Sample 3D printed parts.

Printed Future of Model Railroading
MPRR Clinic Night Archive

3D Printed Parts Gallery

Sample 3D printed parts.

Above: A sample diorama featuring 3D printed, valves, wheel stops, pipe supports, and rail anchors. Photo By: Jim Spavins

Sample 3D CAD model.

Above: A CAD rendering of a sign ready to be 3D printed. Design By: Jim Spavins

Sample Trash Can Rendering.

Above: Rendering of HO Scale Trash Cans ready to be printed. Design By: Jim Spavins

Centennital Modules Model.

Above: A module featuring 3D printed signs and 3D printed module sculpture! Photo Credit: Jim Spavins

Clinic By: Jim Spavins
Clinic Night Date: May 22, 2014

One of the most popular topics in model railroading today is the recent accessibility of 3D printed models to the average modeler.  This technology allows a new freedom in layout design and construction than what was previously available to the modeler.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing. Instead of material being cut away from larger pieces to create an object - lots of small pieces are bound together to create the desired piece.  This is usual accomplished by adding thin layers of material over one another - binding the layers together only where material is desired.  A range of materials - from plastics to metals - can be printed.

Creating a Part

The first step in creating a part is create a 3D rendering.  This is usually done in a CAD program - like AutoCAD, TurboCAD, or SketchUp.  This digital model is then outputted to a .STL file which is used to print.  Modelers have the option to buy their own printer and print their designs at home or use a printing service.  AS of today, the printing services offer better quality then home printers and do so without the upfront investment of buying a printer.

Best Uses for 3D Printing Today

Today, the best use for 3D printing for most modelers is for smaller parts - like detail parts, small vehicles, and small structures.  Large items - like rolling stock and larger structures - are still probably too expensive to justify using 3D printing.  However, the smaller parts can help personalize a modelers layout very quickly and in a way in which hand building might be difficult.

Long Term Hobby Impacts of 3D Printing

One of the big advantages of 3D printed parts is speed.  Parts which might be very difficult to build by hand, can probably be rendered in CAD very quickly and printed many times faster than if built by hand.  In addition, if numerous iterations of a part are needed, the ability to repetitively construct the parts consistently is a big help when building a layout.

This means that a modeler - when thinking about a layout which they wish to model - is no longer limited by what is commercially available.  The ability - with minimal training - to be able to CAD parts to a specific prototype will greatly enhance the available themes one might choose for a layout.

As modeler's become more comfortable with this new process of 3D printing, the hobby industry will most likely see some adjustments.  While there should always be a large enough market for some mass manufactured products (track, wheels, couplers, some freight cars and locomotives as examples) - some items may fall out of favor.  For example, mass produced, generic detail parts will be a tough sell for modelers looking for specific prototype items.

Download the Presentation Here (.pdf)

Share |