Shapeways is home to many types of products, from Jewelry to Drones to accessories for wearable tech, but we’ve become a very special place for a particular community; scale model railroads. From Z to O scale, Shapeways is host to an ever expanding universe of charmingly miniature user created trains and scenery for railroad layouts.
Railroad modellers use 3D printed parts to embellish elaborate and realistic worlds at a particular scale. Once the parts are printed, they often assemble and paint them like the example below.
Here is a list of the best selling parts for model railroads so far in 2016
One of our favorite things about 3D printing is the way that it connects people. Greg King, a model train maker from Australia was so impressed by his visit to the Japanese streetcar manufacturer Kagoshima that he used Shapeways to help make him a replica of one of their historic cars.
“I just got back from Japan. I had made a model of a Kagoshima streetcar for the manager of the streetcar operation there. He had shown me a great time, and accorded me a great honour, so when I got home I built a model from scratch.”
“When finished, I could not trust it to the mail service, so it was an excuse to go back (we had frequent flyer points to pay for the flight), see some more of that wonderful country and measure some streetcars for future 3D work.”
“My friend made an appointment with the manager (who knew nothing about the model but was just happy to see me again) and we met at their new car house and head office complex. We went into a room that they have made into a museum collection of parts, history and photos with a small N scale diorama of the old car house.”
“I then presented the model to him. He was amazed to say the least, BUT he thought I had made it for the museum until he read the plaque I had put on it; he almost cried and just about snapped in half with the bowing. Shortly after I was allowed to run one of their streetcars!”
We love to hear stories about how the Shapeways Community uses 3D printing to brighten another’s day. Have you given the gift of 3D printing? Let us know in the comments below. For more model train parts check out our marketplace here.
Not knowing what to expect, I was absolutely floored when I walked up the narrow staircase and through the door covered in railroad signs. The HO scale railroad doesn’t take up much space square-footage wise, but the level of detail is staggering. Every inch of the diorama, set in a depression era New England, drips with attention to detail.
I was told to go check out the Franklin & South Manchester Railroad in nearby Peabody, Massachusetts, when giving a clinic on 3D printing at the Fine Scale Model Train Expo last week (more about that here). Created by George Sellios, this HO scale railroad has been a work in progress for over 30 years.
The well weathered, HO scale kits have remarkable realism. Every figure–and there must be thousands of them–is busy engaging in their lives, working, playing or relaxing. They appear to be interacting and as I looked closer, I started to find wonderful little narratives. The more time I spent wandering the layout, the more I noticed clever little details, humorous characters and Easter eggs (yes, dyed Easter eggs). George has artistic touches sprinkled throughout his railroad, some for fun and some deeply personal.
After seeing the Franklin & South Manchester Railroad, I completely feel the passion that our community has for model railroading. This work is a lifetime achievement. Check out the video below for a short interview with George Sellios and a look at the full railroad set-up.
Railroad modelers have a long tradition of learning from each other in order to turn ideas into physical 3D objects at scale. A hobby that goes back for generations, they have wonderful organizations that regularly get together to share their passion of scale modeling. They are exemplary both in their ingenuity and in their willingness to share new techniques.
Last weekend, I got to meet with these modelers at the Fine Scale Model Train Expo in Danvers, Massachusetts and to give a clinic on using 3D printing with Shapeways. I also got to show off our newest material: Black High Definition Acrylate. The response was incredible and we’re already starting to see this new, high-detail material take off. Folks in the clinic asked awesome questions about how they can start modeling, how our materials work and gave thoughtful suggestions on what they’d like to see from Shapeways in the future.
After the talk, folks gather around to get a closer look at Shapeways materials:
Walking around the expo I was blown away by the detail I saw in the scale models, particularly in the contests. The Expo centered around O and HO scale models (with some G as well) and the vendors who produce kits for these sizes. The level of craftsmanship in these kits was simply incredible. Everyone I spoke to was was incredibly excited for 3D printing and many had already adopted it into their toolkit.
HO scale kit by FOS Scale Models:
I garnered some great insights about the hobby as well. The focus on HO scale and all the elements that go into making a layout helped me better understand how 3D printing fits into the equation. I saw real wooden scale lumber, remarkably accurate greenery, laser cut architectural motifs and white metal/pewter cast figurines. The HO (or other scales) ecosystem relies on materials that mimic the properties and look of a larger object and I’m constantly impressed by the ingenuity of model makers to find the perfect solution to scale-based issues.
HO Scale module:
This is what makes 3D printing so useful to modelers. With so many materials to choose from, they can make nearly unlimited forms and have access to thousands of models for purchase that like-minded designers have already made. However specific or obscure the inspiration, 3D printing and your fellow modelers can get you there.
Andrew Thomas (Shapeways Community Manager) with Expo organizer Hal Reynolds:
Below is a short interview with Shapeways community member David Yale from the floor of the expo about his products that were included in some incredible custom kits.
Like this design challenge he shared in the forum: “This is as far as I’ve gotten to date with this wooden model. Everything on this version is scratch built using combinations of wood, brass, resin and polystyrene. That includes the trucks. I stalled on this project mainly because of the ornate railing.”
This is the railing, as seen on the original trolley car:
Due to the complexity of the design, he decided to 3D print the railings in Strong and Flexible plastic and paint them afterwards.
“As you can see from the render above,” he wrote in the forum, “I did them in 3D which allows me to work in 1:1 scale and explode details to microscopic levels if I want. Not to mention that I can make repetitive parts and copy them over and over again.”
When the 3D printed rails from Shapeways arrived, they fit well with the trolley:
“I spent a lot of time cleaning up the railing detail and was rewarded. The detail emerged beneath the white powder that caked the print. This is the first coat of paint. I’m not going to use primer because I do not want to loose any detail on the railing. Now I’m confident my more detailed 7/8ths scale model will print out.”
We see a lot of cool projects here at Shapeways but we’ve never seen anything quite like this. Codename Colossus is a massively impressive undertaking. The Gifs below speak for themselves. Built from scratch with over 435 parts, this massive WWII themed robot was designed by Michael Sng founder of Machination Studio. Inspired by a diverse selection of sources, ranging from toys to military experience, these parts were printed in White Strong and Flexible plastic and then laboriously painted and finished to look like a weather worn battle-bot from an alternative timeline of Europe.
We spoke with Michael to learn a little more about his inspiration and why he came to Shapeways to print.
The Colossus is an incredible work of scale miniature art. Can you tell us a little about where you got your Inspiration?
I did my University in the UK and was exposed to miniatures wargaming and model railways there. But being from Singapore, I also grew up watching Japanese anime, Hollywood movies, Hong Kong kung-fu flicks and British comedies. Our house had Playmobil and Legos, Tamiya model kits, and Star Wars action figures. In the 70s and 80s, each culture made very different types of toys and shied away from certain genres. In Singapore, we got them all, roughly in equal measure. So my toy is a combination of all the things I loved as a child merged into one.
I was a conscript in the Singapore Armed Forces, and for two years and four months, I was a mechanic. I fixed Land Rovers and Mercedes Benz and IVECO trucks. My grandfather was a mechanic in the Royal Air Force during World War II while Singapore was still under British Colonial rule. He had to invent the tools needed to open and repair the hydraulic landing gears of the Buffalo bombers because the UK was too tied up in the war to send replacement parts. This all definitely informed my aesthetics.
I guess it’s not a surprise for an Asian to want to make a giant robot, and not being American, I do not live in the shadow of gun violence. I also do not live with the legacy of World War II the way Europeans do, so it is in a completely different context that I designed a toy full of guns.
Why did you choose Shapeways for your manufacturing?
I wanted a high resolution surface finish on my toy, and FDM printers are not quite there yet, so the options were SLA, SLS or PolyJet/MultiJet. I had known about Shapeways for a while, a former colleague of mine sells his toy product through the Shapeways store, so naturally I turned to Shapeways first. What ultimately made me use Shapeways was the fact that I can upload a group of parts at one time to the web application.
My design has 435 parts. I tried another 3D printing service for a price comparison, but immediately realized that with them, I would have to upload each part file individually. The time it would take to upload each file, wait for the automated print checks, find the errors, fix the errors, re-upload the part again, for 435 parts, was a non-starter. With Shapeways, I think my entire toy’s exterior was 5-6 separate uploads each with ten parts. It still took quite a lot of time, but it was manageable. Ideally, I would love to be able to send all my files over in one go and be able to talk to a human being about which parts need changes, but I know that would make a cost impact.
The rough texture of the unpolished prints is easy to paint, although it meant I couldn’t use some techniques like inking. The 11-18 days international turnaround time was also a factor in my decision. This is from the Netherlands to Singapore. Typical air mail would take a week or more alone, so I was very impressed with Shapeway’s speed.
Michael is an incredible scale model maker in the Shapeways community. To learn more and see the Colossus in action check him out on this episode of LinusTechTips. He builds these and other projects on commission, so check out his website if you’re interested.
Shop owner Edward Traxler of eTraxx has created some true masterpieces in HO and O scale for model train sets. A retired engineer and veteran, Edward has been creating some truly outstanding, fully-painted layouts utilizing 3D printed components from Shapeways materials. He designs his products in Sketchup to be printed in FUD or WSF. After he prints with Shapeways, he uses a gray spray-based primer (Mr Surfacer) and then hand paints using Vallejo and Reaper paints. He uses these hand-painted, 3D printed parts to add design flourishes to pre-made kits, embellishing his scenery’s realism without breaking the bank.
As Edward says, “You can take something cheap and make it look good. You just have to put some effort into it.”
HO scale hydrant shed
HO scale hydrant door after being painted, with a penny for scale
Hydrant doors primed
Beer bottles and crate
Detail of beer bottles and crates on layout
Detail of hand-painted beer bottles and crate with penny for scale
We’re blown away by Edward’s attention to detail, modeling and painting skills. You can follow him here for more incredible scale models.
Upon visiting the Railroad Hobby Show in Massachusetts last week, I was blown away by the range of miniature trains and scenery. One vendor that stuck out of the herd due to the overall level of artistry was Atlantic Scale Modelers run by Hal Reynolds. The detail on his scenes is downright incredible, from the vegetation made from individual pieces of thread to weathered shingles.
See for yourself below:
We love connecting with the model train community and learning more about what makes this community excited and motivated to design. With our materials and technology, there is so much these modelers can do to add to their collections and we’re excited to see more amazing scenes at shows throughout the year!
We are amazed with all the products that continue to come from designers’ imaginations and out of the printers. While 3D modeling takes some skill, we’ve seen a number of people take that mastery to the next level by creating apps that make 3D printing truly available to everyone. One of our favorite (and successful) examples we’ve seen is Hero Forge, a web-based app that lets you customize tabletop miniatures and statuettes.
I do not envy their position, as all entries were really wonderful (and cute!). But they’ve narrowed it down to the four winners! And the awards go to…
Gold $125 Credit: Otterine
Silver $75 Credit: Alice Miniatures
Bronze $50 Credit: Paper Doll Miniatures
Shamrock Luck of the Draw $25 Credit: Mod Pod Miniatures
Thank you so much to all the participants and a big thanks to Megan, Kacie and Carol for their hard work and time on this. It’s so wonderful to see a community take so much pride in their work, while incorporating others’ products! Keep up the great work and congrats to all the winners! If you have ideas for more contest, let us know! We love to see all the creativity come to life thanks to 3D printing, but more importantly, thanks to you!
Miniature houses are big on Shapeways! To celebrate our miniature community, we’ve launched a contest in conjunction with the fabulous blog Modern Mini Houses to invite mini house fans to share the beautiful displays they’ve created that incorprate 3D printed furniture and accessories. You have until April 10th to share your mini house or display with us on Facebook for a chance to win Shapeways 3D printing credit. Visit the contest page for more information on how to enter and read on for more mini house inspiration and to meet the contest judges.
Living room by Megan Hornbecker with 75 mm stag head by Dotsan
To kick off the mini house contest we wanted to highlight the work of the contest judges: Megan Hornbecker of Modern Mini Houses, Kacie Hultgren of Pretty Small Things, and Carol Mitcheson of Mitchy Moo Miniatures. I am constantly delighted by their attention to detail and the imaginative ways they incorporate 3D printing into their displays. When I look at these mini houses I want to move right in!
Carol Mitcheson is a miniature maker and collector based in the UK and the author of the blog Mitchy Moo Miniatures. She also co-designed some mini accessories on Shapeways, including the mini tool box featured below.
Shed by Carol Mitcheson
Living room by Carol Mitcheson
Kacie Hultgren is a designer who uses Shapeways to create miniature furniture and accessories in her Pretty Small Things shop. She also spoke about marketing and branding at the Shapeways Small Business Bootcamp.
We’re happy to announce that, thanks to a recent machine upgrade, the Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) Plastic bounding box has increased its maximum to 284 x 184 x 203mm, from its previous maximum of 127x178x152mm; a 220% x 3% x 34% increase respectively. This train by our Shapie Customer Service expert Mitchell shows off the new bounding box quite well.
While most FUD products will still ship within six business days, please allow up to 10 for products that are over 70mm in each bounding box dimension.
So, what will you be printing in our new, bigger FUD?
We see many people using our high detail acrylic 3D printing to get the finest possible detail in their miniature 3D prints but our Nylon can also capture remarkable detail, making it suitable for many miniature 3D prints at a far lower cost with the benefit of increased strength and durability.
In honor of National Train Day, we caught up with Stony Smith, one of the most prolific and talented train modelers on Shapeways. He’s been featured in Wired and has been a Shapie for years. Hop on the miniature rails and enjoy his story!
Late in 2007, my co-empty-nest wife suggested that I should “get a hobby”. Having done a bit of work with model trains over the years, I decided to try to make a complete model train layout. I had just attended the Fort Worth Model Train Show, where I had seen many options for Zscale trains. I was hooked.
Zscale is 1/220th the size of the real world items – the locomotives are about 3 inches long. In other words…. TINY! What I soon found was that Zscale allows me to pack a large amount of track and scenery into a small space, but, I also found that there was not a lot available in the category of 1:220 buildings. There are laser cut kits, etched brass kits, and I took several excursions into paper models, but all of those require a good bit of effort to construct.