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:

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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.


Bonus: The diorama above has an incredible series of videos showing how it was made on youtube.