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3d printing

Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:16 pm
by Gloriousnse
Something that's come along in the last few years is 3d printing, or 'rapid prototyping' - basically instead of having to make a mould and injection mould plastic, you can now design an item on a CAD program and just 'print it out', something that only a few years back we'd have been calling science-fiction!

I'd been watching the growth of this over the last few years with interest, but hadn't seen much of it yet, one leader in the field is a company called Shapeways - the idea is that you create your own designs and upload them, and Shapeways will the produce them for you using the latest machinery. You can even share that design by letting other folk purchase prints from it also...other than 'that's interesting' i'd not seen anything I was interested enough to try out...

I ended up in contact with a chap called Barry Clements a couple of months back, and he's started designing HO scale trailers, something that's not been available now is a 'dry bulk' trailer, suitable for transloading loads such as plastic pellets, and that was something I thought I could use. should take you to his range.

I put an order in for one of these, produced in the materiel they call 'frosted detail' ... -tank.html - and around 10 working days later it had been printed off at Shapeways plant in Holland and shipped over by UPS.


So first impressions...

Firstly, this isn't a cheap (for the consumer) way of purchasing one of these. You aren't likely to see folk creating their own models of things already available commercially for instance! If anyone produced a simple injection moulded kit of one of these it would likely cost about £20 - but they key thing there is the phrase 'if anyone produced a simple injection moulded kit' - with simple tooling for plastic kits having the potential to cost their developers more than £10k in tooling before you even produce one kit then their developer either needs to add on a lot of money to their kit to reclaim their investment or be very confident that he is going to sell thousands. This method allows a hobbyist to create a model 'for free' in the comfort of his own home, print one out (and pay for that), and then if he is the only person that ever wants one he doesn't have a huge sunk cost.
Interestingly the costs also to be related to how much materiel is used in the production, which also means that relatively large objects such as this trailer end up looking quite costly. A shell for an N scale coach however which has maybe 25% of the materiel looks much more cost effective....i'll come back to this later...

Second - so far the detail level is not the same as can be achieved with injection moulding.....yet, my suspicion is that will be something that improves with time (remember we are talking a process that was science fiction less than a decade ago!) - so again, I don't see it likely that folk are going to go 'well somebody already makes a model, but I think i'll have a go too...'

That said, don't get me wrong, it's not exactly un-detailed.


These 'undec' shots are straight from the packet. The fascinating thing if you're used to injection moulded (or even resin) kits is that this is not 'after assembly' - it's printed like this in one piece, all those overhangs and voids, walkways and steps with holes, believe it or not even movable wheels!, are constructed in one piece. That's kinda remarkable and very different when you've never seen this tech before like I hadn't.

The only 'assembly' is the two 'discs' on the discharge pipe which form the ends of the silo's, I think that's so the hollow tank doesn't distort as the plastic sets. I guess that makes it a 'kit' - but only just!

One thing that may be noticeable in those is that it does require a little cleaning up, there's a combination of 3 things to keep an eye on, none of them are 'show stoppers', none of them are hard to deal with.

You'll probably notice on the side-on shot above there is a rough finish, obvious on the discharge pipe, that's not 'flash', apparently it's supported in a waxy substance (i'd liken it to damp sugar) whilst being constructed and that is the residue, it scrubs off with the help of some warm water.

Because it's constructed in layers the round tank does have minor 'striation' marks on it, you can see some in the side-on image, a quick pass with a file removes these.

In addition the surface itself can be slightly rough in places, and whilst in some places that's easy to run a file over (like the sides of the tank) - others it's less easy - I put in a couple of hours of cleaning up before painting, but didn't go over the top, I suspect most folk could do better than I did.

I finished up with a white primer (Halfords) overtopped with aluminium (Tamiya) - a number plate and a couple of small indecypherable labels from Microscale sheets stop it looking too boring, I brush painted on matt black for the tyres and mudflaps...


So there we have it, my first dabble with 3d printing.

If you want more images of my one, look here: ... Baztrains/

What's the future? Well, already there's hundreds of folks using Shapeways to share, sell and produce useful scale models in scales from Z upwards - have a dig through there site to see the kinds of things being done: ... ins?li=nav

Whilst in N it's being used to produce rolling stock, for example here's a shell for a Metra 'winnebago' to retrofit on the Kato F40 chassis: ... erialId=61 - I don't see that being affordable for HO scale.

One interesting thought though from this HO scale modellers point of view, I was having another conversation with somebody bemoaning the gradual reduction in availibility of detailing parts in HO scale - could this be a solution? Produced to order, so no stock or distribution issues, and the only limitation on what's available is that somebody has to want one enough to to design it...

Re: 3d printing

Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2013 12:17 pm
by torikoos
Not a bad result at all so far. I think 3D printing will certainly play a big role in model making in the future. I'd better get myself going on a CAD course :-)


Re: 3d printing - SDL39s

Posted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:12 pm
by mec_alf
Now can someone produce the drawing files for the SDL39 sideframes for 3D-printing?

Re: 3d printing

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2015 9:31 am
by mec_alf
SDL-39s may soon be available as 3D printed objects: ... d=57613436