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Where is British outline model railway manufacturing heading?


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11 minutes ago, bmthtrains - David said:

3D printing is unlikely to see widespread use in RTR products. The polymers used in 3D printing do not age at all well, and the technology is rarely affordable when scaled to industrial mass-production scales. Injection moulding remains the most likely option for the foreseeable future. 

 

David 

 

Hi David

the number of possible polymers is near infinite and there is a vast area to explore. This TED talk may surprise you at the current capabilities of additive manufacturing

 

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1 hour ago, Jeff Smith said:

3D printing could certainly replace tool design and manufacture but the models still have to be assembled.

 

The details could be part of the print. The only assembly would be windscreens, motors, bogies and shell on to chassis. 

I have read elsewhere, I think the Hattons 66 thread,  that assembly is the big problem,  as it requires training and experience to gain expertise on any given model. 

The large range and volume of Class 66 thus makes sense and once you release that work force, it is unlikely you will get them again for a long while; worse of all you may have to train another team from scratch.

This is why I fear a 2nd run of the 66 is unlikely for many years. 

It is also why it is vital that 3D printing of the future can be capable of surpassing current levels of detail without requiring intensive assembly. 

 

 

Edited by letterspider
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21 minutes ago, letterspider said:

 

Hi David

the number of possible polymers is near infinite and there is a vast area to explore. This TED talk may surprise you at the current capabilities of additive manufacturing

 

Indeed it is, but for the mass production of RTR models I maintain injection moulding will remain the most cost effective means of manufacture for at least the next 20 years.

 

3D printing has its places but there is an aura around it that it’s somehow ‘better’ than other means.

 

i struggle with students enough who set out to 3D print parts that are much cheaper, more efficient, and of a higher quality when made through other means.

 

3D printing a full colour loco body to the same standards as the best on offer today may well become possible, but it will remain vastly expensive and time consuming. 

 

I will happily revisit my claim in 2040 to be proved wrong but I suspect I won’t be.

 

David 

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Hi David 

I would like to accept your bet.

I think by the end of 2027 we will be able to buy a 3D printed model of a UK locomotive which matches or exceeds the quality of many of the mainstream models available today.

I suggest we use the Bachmann 66 as a benchmark as it is a model with both lesser and finer details than competitors' models but still widely acceptable.

Ade

 

Edited by letterspider
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8 minutes ago, bmthtrains - David said:

I’ll accept the wager - it just be a mass produced 00 model, made in qtys of at least 1000 models and completely 3D printed in colour with only glazing etc added afterwards.

 

If such a model exists by then, I’ll buy you one! :rolleyes:

 

David 

possibly to that spec. you might not be able to afford it. Personally I think currently 3D printing is better suited to N scale rather than OO and above. Just my opinion based on the fact we already operate 3 Formlabs printers commercially.

regards

M

 

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23 minutes ago, bmthtrains - David said:

I’ll accept the wager - it just be a mass produced 00 model, made in qtys of at least 1000 models and completely 3D printed in colour with only glazing etc added afterwards.

 

Presumably we're talking just the body shell. But what about fitted details like wire handrails, aerials and sanding pipes, etched grilles, cast brass horns, sprung metal buffers, etc.?

 

Would 3D printing be able to cope with such things that are currently included as standard on commercial production?

 

 

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1 hour ago, MAURICE040947 said:

possibly to that spec. you might not be able to afford it. Personally I think currently 3D printing is better suited to N scale rather than OO and above. Just my opinion based on the fact we already operate 3 Formlabs printers commercially.

regards

M

 

 

Which is why I see it as a safe bet. Bachmann, Hornby, Dapol etc won’t be able to produce such a model at any realistic cost that would make it financially viable, so it won’t exist for many years to come.

 

3D printing is a very useful manufacturing process, and certainly the cottage industry in N (including my own OTP models) is making terrific use of it, but for mass production, I do think we are decades away from it replacing the status quo, mostly as it is unnecessary - standard injection moulding with added etched detailing is producing incredibly high quality models so there is no incentive for manufacturers to invest in 3D printing even if it could match the quality, cost and speed of production.

 

Manufacturing is a game of economics - you invest in new equipment if it will give you a return on your capital expenditure. If and when 3D printing reaches the sort of Star Trek replicator level of speed and quality, then perhaps...but that’s s very long way off.

 

A fascinating discussion though.

 

David

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2 hours ago, bmthtrains - David said:

3D printing is unlikely to see widespread use in RTR products. The polymers used in 3D printing do not age at all well, and the technology is rarely affordable when scaled to industrial mass-production scales. Injection moulding remains the most likely option for the foreseeable future. 

 

David 

For large production runs, it is true that injection moulding is the sensible way to go. But, if your aim was to say, produce runs of 500-1000 units of something, then a 3D printed master subsequently cast in polyurethane resin would be the simplest and most economical way to go. Given that the major manufacturers already have 3D CAD files of their 4mm models, why do they not enlarge or shrink them to 7mm and 3mm [or S scale even] and have them printed as masters and then cast in resin?

It would open up a whole new market and change 3mm and S scale from being scratch-builders scales to having 50% of the work in making a model done already. It would also potentially inject [pun!] a whole fleet of modern image locos and rolling stock into 7mm scale.

There is no technical difficulty in rescaling this type of CAD file. I've done it several times with the models that I've designed for Radley Models such as various LT underground cars, Bulleid-Raworth electrics, Waterloo and City cars and some odd road vehicles like LT's Leyland PD3A breakdown tenders.

The only thing you have to watch out for really is wall thickness as resin casters prefer a wall thickness of around 1.5mm but that's easy to do.

Regarding assembly, it seems that we already have brake gear, air/vac pipes etc., to attach to so-called ready to run models so measuring and fitting handrails etc., shouldn't be all that much of a problem. The other element of this, is that such assembly need not take place in China or Vietnam - It could be just as easily done in Chirk or Beer or Brighton. That would have a major effect on reducing the lead time for a new model to come to the shops - perhaps we might even get modellers building things again!

Edited by Arun Sharma
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@bmthtrains - David

I get that about 3d printing not being a magic bullet. Printed parts have limits, it can’t replace everything. I am forever reminding people that by the time they have drawn, tested and broken a 3d printed part I could often have made it by good old fashioned methods, without it subsequently breaking.

I think it is part of the solution in more “niche” or smaller markets or as a way of hooking people in to the wider hobby. Once they have found the limits of a 3D printed model, they might like to try building a more traditional kit. If nobody is offering the models, then a growing home printing market is being ignored. I see kids of 15-20 making amazing stuff on home machines, they could be getting hooked into railway modelling via their printing for not much outlay once CAD is done and they don’t mind paying for a one use licence.

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4 hours ago, bmthtrains - David said:

Indeed it is, but for the mass production of RTR models I maintain injection moulding will remain the most cost effective means of manufacture for at least the next 20 years.

 

3D printing has its places but there is an aura around it that it’s somehow ‘better’ than other means.

 

i struggle with students enough who set out to 3D print parts that are much cheaper, more efficient, and of a higher quality when made through other means.

 

3D printing a full colour loco body to the same standards as the best on offer today may well become possible, but it will remain vastly expensive and time consuming. 

 

I will happily revisit my claim in 2040 to be proved wrong but I suspect I won’t be.

 

David 


Hi David,

 

I am in no position to argue against your view.  However, all I would say is 20 years is a LONG time in any technology sector.  You may indeed be right but it might only take one killer requirement (commercial and/or military) to rapidly accelerate the 3D printing timeline.

 

Kind regards 

 

Paddy

 

Edited by Paddy
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20 years is indeed a long time in technological innovation, but not so long in terms of adoption. 

 

To be adopted the tech has to offer a compelling benefit in terms of economic return or RTR manufacturers simply won’t invest.

 

If 3D printing can be developed to offer the same level of quality, durability, and produce completed models in the same time it takes to do so using current means, there is still no incentive for investing in new equipment. 

 

It needs to do all those things better than present means to be worth the change, which is why I think it’s very far off. It will eventually happen though, it depends how far forward we are looking in this thread!

 

David

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Continuing with the 3d printing theme for a moment, using the analogy of 2d printing it did not take long to move from 8dpi dot matrix printing in black and white on thermal paper to today where a 1200dpi  colour printer is seen as entry level. 

 

Even if 3d printing does become cheaper, going back to the original question we also need to go back to the past. I the days of Binns Road and Westward Drive, Margate everything was done in house except retail. Today it has all changed. From research to the customer there seem to be examples where each stage is carried out in a different way. Examples research/commissioning - Modelrail, Finance - crowd source, design - cad at home, manufacturing - China, wholesale - Bachmann, retail esty.

 

The only examples of the old model of production seems to be some of the smaller cottage suppliers although Peco might still work in this way. It's where these various parts will go in the future that will influence what is brought to market, its availability and price.

 

The successful bringing to market of the efe n gauge class 17 is a example of both how things can and cannot work in this new world.

 

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I think that as the more mainstream items reach peak capacity, then more niche items will line up to fill the gaps. 

 

For instance, a non-topfeed pannier?  Or, perchance an outside crank version? Naturally, you will pay for niche, but it will hopefully deliver a broader-based hobby. 

 

Businesses like Nucast Partners re-emerging. Who would have thought that would happen?  "We'll not see their like again..." I do foresee a cottage industry of model builders, as people lose skills, and handing over the niche to a professional builder. 

 

You will end up paying more for RTR, but that's always been the case. If a market leader 'sets the price' (and they have), then smaller suppliers & manufacturers will hitch on the bandwagon. I'm not about to decry things like profit, but profiteering is a different matter. 

 

That is in itself, a two-edged sword. Top Dollar will beget greater expectations. Failure to deliver things like fidelity & quality will harm the manufacturer, not the market. 

 

I'll warrant that there has been similar discussions about Mike Stationmasters initial post, but years ago. I'll also bet that this subject will resurface time & time again.

 

19mm gauge track will be the next big thing, mark my words!

 

Have a great week,

Ian.

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19mm gauge track will be the next big thing, mark my words!

That would be American OOI think, which was around a few years ago before HO took over.

Seriously , I think the way some think of 3D printing as a low cost alternative is misguided. It might be possible to ge price down, but it still s not a fast process, so mass production  of complee models is difficult.

Where 3D printing does score high, and that is its ability to produce models only when required, so there is no need to build up stock, which might not sell. Those models can be obscure designs that would never be commercially viable for traditional manufacture.Main reason I have gone down the 3D design path.

Comparing the way 2D printing has developed with the potential way 3D printing could develop is also a bit misguided. Yes we can print pages of stuff , but on the whole it is only a few pages at a time. Print out a few hunded pages of a book, at the same quality as a traditionally printed book and it is not so quick. And then you run out of inkor tone half way through!

In my researc for scale drawings, I came across a review of Jaycraft resin loco bodies, from 1978. In many ways their design is very similar to 3D printed models, but with the limitations that resin casting had at the time. I remember reading about them at the time, I think because they had one loco I was interested in, but I never bought one(not sure how easy they were to get hold of), and then Mainline introduced the loco I was interested in so I forgot about them.

Now "19mm gauge track will be the next big thing, mark my words!",actually looking at new gauges ad scales, that would be difficult for traditional manufacturing. I ould like to see Peco producing 14mm an 21mm gauge track, as itnot only would have uses for standard gauge but also narrow gauge. Far too much comprome in  traditionally produced models , and that is possibly restricting the hobby. With 3D printing virtually any scale on any gauge is possible. This is more important that just feeding the existing 'limited' market.

What will prbably really change the way tradition models are prduced is 3D scanning. When it is possible to scan small models then it will be impossible to stop it, and traditional manufacture will find it a lot tougher, initially, and may have to just look at design rather thanmanufacture.

 

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As I said, the potential for 3D lies in being able to produce items at home, but the domestic printers are nowhere hi-fi enough and we are thus ‘restricted’ to what is available from the existing suppliers, who will produce bespoke items at a cost. 

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Having built a small 3D tank loco in 4mm I can attest to a currently unacceptable finish compared to injection molding.  I picked the 'fine' more expensive finish (about 3 years ago) but the material was very fragile and hard to get smooth.  It came with a chassis that could have been used for un-compensated OO.  I complicated things by adding compensation for P4 - I like a challenge.  However it needed as much weight as I could fit in.  Interestingly it did come with brass 3D printed connecting and coupling rods!

 

I cannot see 3D being used for mass production.

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5 hours ago, tomparryharry said:

 

Businesses like Nucast Partners re-emerging. Who would have thought that would happen?  "We'll not see their like again..." I do foresee a cottage industry of model builders, as people lose skills, and handing over the niche to a professional builder. 

 

Have a great week,

Ian.

 

They only went out of production about eight years ago and there was a dispute about ownership. No one knew who actually owned them. Sherwood Models were selling them, but I don't think they owned them. I think the rights was still with Autocom.

 

Any non availability was down to legal problems rather than anything else.

 

 

 

Jason

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49 minutes ago, Steamport Southport said:

 

They only went out of production about eight years ago and there was a dispute about ownership. No one knew who actually owned them. Sherwood Models were selling them, but I don't think they owned them. I think the rights was still with Autocom.

 

Any non availability was down to legal problems rather than anything else.

 

 

 

Jason

 

That does not match my information about the situation as it was then.

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I don’t see 3D being a solution for production runs of anything much bigger than 4 wheel wagon size, and a look at some of stuff on Shapeways’ site for model railways will show that there is a variety out there, of quality, concept, philosophy, and products.  Some of it is a bit (!) incomprehensible to me, some is excellent and very well presented, and a lot falls between those two stools.  
 

Now, I am short of GW auto trailer buffers and have failed to source them.  Bachmann do not sell them as separate items and I haven’t asked Hornby yet.  But, if I had a 3D printer, I would presumably be able to scan a buffer and reproduce it; I need about a dozen to replace broken and missing ones and a future project, at no more than the material cost.  Ordering them from a commercial 3D printer like Modelu would, again I assume, be a bit pricey, though Alan would likely include them in his range so the unit cost might come down.  I’d have to break a buffer off one of my autos in service for him to scan into his printer.  
 

What I want, and can’t have yet, is a household domestic 3D printer that I can afford (probably secondhand) that will produce an item of this sort of size to an acceptable level of detail and sharpness; I don’t mind cleaning the print up a bit and I don’t mind if I have to make a couple of hundred to get 12 good ones and it takes a week to do it. This means the angled housing with bolts and the square shank, the buffer shank to reasonable rigidity and structural integrity (I won’t be making any judgements about it’s moral integrity; that’s none of my business), and a correctly shaped (or at least shapeable) buffer head with a fine edge.  
 

I have yet to see a printer priced for domestic use that is capable of this sort of work to this standard, and this is what I was promised when the technology first became available.  As things are domestic 3D printers are unreliable and incapable of doing much more than making key fobs.  I reckon we are at least 20 years off!
 

I will probably go down the road of commissioning them from Alan or someone like him!

Edited by The Johnster
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I don't think you will get thin edges like buffers.  I am told that 1mm is the minimum edge thickness.  The buffers on my afore mentioned 3D tank (see pics in the link below) were just constant thickness discs, however easily shaped.

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5 hours ago, The Johnster said:

I don’t see 3D being a solution for production runs of anything much bigger than 4 wheel wagon size, and a look at some of stuff on Shapeways’ site for model railways will show that there is a variety out there, of quality, concept, philosophy, and products.  Some of it is a bit (!) incomprehensible to me, some is excellent and very well presented, and a lot falls between those two stools.  
 

Now, I am short of GW auto trailer buffers and have failed to source them.  Bachmann do not sell them as separate items and I haven’t asked Hornby yet.  But, if I had a 3D printer, I would presumably be able to scan a buffer and reproduce it; I need about a dozen to replace broken and missing ones and a future project, at no more than the material cost.  Ordering them from a commercial 3D printer like Modelu would, again I assume, be a bit pricey, though Alan would likely include them in his range so the unit cost might come down.  I’d have to break a buffer off one of my autos in service for him to scan into his printer.  
 

What I want, and can’t have yet, is a household domestic 3D printer that I can afford (probably secondhand) that will produce an item of this sort of size to an acceptable level of detail and sharpness; I don’t mind cleaning the print up a bit and I don’t mind if I have to make a couple of hundred to get 12 good ones and it takes a week to do it. This means the angled housing with bolts and the square shank, the buffer shank to reasonable rigidity and structural integrity (I won’t be making any judgements about it’s moral integrity; that’s none of my business), and a correctly shaped (or at least shapeable) buffer head with a fine edge.  
 

I have yet to see a printer priced for domestic use that is capable of this sort of work to this standard, and this is what I was promised when the technology first became available.  As things are domestic 3D printers are unreliable and incapable of doing much more than making key fobs.  I reckon we are at least 20 years off!
 

I will probably go down the road of commissioning them from Alan or someone like him!

 

Look on the bright side John. Once they are on a  programme, They'll go onto a catalogue. It just means that you are the first one to commission them.  

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2 hours ago, Andy Hayter said:

That may be right Jeff, but what is to stop fitting metal buffers to a 3D print.  Some rtr manufacturers of injection moulded items have not been shy to mix and match when metal is better than plastic.

 

Absolutely nothing. That is the process that Guy Rixon and Bill Bedford use. Printed bases and turned steel rams.

 

I tried some Bill Bedford 3d printed axleboxes and springs a few years back and was not impressed. But printing has improved a great deal in that time and 3d printed springs, axleboxes and buffer bases are my standard items in kit builds now.

 

Craig W

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3 hours ago, Andy Hayter said:

That may be right Jeff, but what is to stop fitting metal buffers to a 3D print.  Some rtr manufacturers of injection moulded items have not been shy to mix and match when metal is better than plastic.

 

13 minutes ago, Craigw said:

 

Absolutely nothing. That is the process that Guy Rixon and Bill Bedford use. Printed bases and turned steel rams.

 

I tried some Bill Bedford 3d printed axleboxes and springs a few years back and was not impressed. But printing has improved a great deal in that time and 3d printed springs, axleboxes and buffer bases are my standard items in kit builds now.

 

Craig W

Yes I could have done that - I was just pointing out for anyone unaware of certain (current) 3D printing limitations.  There is a danger that 3D printing can seem to be the answer to many requirements but it evidently is not at present.

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