit together.

    Fowler Clone Test Shot 1 (7).jpg

    The gondolas come as a single piece, but I'm designing complementary drop-in coal loads for them (under which I intent to hide weights). As for empty gondolas, I'm still scheming - perhaps sheet lead (that would hide my internal board grooves though :( )? Either way it would be an "aftermarket" installation so to speak.

    Everything else comes apart with a pair of tweezers though. I probably should have clarified that - it's the standard I'm using with every model I design. As someone who enjoys using mid-train helpers/pushers on trains in n-scale - I understand the value of properly weighting things. :)

    That said, your comment got me wondering, how are you putting weight into those Z-scale Centerbeam flats of yours (very nice looking btw)? I've been dodging flatcars so far because I wasn't quite sure how to handle that (other than adding heavy loads)...
     
  5. Sierra117

    Sierra117 TrainBoard Member

    554
    1
    14
    Very nice. Adding weight to a gone will be tricky indeed. As for my flats, (thanks for the kind wordson them) unfortunately in Z all I can do is hide very thin lead weights on the underside of the deck for my empties and heavy loads for the loaded cars. In Z you don't need much weight though so some lead on the underside and metal wheels keeps it nice and happy.
     
  6. Nick Lorusso

    Nick Lorusso TrainBoard Member

    1,751
    257
    34
    Looks good. What programs are you guys using? I would like to try designing some detail parts in N-scale.
     
  7. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    8,290
    999
    109
    Very very nice!
    What is the site and software?
    Thanks!
     
  8. Randy Stahl

    Randy Stahl TrainBoard Supporter

    1,421
    1,488
    37
    I'm brave enough.. not that smart but brave.. Please link me to the sites and software and I'll give it a shot .

    Randy
     
  9. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    5,701
    441
    82
    I'm still blown away by the level of detail in these products. Just a thought - how much weight (thinking lead/tungsten) could be fit into the recesses in the center sill of an underframe? Would it be sufficient?
     
  10. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    5,701
    441
    82
    Another thought just at random: would it be possible to use one of these kind of models as a master to create a mold so you could cast duplicates in a denser/heavier medium? I'm just thinking out loud here as I'm not really at all familiar with the processes or materials.
     
  11. Cajonpassfan

    Cajonpassfan TrainBoard Supporter

    1,105
    24
    25
    M (Mike, Mark, Matt?), welcome to TB, a great group of guys ( well mostly guys)... Your cars blow me away....the detail is fabulous. I've read about 3d printing casually in the past but this brings it into focus for me ...a whole another world of possibilities. Wow! Keep us appraised of progress please.
    Btw, I model a different place and era, but have always had a soft spot for the D&SL...and have the Banshee Train book with beautiful paintings by Ted Rose prominently on display.
    Thanks for sharing your work and kind regards,
    Otto
     
  12. mmyers05

    mmyers05 TrainBoard Member

    137
    0
    8
    As for software, I use Google Sketchup. I've heard plenty of mixed reviews of Sketchup (plenty of people hate it) and I'll admit that there might be better options out there. I like Sketchup because it is completely free and allows me achieve the level of detail I am going for (it has a bit of a steep learning curve though: watch some online tutorials - google has a massive archive of them). The trick with Sketchup is deciding how to convert your file to STL (the file format generally used for 3D printing). It's not necessarily the most straightforward conversion for a bunch of reasons, but I'll happily go into it if people want :) Perhaps Sierra will chime in here to explain what he uses...

    http://www.shapeways.com/
    http://sketchup.google.com/

    Possibly - that's the cool thing about this process though - you can design your models to accept whatever weights you want wherever you want them! Have specific tungsten cubes that you want to use? Design your car around them - perfect fit, perfectly hidden. Want body-mounted couplers (I am experimenting with this)? Ten minutes on the computer and you are set! Decide you want a truck mounted version as well? Another ten minutes. :)

    I think that you certainly could use these as masters - I've actually read about people scheming to do precisely that. Their properties are roughly similar to sytrene - perhaps a tiny bit harder to paint but otherwise just as robust. You would lose detail however. One the cool things about these cars is that they do not need to be cast, so you can make all kinds of impossible shapes that could never come out of a mold. For example, the "Z-shaped" metal braces on the sides of my "Fowler Clone" actually have a Z-shaped profile. Likewise, the AB brake reservoir on the bottom of the car is completely hollow (to save material). Those would be utterly impossible shapes to make by any other process that I know of... That said, if you want to make models in anything larger than N-scale (or even anything much longer than about 60 N-scale scale feet), for pricing reasons you would probably need to do something like that. Shapeways charges by the volume of material used - bigger becomes prohibitively expensive fast...

    It's Matt - good guess though! :D Thanks for the kind words! I have to say that when I discovered the possibilities of this technology I was rather blown away myself.
     
  13. Steve Mann

    Steve Mann TrainBoard Member

    526
    2
    19
    I was astounded by the NW (I think) welded rail train made with custom shapeways parts in HO. The hydrolic cylinder bracing was phenomenal. I was racking my brain trying to think of how to kitbash the roller car etc. I want to do ATSF welded rail train parts to put on N Scale Kits flats (the racks just dont cut it for me). Shapeways is the way to go about it. I'm trying to find a program or someone willing to invest time into designing these parts for me from proto photos. I did find some ballast hoppers on Shapeways, very very cool. Still want separate chutes tho to put on rebuilt customized cement hoppers like the SF did tho..
     
  14. Sierra117

    Sierra117 TrainBoard Member

    554
    1
    14
    Hello all! For my modelling I use TrueSpace and then I like to double check my models for flaws and proper scaling using netfabb. I am more than willing to teach people the methods I use in my modelling and for those who would like things made, but are a little intimidated by it I also take requests and do custom jobs. I have a few that I need to get back to as a matter of fact. If any of you guys have things you would like me to take a crack at, please feel free to email me and I will see what I can do!
     
  15. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

    795
    682
    26
    Hi Brian,

    After reading the thread about your experience creating n scale rolling stock by 3-d printing (very nice!) I wanted to see if you thought 3-d printing could produce n scale pole line cross arms. The arms are 3"x4"x10' (0.01875"x0.025"x0.75") timber and a typical insulator would be about 3" in diameter and 4" tall. My thought would be to create the cross arm with 10 insulators. Adding the V-bracing would be icing on the cake but might complicate the model and be very fragile. If the cross arm and bracing were available as a separate item the modeler could attach as many arms as they wanted on a wooden pole. I can provide precise dimensions if you thought it were feasible to produce this item.

    At my previous job I asked the CAD designer create and print a cross arm; it did not come out very well. The machine could produce the cross arm but the insulators were a mess. I gave up because the machine was just not capable of producing detail this fine; insulators being 0.01875" in diameter and 0.025" tall.
     
  16. Cajonpassfan

    Cajonpassfan TrainBoard Supporter

    1,105
    24
    25
    Matt, Brian, anyone, perhaps you can answer a question:
    if Shapeways charges by material volume, the challenge would be to use as little of it as possible without making the model too fragile or unstable. If one were to design a box car or a tender shell, what should be the optimal thickness of the body?
    Thanks, Otto
     
  17. Sierra117

    Sierra117 TrainBoard Member

    554
    1
    14
    Sure! Sounds like an interesting project. Go ahead and email all the stuff you have to me at odstalpha12@gmail.com and I will work on it this week. If anyone else has projects that you would like done, feel free to contact me at the same email.
     
  18. mmyers05

    mmyers05 TrainBoard Member

    137
    0
    8
    I second Brain's Netfabb recommendation, it's extremely helpful (part of the STL conversion process I glazed over)...

    At the risk of stealing a question directed at Brian here, offhand I would say that pole arms would be feasible. The insulators are well within the resolution FUD can achieve (the grab irons on my cars have a diameter of 3 scale inches). If anything I would be concerned about the strength of bars themselves, they need to survive shipping... -Update: nevermind, looks like he beat me to it by a minute or so lol-

    For the record all of the cars I am designing will also be for sale in relatively short order (although frankly I don't expect to sell many). That said I am looking for new projects... or more precisely a break from this (so....many....intersecting....cylinders....):

    2-6-6-0 Shell (19).jpg

    :)
     
  19. mmyers05

    mmyers05 TrainBoard Member

    137
    0
    8
    I have found that it totally depends on the design: my "Fowler Clone" has a wall thickness of around 0.3mm - the minimum. The outside bracing helps keep everything square though so I don't need walls quite so thick. On a tender shell for example (or double sheathed boxcar) you would need thicker walls or some sort of internal bracing. I would recommend experimenting :)
     
  20. Sierra117

    Sierra117 TrainBoard Member

    554
    1
    14
    Good question Otto, That is kind of a loaded gun so to speak. with an enclosed thing like a boxcar or a covered hopper, I like to go with about a half millimeter wall thickness. It will keep the price down and still keep it fairly rigid, but in the means of an item like a locomotive shell you need to take into account clearances for the motor and the chassis while still maintaining the outer dimensions. Loco shells get tricky. I have done one in Z scale and it didn't turn out so well. I am working on one in N scale and hopefully it will go better. If not I might just stick to rolling stock and structures lol. One other thing that I have played with in another design (which is completed yet unreleased) is having an enclosed model with thinner walls, yet the weight fully contained within and using the support material (that waxy substance that sometimes doesn't get fully cleaned off) being trapped inside as the weight for the car. It has worked well in the two tests I have done and I might offer it as a worry free standard in the future if it continues to work well for me. If I do though, it will be as a second option meaning I will offer one car with a removable floor or roof and one enclosed and weighted with the support material.
     

Share This Page