Printing Bricks

3D Printing, Trains

I’ve wondered for a while if it’d be possible to print walls, such as brick, for HO scale models. Not because it’d be the most efficient way to get brick sheet but because I didn’t have any brick sheet, and have some brick buildings I want to build, and I have a bunch of filament and a 3D printer why not try.

Live has kept me busy but I finally got around to it and modeled a parametric brick sheet in OnShape. My first attempt was using a 0.4mm nozzle which is the stock size for my printer… it was so bad I disposed of it immediately. I more recently tried a 0.2mm nozzle and had a little better results.

My first attempt exactly off standard dimensions as I found them online. This looks good in cad but just didn’t have enough definition. It was so hard to see straight off the printer I painted it white and then covered in a red. The hope was to catch just the brick faces and leave the white mortar.

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That didn’t really work, a wall of it might pass as brick but just didn’t feel detailed enough (and would be nearly impossible to try and lighten the mortar lines as they are just too shallow and narrow.

The next attempt increased the depth and width of these lines (which was really easy thanks to parametric CAD!). This had better results in my quick paint test.

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It was definitely an improvement* but I didn’t like how the gap was narrower on the horizontal to ground lines but bigger on the vertical (and this maybe a printer belt issue that’s too small to have noticed previously) and the inconsistency with the brick face bugged me a little so I made the bricks a tiny bit shorter and the horizontal gaps the same amount bigger.

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Pulling it off the printer immediately showed the improvement* but painted it really seemed to pop a bit more, especially at a distance. If you get up really close the mortar lines look a little big but I’m thinking that looking good at 3 feet but maybe not 3 inches is better than looking good at 3 inches but not 3 feet.

Certainly there will be more experimentation but looks promising for printing larger wall sections than say Walthers modular system, and with details like doors and windows exactly where I want them… and without having to run to the hobby shop for supplies 🙂

For my quick tests I also found another use for my printer, specifically the part cooling fan. It makes a great small part paint dryer

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* I typed this post up as I was printing and painting these tests but since it was getting a little late I called it a night with the intent of taking pictures the next day and finishing up the post. The next afternoon I didn’t really have time to finish the post but decided fairly quickly that my opinion from the night before was wrong and that the first batch looked better just with a little under extrusion problem on the bricks. I ended up comparing it to a commercially available brick building and the second two attempts ended up looking fairly bad in comparison with giant gaps between the bricks.

So from here I’m going to try and adjust the model back to what I had originally and change my painting method. Rather than painting red on white going to paint them red and then use a white wash to try and get the low spots which might work better with the smaller gaps

Teeny Tiny Pallets

3D Printing, Trains

Earlier this week I posted a teaser on my model railroading facebook page (which you can find here) on a 3D printing project I was working on asking if anyone could guess what it was that I had on this small pallet.

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I was being a little bit cheeky in that the pallet these things are stacked on isn’t HO scale, it’s actually O scale (roughly).

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Here they are painted and side by side (HO scale on the right and scaled up to 200% on the left which makes it basically O scale) and finished painting so it’s much easier to make them out. You may be thinking, why pallets and it all comes down to Luke Towan’s recent video on making pallets. Just to see if it’d work I made a quick model in CAD and took some stabs at printing it. These are a bit of a challenge to print because they are so small and because there is a lot of bridging. They don’t look as good from the underside and require a bit of cleanup before painting but I think they are pretty nice. This was another project I was able to use my Vallejo Old and New wood paint set to good effect.

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This is a very small sample of the ones I haven’t finished up yet, I’ll probably be working on these for a few years.

I hate airbrushes

Trains

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I was trying to do some airbrushing this evening to use my new spray box but just had a heck of a time trying to get it to spray. What I inadvertently discovered was that if I left parts 1 and 2 off (no idea what they are called) it would spray just fine. Obviously that’s not ideal since that leaves the needle in the open unprotected. If I put part 1 on the air feeds back into the paint reservoir. I have a second identical part 1 that does the same and even tried one for a larger needle but the exact same result.

I’m at a complete loss as to what to try next, if possible I’d like to avoid replacing it again since this is my 3rd airbrush. Do any of my readers have any ideas?

Weekend Update 27

Trains, Weekend Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted as I just haven’t had any motivation to work on modeling stuff for a number of external reasons that aren’t really important here.

In my 3D printing I spend a little bit of time looking over websites like Thingiverse and recently I stumbled on a couple of really cool models, first a 1:32 scale EMD SW1500. I’m pretty sure I’m going to print this just because it’s so cool and massive. Second a more generic 16mm scale Diesel Locomotive. I’m very likely going to print that one as well just because it’s cool.

For a couple months now I’ve been searching all over the train room for the wheels to my fairmont speeder with no luck. More than a month ago I resigned myself to the fact that they were gone and I’d just have to order some new ones but thankfully I didn’t because I finally found them. Turns out they were in the garage in a small container on the garage workbench under a pile of miscellaneous stuff that’s piled up since fall. Now I just have to try to remember where I put the rest of the model, though I’m fairly sure that is still in the train room.

Mocking up Buildings

Trains

This has been a slow process, and finally putting that pile of boxes my wife has been bugging me to get rid of to use. Basically I’m trying to recreate a busy industrial scene, but don’t want to end up too busy. I’m not sure if I want to extend background buildings behind the cement plant or if that would look too busy/contrived. Another option would be to use fencing to obscure the horizon on the backdrop… or both.

On the leftmost picture in the bottom left corner there is building that’s open to the operator, my idea is to make this a building that extends off the layout and as such be a cutaway with detailed interior.

The large background buildings will likely be done in brick as older established buildings with some of the smaller foreground buildings mixing up construction types with more of an emphasis on more modern commercial building construction techniques (like steel or concrete etc)

Mixing 3D Printing With Scratch Building

3D Printing, Trains

I’ve been trying to learn CAD for a while now with a couple purposes in mind, first as a way to create drawings of what I’m trying to create to make it easier to convey. As an example of this drawing of a Thrall side beam.

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The other would be to use 3D printed parts, or printed tools and jigs to simplify construction. In the example of the thrall side beam I’ve used a scribing tool with some success but it’s still time consuming and easy to make a very visible mistake as this contour is very distinctive. I figured I could go two ways with this, 1) print the piece directly and use it as if I’d cut it or were using a Details Associate or similar piece 2) print a jig to simplify cutting the piece.

Idea one in this case is the simplest so I started with that. Once I got the wheels on my first scratch built flat car it was clear to me just how much weight was needed. Fortunately for that one I had already planned on a load but what if I wanted to run one empty? I need a way to put on some pounds. I’m willing to sacrifice underbody details for the weight, I just need to put it somewhere. I happen to have a collection of steel plates that were salvaged from various lost causes in the past and while they’ll be a little underweight by NMRA standards they should still track a lot better empty.

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The solution was to nibble a bit out of the the inside frames as shown on top in the diagram also with the space for the coupler box, bottom shows the profile of an outer frame.

The picture on the left is how the outer beams came off the printer (it’s hard to see  but trust me they are both there), and the right after I’ve removed the brim. The brim is used to give the print a bit more purchase on the print bed so it doesn’t get knocked out of place during printing. Trust me it’s a good idea (nothing like 5 hours into a larger print and having it all lost because one of the pieces came lose).

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Here is a comparison of a beam I’ve cut and a printed one. Obviously the printed one has a bit of a stair step look on the angles which could be sanded down, and also obviously I’m not very good with an xacto blade.

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The printed version is not without it’s faults either with some cavities that will likely have to be filled in, which for the record is much easier to see in person than to photograph. There are also layer lines, it’ll be interesting to see how noticeable  they are on a finished and painted model. I might also use some filler to smooth it out.

The inner beams I specifically left an area for the weight which is demonstrated on the right. In the left top beam some of the support material is left in place. because of the orientation of the print the center section needed to be supported while printing which just adds a little more cleanup to the part.

So far I’m pretty happy with how these parts came out, it will be interesting to see how they play with the rest of the build.

Goals Follow Up March

Trains

February was a slow month for me, for a number of reasons, but here is how I fared on my goals

  • Finish Speeder Shed track
    • I made some unplanned progress painting some of the wood features just because it was an easy and relaxing task on a couple of nights where a easy and relaxing task was needed. The track itself is almost ready to go, just waiting on a chance to apply some pliobond outside (because of the smell)
  • Figure out shelf layout operations
    • Just didn’t have the motivation for this
  • Finish DODX flat car construction
    • This I did, just needs paint, load, and couplers now
  • Upgrade SW1 drive shafts
    • This is close to being done, had a bit of a setback when one of the shafts bounced off my forehead and disappeared. I ended up cutting a new one just need to fine tune it for smooth operation

I’m optimistic about March though holding myself to a low standard as the weather getting nicer could easily foil modeling plans.

  • Paint some models
    • I’ve got a backlog of things that need to be painted or weathered
  • Attempt to build a 3D printer
    • How hard could it be right? 🙂
  • Mock up cardboard buildings on the shelf layout
    • I consider this to be a gateway to figuring out operations

Upgrading SW1 Drivelines

Trains

A while back my Soo 320 project SW1 broke a horned ball on it’s front truck drive, while searching for parts I found NWSL had instructions for upgrading the rear truck drive which was somewhat notorious on these models.

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It’s basically a rubberish straw, for a closer look:

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The NWSL solution is to create a cardan shaft between with the standard horned ball/cup arrangement on either end. You start by cutting a 0.250″ long section from a 2mm diameter shaft.

Press fit the cups onto the shaft making sure they are aligned

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And finally installing horned balls on the motor and truck shaft and you’ve go an improved drive (some fiddling about may be required)

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As I have two SW1 (which you  might have guessed from the pictures it was at this point I started working on the second one. I made it as far as pressing the cups on a shaft when it slipped out of my pliers bounced off my forehead and landed somewhere in the room… yet to be found. I don’t expect to find it until long after I’ve given up and cut another one.

Weekend Update 26

Trains, Weekend Update

It’s been a slow couple weeks for modeling, just a variety of other things taking up my time. I did get some time last night to work on some painting projects. I’ve been painting the Fairmont Speeder (again… long story) and that’s starting to come together but I’ve realized I lost the wheels. I imagine I’ll find them a week after I finally give up and order replacements.

I’ve also been painting some of the woodwork and pretty happy with how things turned out. I’ve also started working on the little track into the shed and starting to strategize how I want to paint the ties, tie plates, and rail. Easiest option would be to rattle can spray it all brown and try to highlight bits of it later for more color variation. I might also try hand painting it, a lot more time intensive and fiddly but know I can get some pretty good aged wood effects if I do it that way.

Scribing Tool

Trains

I mentioned in my last tool post that I’d ordered a scriber (General Tools Etching Pen/Scriber) but it hadn’t arrived yet. Well it did arrive and I finally had a chance to use it last night. My hope in getting it would be that it would be easier/more comfortable to scribe starter lines in styrene pieces than an Xacto blade then using those scribe lines to guide the Xacto blade on subsequent cuts.

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So far it’s been working out like I’d expect. The problem I still have with pieces like this are that I don’t have a good way to hold rules in place precisely but a light pass makes it a little easier to stay steady with the rule. What caught me off guard is just how well it works, it shouldn’t have been a surprise as this is marketed for use on “all metals, ceramics, and glass”. On a thin sheet of styrene this could probably be used to cut all the way through in just a few passes. I also found following the scribed path very slowly and lightly with the Xacto blade resulted in a much cleaner and precise cuts just taking longer, but that’s probably a work smarter not harder thing 🙂