3D printing – Free HandDetailing with a 3D Printer  

Article 2

By Charles Bartel 


Intro to 3D Printing Article 1

Using a 3D Design Tool
Article 3

Using a 3D Design Tool
Article 4

Using the 3D filesArticle 5

Using 3D files (cont.)
Article 6

The Printer ItselfArticle 7

Detailing the Layout with 3D printing

In this second article, I'd like to share some ideas and thoughts with you about garden railroading. I look at the postings on the BTOC web page and see some fantastic rolling stock. Details applied include custom lettering, sound and smoke in the engines. Custom paint schemes for less popular roads, even fallen flag railroads. I see wonderful waterfalls and great track work. Some are “on the ground” and some are elevated. I see more and more lighting of outside areas (parking lots, roads, etc.) and lights inside buildings and passenger cars.

For some of us that are members of local clubs, there are multiple opportunities for temporary displays for the public to enjoy. And generally, these are raised displays on portable displays tables or just regular tables with a green carpet for grass. And generally, there are lots of buildings to give the feeling of a train going through the countryside/village. And here in is where I feel that we can make improvements in our displays. When I look at most building kits, there is no floor so that when you look into the building you see the same “floor” as the area outside the building. You can also look through the buildings from one side to the other, something that you cannot do in most real buildings.

I have seen some kits that were combined to generate a custom building representing a unique building in a local community. This helps to tie the railroad to the local area and makes it more interesting to the observers. However, you can only go so far with standard buildings in creating a specific model.

I would like to take a few articles to review our options and discuss a new aspect to our hobby that I believe has reached the point where it is viable to the average hobbyist.

If you are fortunate to have a doll house supplier in your community, you can find various items in ½ inch scale which fits into 1:24 scale buildings. If not, you can look up online suppliers and place an order for your items. I would also note that they offer small tools to the modeler which are appropriate to our hobby.

But that only takes you so far. To make a building that represents a local landmark will take a lot of kitbashing and skills that may be beyond a lot of us. The solution is 3D printing.

3D printing opens a whole new world. You can model people, buildings, rolling stock, detail components, even some replacement components for engines and cars whose manufacture have left the market.

3D printing is a term that most of us have heard of and we have seen examples of it on the BTOC web site as well as other train-oriented web sites. But many to not know exactly what 3D printing is. And that will be the subject going forward.

There are two types of 3D printers on the market, one that uses filament material and one that uses a liquid bath and laser to create some very unique and fine detailed models. I will admit that I have no direct experience with this type of printer and will turn to others in future articles for a discussion of these printers.

I will concentrate on those printers that use spool of material and deposit it in layers on a printing bed. If you were at the last BTO convention, you saw an example of one printer that was designed for schools and home hobbyist. There were samples of items that were printed on that printer. For your reference, there are some very basic printers that sell in the $ 200 to $ 300 range. From here, the cost go up from $ 400 to $ 3,000 or more.

I believe that there are printers on the market in the $ 400 to $ 1,500 range that do a good job of making objects. For those that are budget minded, there are printers available in kit form in the $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 range. I am not really good at mechanically assembly and I have stayed away from the kit road until my last purchase. I did purchase a printer that is only available in kit form. I was hesitant in doing this but as this was my fourth printer, I decided to try a kit. (I also had my son who is on his fifth or sixth printer and has become an expert in maintaining this one manufacturer printers.) I know of one other club member who purchase from this same company a larger printer than my kit and had no trouble assembling it.

These are printers from Prusa Research based in Prague, Czech Republic. I have both the original unit with a larger print bed than the mini unit that they offer. I purchased the mini kit and was able to assemble it in less than two hours. These printers can use multiple materials based on the type of model being printed and its intended use. Their factory support has been very good. The user group has been even better in helping address some operation issues.
WEB site: https://shop.prusa3d.com/en/

Material can be purchased some several sources for these printers. I have purchased material from different suppliers and found that there is a significant difference in quality. On several of my print efforts, with a full spool of material I have had the material broken randomly in the spool. Depending on the printer, the control computer may not have a sensor that lets it know that there is no more material. The computer continues to move the print head as if it had material. Since many of models take 8 or more hours to print I will start one in the evening and when I get up in the morning, it will be done. When it runs out of material, I get an incomplete model with no way to recover.

Depending on when the material has run out, you may have an almost complete model which you have to throw out. I have found that material I have purchased from Prusa has never had a break in the middle of a spool. Between my son, myself and one of his engineers, we have used hundreds of spools and never had a broken filament.

There may be other manufacturers that can claim the same capability and I would be interested in hearing from any of you with similar experiences with other vendors. I will publish those names in future articles.

When setting up your printer, a few comments are worth mentioning. Some printers have the printing bed and print head inside an enclosure. The location of these are not as critical. Since both of the Prusa printers are open, that is, there are no walls around the print bed, the printer should be placed in an area that does not experience wind drafts that can cool the material during printing. When that happens, you get quite a ball of filament! I would also suggest that you put some vibration isolation under it as there is significant vibration generated during printing depending on the model. You should never open a spool until you are ready to use it, as moisture in the air can affect its performance. If you change colors during a print, store the open spool in a sealed container with a commercial Desiccant in it to absorb any moisture. You can also use this approach if you have not printed for a while and the spool has absorbed moisture. Putting it into the enclosure will pull the moisture out and restore it to useable condition.

In the next article I will discuss how to create models with software available, concentrating on a program that those using Microsoft software already have on your computer, 3D builder. 


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