3D printing – Free HandIntroduction to 3D Printing  

By Charles Bartel 


Detailing with 3D

Using a 3D Design Tool


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  Introduction to 3D Printing
An Asset to Garden Railroading

by Charles
Bartel, Jr., BTOC President 2020-2021

For those of you reading this introduction, let me tell you a bit about myself and the rationale for putting together a series of articles which I hope might get some of you seriously thinking about exploring 3D printing as a way to enhance your garden railroad.

In the 2019 elections you elected me as President of the BTOC.  I want to thank you for your trust in me.  As we go through this turbulent time of 2020, we have seen our conventions, train shows and even club meetings cancelled, leaving us with free time to work on our trains.  And that time has been spent in exploring 3D printing and developing a model of a chemical processing plant named BLB Solutions.  I have learned a lot and will be putting together a series of articles to discuss various aspects of the process of generating a model using this new technology.

Prior to retirement 3 years ago, I worked for Moog Inc. as a sales and application engineer in the Industrial Division.  I started as a production engineer with a background in circuit development for a variety of products from fish finders to fighter aircraft radars.  At Moog I was exposed to lots of industrial environments and had the opportunity to see many railroad activities around these plants as well as in the local communities that I visited.  These trips filled my head with “what ifs” on duplicating some of the things I saw for a model railroad (not yet into G scale in this time period – just armchair railroading).

My hobby interested started back in 1944/45 when my grandfather gave me a prewar Lionel train set.  For 16 years this was my hobby, putting together Plasticville buildings.  I cut up outdoor Christmas lights to light these house up (and in a few cases, melted them down!).  I learn to wire a layout with sidings and do block control so that I could have more than one engine on the layout.  When married, my wife bought me an HO set which then became my primary interest having left the Lionel train at home with my brothers.

As an engineer I was constantly looking at tools to advance my model buildings of which two technologies rose to the top of my interest.  One was the small CNC machines for cutting out wood with thickness for making walls in HO buildings.  I finally purchased one, but for the time being it sits in the hobby room collecting dust!  The other was 3D printing.  Several hobby suppliers begin listing these machines with publicity that would lead you to believe this was a technology that had finally achieved home hobbyist applicability.

I have a son who is a true technocrat and invest in new technical toys as they appear on the market.  He too was intrigued by 3D printing and begin an earnest evaluation of available printers.  He cautioned me not to invest in one up through 2015 as he did not feel they had achieved reliable performance in the price range the was reasonable for the hobbyist.  (Note that in this time period, expensive printers were being introduced into Industry to make prototype parts as well as complex parts that could not be manufactured any other way.  But these machines started in the $ 10,000 range, were large, and the material was expensive.) 

PictureIn 2015, he found a printer under $200 that sat on a tabletop and had some significant capability.  And so the plunge began.  I purchased two of these machines and started down the design and print road.  I printed doors for a warehouse, windows for a custom building (NYC freight house) and other items to enhance a display model for shows.  I have now had 5 years experience in 3 D printing which combined with that of my son, gives me about 11 years of practical experience to draw from for a series of articles.  Between my son and I, we have 7 printers, two of which are running almost 24 hours, 7 days a week making a 3D printed train set consisting of a diesel and three cars that hold shot glasses for a unique conversation train when entertaining.

The articles being worked on include:

  • Detailing the Layout - click to take a look
  • 3D Software – programs, file formats, slicing software - this & more will be coming in September
  • ·   Materials for Printing

    ·  Thoughts on Details to Make a Model Realistic – building materials such as brick, wood, metal and how to model these

    · Developing a Simple Model – Files for printing will be supplied as part of the article

    ·  Developing a Complex Model – multi stories, footprint larger than a print bed

    ·  Combining Other Material to Make a Realistic Scene

    Additional articles will include comments from others on their tricks and tips that they submit for publishing.

    Here or some pictures that may give the reader some ideas.

    3D printed motors
    click to enlarge
    Desk & File Cabinet
    click to enlarge
    3D Printed G loco
    click to enlarge
    Two pictures of inside details, a desk, file cabinet, table and some motors.
    The third one is a diesel based on a USA Diesel switcher.

    As we go through these articles, please feel free to reach out with your questions and comments via my email, cbartel@roadrunner.com. I will endeavor to respond in a reasonable time once received.  If they are comments, please include a note allowing me to use these as appropriate in future articles.  If you wish to call me, my cell number is 716 583 1146.  I will accept calls between 10 am to 9 pm EST Monday through Saturday.  Sunday is a family day and I will not normally answer the phone.  If possible, 10 am to 1 pm is the most convenient time.


I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. - Oscar Wilde


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