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  • 3d printed slotcar track.


    Not sure if this has been done before. Been wanting to work on this for awhile. Think of the possibilities! Proof of concept works, just needs some tweaking. Let me know what you think!


    https://www.instagram.com/riverraton...=1mbvah3pqmxdm

  • #2
    I've been pondering the same thing. I am trying to create 3D models of the Carrera borders and end pieces to mutate them into a way to eliminate some Inside Borders. My Inventor skills are not up to date, so its going to be a while. I agree you could make some interesting track pieces by printing them on your own.

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    • #3
      It's a great idea if you have a printing bed big enough to handle useful lengths of track. I didn't know if many home printers can handle the needed print size. For example, the MakerBot replicator has a print-bed that can print up to 29.5 L X 19.5 W X 16.5 H CM (11.6" L X 7.6" W X 6.5" T).

      Would you make these compatible with AFX/AW track? What would you use for rails or just go with tape or braid?

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      • #4
        I've thought about this as well. I run Carrera digital, so I've wondered about printing custom lane changers with contours that make sense and actually guarantee taking the lane change is the quick way 'round. Of course, for that to work, you'd also have to steal the guts (electronics and mechanics) of an existing lane changer. If my hobby budget could easily afford a 3D printer, it would certainly be fun to play with one.

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        • #5
          You don't necessarily need to have your own printer, there may be a Makerspace near you like this one: https://www.makehaven.org/
          There are several hitches with printing a track. 3D printers are rather slow it could take a VERY long time to do even a modest two lane 30 foot track. That would consume a great deal of plastic. For a 7 X 12 X 3/8th inch track section you would use 31.5 cu.in. of plastic, 945 cu.in. for 30 feet of track. Doing rails would be difficult, copper tape would be easy. You could also use braid if you designed the track to have the necessary gains. If you want to run cars that use magnetic downforce you would have to use Magnabraid.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Highwingpilot View Post
            It's a great idea if you have a printing bed big enough to handle useful lengths of track. I didn't know if many home printers can handle the needed print size. For example, the MakerBot replicator has a print-bed that can print up to 29.5 L X 19.5 W X 16.5 H CM (11.6" L X 7.6" W X 6.5" T).

            Would you make these compatible with AFX/AW track? What would you use for rails or just go with tape or braid?
            Useful lengths of track is a relative term. There are options. You can easily glue sections together to make them "useful". Or in the picture I posted, just join 8" long sections together. The joint system I am designing is very robust.

            The plan is to make pieces that aren't sold. I can make hills and switchbacks, and vary the surface to resemble road, brick, wood, or whatever.

            I am designing in 1/32 scale, but might do HO also. I am using copper tape (3m).
            Last edited by antslake; 03-14-2019, 04:12 AM.

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            • #7
              3D printing of plastic track would allow the creation of track sections that you can't currently buy, but with current technology and materials it will be both slow and expensive. The traditional methods of routing and forming sheet stock -- like MDF or Sintra -- are indisputably cheaper. And it is probably a horse race as to whether it is quicker to program a 3D printer or a CNC router.

              There are contractors that can produce custom-designed parts using either technology. But while it is possible to CNC rout an entire 4 x 8 foot sheet of material in one piece, I don't think anybody outside of the aerospace industry can 3D print parts that size.

              As for the complexity of the parts -- that is probably the issue. If you want to create custom track sections that can snap together with conventional plastic track sections, 3D printing is probably your best hope. Even so, I'm not sure current 3D printing technology can produce snap features with the tolerances and strength to be practical. Smooth surfaces, fine detail, and strength in thin sections is where injection molding has it all over 3D printing.

              Technology does advance over time. I'm sure the economics of 3D printing will improve along with the technology. But short term all I think we will see are a few interesting examples of custom 3D printed track sections with limited utility. I think it will be a while before it becomes a practical way to do more than that.

              Ed Bianchi

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              • #8
                Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post



                As for the complexity of the parts -- that is probably the issue. If you want to create custom track sections that can snap together with conventional plastic track sections, 3D printing is probably your best hope. Even so, I'm not sure current 3D printing technology can produce snap features with the tolerances and strength to be practical. Smooth surfaces, fine detail, and strength in thin sections is where injection molding has it all over 3D printing.

                Technology does advance over time. I'm sure the economics of 3D printing will improve along with the technology. But short term all I think we will see are a few interesting examples of custom 3D printed track sections with limited utility. I think it will be a while before it becomes a practical way to do more than that.

                Ed Bianchi
                That is 100% wrong. I think if you held my test sections of track in your hand, you would easily retract that statement. You may be wrong on the cost as well. Yes, mdf is cheaper, but the labor isn't. PLA in bulk is pretty affordable. If I were to go into business making custom tracks (and I am thinking of it) I can easily make a printer capable of printing any size track. Stepcraft sells cnc equipment that can print large sections if I didn't feel like making my own printer. But making printers is easy. Designing track is also easy. The joiner system IMO is more robust than scalextric track. I can also print in TPU and make indestructible track that is flexible.

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                • #9
                  I would be interested in seeing some additional photos of your printed track and joiner system if you can post them. Thanks

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                  • #10
                    The old saying is, "It ain't brag if you can do it."

                    Last time I purchased MDF a 4 x 8 foot sheet, 3/8 inch thick, it cost me US$20. Braid cost me US$0.15 per foot. My cost for an HO scale 4-lane finished track, 4 x 8 feet, painted, routed and braided, charging my labor at US$20 per hour, was about US$300. (That is the racing surface only. No power supply, table, driver's stations, lap counter, etc.)

                    I never actually compared the cost of my tracks versus standard HO plastic track. I need to do that someday. But I'm pretty sure I was delivering a superior product at lower cost. Not to mention track layouts that could not be duplicated in commercially available plastic track.

                    I'd like to see your joiner system. No doubt you can design a robust system. But what I posted was that you'd have trouble making track sections that would snap together with conventional plastic track, like Scalextric. I still think that will be challenging.

                    You claim you can "easily make a printer capable of printing any size track?" That is a big claim. I am skeptical that you could "easily" build a big machine that would maintain the tolerances and finishes required. And how long would it take to print a full-size track -- weeks? I'd not be surprised. Conventional 3D printing technology can take hours to print even small parts.

                    Try to duplicate just one section of a commercially-available brand of track -- Scalextric, Carrera, whatever. Comparable in tolerances and finish. Something that will snap together with the conventional track sections. Then run the numbers on what it costs in material, labor and machine time.

                    Yes, that is a big ask, but I don't think I'm being unfair. It would be the first step towards a legitimate proof of concept.

                    Ed Bianchi

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                    • #11
                      Interesting thread, here. The 3D printing technology seems to be advancing so fast. Looking forward to what the OP can show us!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
                        The old saying is, "It ain't brag if you can do it."

                        Last time I purchased MDF a 4 x 8 foot sheet, 3/8 inch thick, it cost me US$20. Braid cost me US$0.15 per foot. My cost for an HO scale 4-lane finished track, 4 x 8 feet, painted, routed and braided, charging my labor at US$20 per hour, was about US$300. (That is the racing surface only. No power supply, table, driver's stations, lap counter, etc.)

                        I never actually compared the cost of my tracks versus standard HO plastic track. I need to do that someday. But I'm pretty sure I was delivering a superior product at lower cost. Not to mention track layouts that could not be duplicated in commercially available plastic track.

                        I'd like to see your joiner system. No doubt you can design a robust system. But what I posted was that you'd have trouble making track sections that would snap together with conventional plastic track, like Scalextric. I still think that will be challenging.

                        You claim you can "easily make a printer capable of printing any size track?" That is a big claim. I am skeptical that you could "easily" build a big machine that would maintain the tolerances and finishes required. And how long would it take to print a full-size track -- weeks? I'd not be surprised. Conventional 3D printing technology can take hours to print even small parts.

                        Try to duplicate just one section of a commercially-available brand of track -- Scalextric, Carrera, whatever. Comparable in tolerances and finish. Something that will snap together with the conventional track sections. Then run the numbers on what it costs in material, labor and machine time.

                        Yes, that is a big ask, but I don't think I'm being unfair. It would be the first step towards a legitimate proof of concept.

                        Ed Bianchi
                        Old sayings are not applicable to this new technology So for $20 an hour, would you come to my house and work? That's a bargain! But anyway, I am probably not far off you numbers and labor would be 1-3 hours. The machine does most of the work. Not to mention I can produce track MDF is not capable of producing.

                        I have no intention of snapping together track to any brand name track. I don't want any copyright infringements if I replicate their joiner system. Having said that, it could be done easily!

                        Time is not an issue when printing track. If I need to print more tracks, I can make more printers. It is not a big claim to make a big printer. I don't need to make a 4x8 printer either, as I can easily glue tracks together to make one homogeneous track. Big printers are common place. Check openbuilds.com for some insight on DIY printers. People have 3D printed entire houses already, so big printers are entirely possible.

                        I am sure there won't be a big demand for this, and my target would be to produce one-off custom tracks for customers....for fun. My designs will be made public, and anyone with a printer can make their own. That's the point of 3D printing.

                        I currently print my own airplanes that fly 120mph using single wall prints. Single wall prints are .4mm thick. I have cartwheeled my plane with minimal damage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaKa2g7S3GQ

                        Proof of concept is already old news Proof of what I can do next is what to look forward too! I plan on making these single tracks a little wider, improve the joint system a bit and standardize it, then start designing some interesting stuff!

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3hmNY7eygM
                        Last edited by antslake; 03-14-2019, 06:58 PM.

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                        • #13
                          The issue IMO is the time it'll take to print an entire track that's equivalent to a Carrera Evolution DTM Fast Lap set (24') for example - even if you engineered it to maximize the printing bed size for less pieces it would probably take weeks. It's just not viable yet for DIY'ers to get the most out of it (I agree with Ed's point), unless you have access to a commercial machine that cost upwards of $85K and are only paying for material.

                          antslake - can you calculate what the cost to print 24' of track is using the material in your videos? The Carrera set cost $176 and comes with guardrail, power and controllers - extremely hard to beat for 24 feet of track! Not to mention immediate gratification.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by dinglebery View Post
                            The issue IMO is the time it'll take to print an entire track that's equivalent to a Carrera Evolution DTM Fast Lap set (24') for example - even if you engineered it to maximize the printing bed size for less pieces it would probably take weeks. It's just not viable yet for DIY'ers to get the most out of it (I agree with Ed's point), unless you have access to a commercial machine that cost upwards of $85K and are only paying for material.

                            antslake - can you calculate what the cost to print 24' of track is using the material in your videos? The Carrera set cost $176 and comes with guardrail, power and controllers - extremely hard to beat for 24 feet of track! Not to mention immediate gratification.
                            You guys are obviously not getting it. Its not how long it takes, it's not about how much it costs. It's about 3d printing, and making sections of track that no one else can make.

                            Having said that, it won't take weeks on the proper machine, and even if it did, how many tracks do you plan on printing for yourself? I bet on the proper sized machine (if I was planning on producing these tracks) with 2 machines, I could crank out a custom track THAT YOU COULDN'T BUY ANYWHERE in a day or 2. On a typical 3d printer, it will take much longer obviously, but who cares? For a couple hundred, you will have something that no one has.

                            With the variety of filaments, the possibilities are endless. Think custom rally track, think custom high banks, think custom supports, think flexible track that go over any curve or hill, think pla wood filament to simulate dirt roads. I could go on and on. The only thing holding you back is your imagination, or if your butt is glued to a mdf board lol!

                            All this is not meant to replace anything, just add to what we already have.

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                            • #15
                              I watched your YouTube video. Two sections of one-lane track does not a proof-of-concept make.

                              And judging only by what I can see on the video, it does not look like the joint between your two track sections is level. If that is indeed the case, it is probably out by twenty thousandths or so. I wouldn't expect to see an offset less than that in your video. Twenty thousandths is a lot.

                              Your joiner system seems to work well in two dimensions, but it does not constrain things well in the vertical dimension. You need something rigid to do that.

                              The underside of your track sections also tells a story. All the dithering back and forth -- clearly evident in your video -- to build up the structure does not happen quickly. And the walls are thick -- something common in 3D designs. A legacy of the inaccuracies of the early technology. Yes, I admit they can be made thinner. As thin as injection molded? And as straight and smooth? I wonder.

                              As for your copper tape -- I have my doubts about being able to maintain contact between your track sections long-term. Good contact requires sustained pressure. Copper tape makes a lousy spring. You can use the elasticity of your track-joining system to provide pressure, but two issues. First, elastomers aren't all that good at being springs either. They tend to take a 'set' over time. Second, a multi-lane track section -- say 4 lanes wide -- will have many strands of copper tape to keep in forceful contact. Unless the ends of the track sections are dead flat across their width you are going to see a lot of variation in their contact force, dimples or no.

                              I've built tracks with both copper tape and braid, tracks that have joints. Tracks that have lasted for years, or even decades, without contact problems. Good contact requires forceful contact.

                              And every project is entirely about its cost. Bright eyes go dim really fast when you show what their fantasy is really going to cost. A lifetime practicing engineering has proven to me you can never ignore the dollars. You can't ignore time either. Clients get restive about delivery dates, even if they knew the score going in.

                              Look, I understand your enthusiasm for the potential of 3D printing. Industries are doing spectacular things with it, and it is slowly emerging from one-off models into volume production of working, finished hardware. It is revolutionizing the aerospace industry. But there is a world of difference between hobby printing and industrial printing. The methods used in industry have gone far beyond the hot-glue-gun-on-a-gantry.

                              I understand the potential. But let's see what can be done right now. Try making a simple 4-lane flat oval track.

                              And please don't complain it will take too long or cost too much.

                              Ed Bianchi

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