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Thread: 3d printing to order?

  1. #1

    3d printing to order?

    Hi All!

    I think that everyone has come to terms with both the possibilities and the limitations of 3D printing.

    I'm working on an N gauge project at the moment and I was wondering if anyone out there knows if it is possible to have parts 'commissioned', as in translate an idea through the programming stage to a printable file? (Is file the right word?) I'm not currently in a position to learn a new computer programme right now!!

    Any thoughts or comments on this? I look at the initial work people like B1Lancer on Shapeways created, but I'm not sure if this if for hobby purposes or commercial gain.

  2. #2
    Hi Dave, I think you can be sure that this is going to be one of the directions the model railway hobby is going to go in.

    3D prints are getting better, but they are not up to the MM standards just yet, give it a few years and I don't think you will be able to see the differenece, I understand that at least one company is playing around with a form of plastic resin in 3D printing.

    There has been talk from someone else who plans to use a 3D print as the mould for resin wagons, as far as I know it may well be the same guy, they where talking about this over on RMweb, but I sometimes lose the will to live when I visit that site, so I don't go there very often now.

    hopefully the link below will help, as I understand it most people do it so they can have a certain model for themselves, if someone else wants a copy all well and good. Ther are of course a few people who have started to make it into a living, so it is up to you if you want to support them or not.


  3. #3
    Hi Dave. Some vendors on Shapeways and elsewhere will take on CAD commissions. They have the CAD skills once you can provide scale drawings. The printing is the easy bit if designed properly to suit the mediums tolerances. Shapeways provide all the technical details on their web site. FUD is now as good as injection molded plastic but expensive. WSF body shells combined with FUD detail parts can now produce really fine models.

  4. #4
    Have a look at You send your design to a local printer and get your part printed. It can be pretty cheap.
    I modeled a part using 123D from AutoDesk which is free to download and pretty easy to use, especially if the part is simple. You might be able to get someone else to do a model for you - I would offer but I'm too busy at the moment. I previously printed a few parts for the C class I am working on.

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  5. #5
    Senior Member Mayner's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    Hamilton, New Zealand
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    I experimented with 3D printing for things like buffers, battery boxes and fuel tanks for the tin vans in Shapeways FUD.

    A high proportion of railway modelers produce the initial 3D model using the free basic version of sketchup or Autodesk 123D then upload the files to Shapeways who will produce a 3D render of your model and a quote for producing a model. Professional 3D modellers like B 1 Lancer & Neil Ward have the advantage of high end professional design software like Solid Works

    Its definitely worth while having a play with Sketchup and uploading the results to Shapeways to get a feel for the 3D design and additive manufacturing process and the pros & cons of the whole process.

    If I was going there I would'nt be starting here.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Glenderg's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    North Inner City, Dublin

    Autodesk 123D was retired some time ago, and has been replaced with Tinkercad. I use 123D regularly to export file formats that are China friendly, and I can't understand why they parked it at all.


    Shapeways are old hat. FUD, at best can do 0.1mm. 10 micron printing is now possible, using SLA techniques - that's 0.01mm layers. 0.1mm is not anywhere like injection moulding at all, and never will be. Laser sintering, polyjet printing, ceramic jet are all far superior to fused deposition modelling, which is that melting filament. Fine for making a replacement handle or similar at home, but no good at all for the miniature world. In fact, 3D printing is going the route of cranking out parts at a speed to beat Injection Moulding, sacrificing resolution along the way, the industry has no time for us that want to produce a single item at really high quality.

    Have a look at this - 10 micron resolution wargaming figures.


    Shapeways is purely a commercial entity that exists by selling on units after. Creator gets a slice, Printer makes a chunk too. And the rule of thumb is that the fee to the customer is 5 times the cost of the material. Imaterialise, on the other hand, don't have a library of content you can pick from, and it's a single Client - Producer relationship, but the quality of prints is night and day above anything I've seen come out of Shapeways.

    Anyway, your OP is mighty vague - any chance you'd give us an idea of what you're planning? Rolling stock? Loco's? SLA in N - Gauge is the solution if you do go and print in 3D.
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  7. #7
    Thanks for all the input folks. Yeah I suppose I'm thinking about things like 10' Uniload containers (remember I'm talking about N Gauge now), chassis, vehicles etc. I guess I'm just thinking out loud and trying to get to grips with the many new ways we have of creating a model. I'm going to investigate some of the software mentioned above and go from there!

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