Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Glance at 3D Modeling and Printing

With the advances in the print resolution of 3D printers and easy to use 3D modeling software, the adoption of this technology as a tool in Model Railroading is quickly becoming mainstream.

One of the best uses I've seen of this technology is for modelers of the modern diesel era making 3D printed versions of the latest in house cab designs for the engine rebuild programs of CSX and Norfolk Southern. Available at Shapeways the CSX SD40-3 Wabtec Cab (also known as the Sponge Bob Square Cab) is a great example of the niche 3D printing can fill for modelers.

CSX 4032 SD40-3, photo by Robert Pisani
The 3D printed Wabtec cab offered for sale by 3rdboxcar

Being that I love technology I've always been on the look out for specific items that I could use 3D printing for with modeling the Nickel Plate Road. So many railroads had their own in house designs for everything from switch stands to entire freight cars and engines the list for potential subjects is endless.

So as a NKP/W&LE modeler there are several 3D printing projects that come to mind. I'll share these ideas because there's no guarantee I can master or will have the time to create the parts I want to make. If you know how to use 3D modeling software go ahead and feel free to design away on my ideas. I'll gladly buy them!

  •  3D printing the pieces needed to alter a Proto 2000 or Bachmann 2-8-4 Berkshire into a close enough model of a W&LE K-1 Berkshire. Here's just a few of the possible parts.
    • New Sandbox
    • New circular Pop Valve Cluster
    • Replacement Roller Bearing Journals for trailing truck and tender trucks
    • Boxpok Driver wheel inserts (mill out enough of out center spokes to drop in a new piece, then reassemble wheels, rods, etc.)
  • 3D print the large rebuilt tenders found on the W&LE M-1 2-8-2 Heavy Mikados.
    •  Option One: A tender shell made to fit on a Bachmann USRA Long Tender frame.
    •  Option Two: Complete two piece accurate frame and shell not dependent on any outside parts aside from trucks.
I'm sure the possibilities are endless with cabooses, MoW cars and freight cars but these two engine examples have been at the forefront of my mind for a while. So much so that I've finally started playing around with Google's SketchUp. It's supposed to be one of the easier to use 3D modeling software tools, but there's still quite a learning curve from my experience so far.

Here's me just playing with squares trying to match the shape of the M-1 big tender to prototype photos.

The very beginnings of a 3D modeled W&LE M-1 2-8-2 Tender
I know it's not much and it honestly might never get turned into a complete printable model but it's a small step into the quickly growing world of hobbyist 3D printing.

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