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Which track design software to use?

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  • Which track design software to use?

    The question of which software to use when planning a plastic or routed track, comes up every now and then. So I thought it might be useful to put all the information together in one place and provide a quick comparison of the various systems available.

    First we've got three editors which are specifically designed for the job

    SlotMan

    Description:- Timing and track design software
    Cost:- Free
    Ease of use:- Very simple and reliable
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- Plastic only, unless you create your own track pieces
    Track systems:- Carrera, Cartronic, Faller, Fleischmann, Maerklin, Ninco, Prefo, Artin, Scalextric, Scalextric Sport, SCX, Tomy, Tyco, Stabocar
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Custom track sections can be added
    3D capabilty:- None
    Available layout downloads:- None
    Advantages:- It's free and it's fairly simple to use
    Disadvantages:- Some of the track libraries are incomplete

    SlotMan screenshot



    Track Power

    Description:- Track design software
    Cost:- 15.95 - Free demo version available
    Ease of use:- Very simple and reliable
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- Plastic only
    Track systems:- Ninco, Ninco N-Digital, SCX Digital System, SCX Original, SCX Compact, STS 4x4, Scalextric Sport/Sport Digital and Carrera Evolution/Digital 123/Pro-X.
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Extremely limited
    3D capabilty:- None
    Available layout downloads:- 250 track layouts included with full version
    Advantages:- Not expensive, simple to use and track libraries seem complete.
    Disadvantages:- Not many track libraries and there is no way to add custom track pieces.

    Track Power screenshot



    Ultimate Racer

    Description:- Timing and track design software
    Cost:- 15.00 - Free demo version available
    Ease of use:- Simple
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- Plastic and Scratchbuilt tracks are possible
    Track systems:- Artin 1/32, Artin 1/43, Aurora AFX + MM, Aurora AFX, Aurora Ajet 1:32, Carrera Exclusiv 1:24, Carerra Universal, Fleischmann, Lifelike HO, Marchon, MaxTrax 4 Lane, MaxTrax 6 Lane, Ninco 1:32, Polistil, Revell / Riggen, Scalextric Sport, Scalextric / SCX + Digital, Scalextric Sport + Digital, Strombecker, Tomy AFX, Tyco HO, Scratchbuilt 1/64, 1/43, 1/32, 1/28/, 1/24, ISRA.
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Fairly extensive, colours, textures, track libraries, track sections.
    3D capabilty:- Yes but limited
    Available layout downloads:- Example layouts included with software, many more available from the website
    Advantages:- Not expensive, fairly simple to use, very extensive and complete track libraries, customisation options, and web publishing options available
    Disadvantages:- Bugs need ironing out

    Ultimate Racer screenshot



    Next we have a bunch of programs which are not specific to slot tracks, but which might be useful anyway

    Open Office

    Description:- Primarily an office suite, but the drawing program offers enough tools for planning a scratchbuilt track
    Cost:- Free
    Ease of use:- Simple to Medium
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- Scratchbuilt
    Track systems:- None
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Reasonable
    3D capabilty:- None
    Available layout downloads:- None
    Advantages:- It's free, it has useful scale and dimensioning options and as a bonus it's a great office program
    Disadvantages:- Probably not the most sophisticated option

    Open Office screenshot



    SketchUp

    Description:- Full 3D design software
    Cost:- Free
    Ease of use:- Medium. Can be reasonably simple if you are just downloading and using existing track libraries, but is much more complicated if you want to design your own.
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- Both
    Track systems:- Scalextric and Ninco are currently available
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Massive
    3D capabilty:- Full 3D capabilities
    Available layout downloads:- Extremely limited
    Advantages:- Anything is possible, plastic or scratchbuilt tracks, buildings, cars, scenery etc. Free models to download.
    Disadvantages:- Track libraries are currently limited and creating your own is time consuming.

    Sketchup screenshot



    Adobe Illustrator/GIMP/Inkscape

    Description:- Fully featured graphic design tools
    Cost:- GIMP and Inkscape are free, Illustrator is around 350 ($500?)
    Ease of use:- Complex
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- Scratchbuilt
    Track systems:- None
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Massive
    3D capabilty:- None
    Available layout downloads:- None
    Advantages:- Complex shapes are possible, in fact any form of 2D planning is possible
    Disadvantages:- Not easy to learn and use, and no track libraries are available.

    Inkscape screenshot



    CAD & 3D programs

    Description:- A myriad of programs, most of which are fully featured 3D design or engineering tools. There are simply too many options to list here, but the industry standard is Autocad
    Cost:- Some are free, others are very, very expensive
    Ease of use:- Complex, expect a steep learning curve
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- Both are possible, but scratchbuilt tracks are the norm for these programs.
    Track systems:- None
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Massive
    3D capabilty:- Full 3D capabilities for most
    Available layout downloads:- None
    Advantages:- Total flexibilty and 3D capabilities. Some programs include fantastic presentation capabilities (lighting, materials etc), and some will allow export for CNC production
    Disadvantages:- Not easy to learn and use, not even easy to decide which program to use.

    3ds Max screenshot


    3ds Max rendering



    And finally, though it's obviously not a program...

    Pen & Paper

    Description:- From rough sketches on the back of an envelope up to a fully draughted plan
    Cost:- Very cheap
    Ease of use:- Simple
    Plastic/Scratchbuilt:- More relevant to scratchbuilt tracks
    Track systems:- None
    Flexibility/Customisation:- Massive
    3D capabilty:- Depends on the draughtsman
    Available layout downloads:- None
    Advantages:- Very quick and flexible way to develop ideas, but when developed can be just as accurate as most software
    Disadvantages:- Time, patience, skill and of course tools are required for a proper scale drawing.

    Have I missed anything?

  • #2
    solidworks is also good too....thats what im using .

    Comment


    • #3
      Yeah, Solidworks looks good, is it difficult to learn?

      Comment


      • #4
        not really you pic it up really fast, like anything else practice makes perfect

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by The zapper View Post
          practice makes perfect
          Totally agree

          Comment


          • #6
            And in defense of slotman and trackpower, it doesn't look like much practice happened with those... they're both capable of much larger, more flowing, and complex tracks than the simple "rug race" looking tracks you showed. Someone reading this post might judge software capabilities on the images you provided, and believe that those two are inadequate, when they are quite sufficient, AND easy to use/intuitive, for the overwhelming majority of plastic track racers.

            Comment


            • #7
              That's a fair point, and the same could probably be said for the Open Office, Inkscape and SketchUp layouts, to some degree. Sorry, I don't really use those programs very much.

              But if you, or anyone else could provide better screenshots I'd be more than happy to replace those images. I'm not trying to push anything here, so all opinions are welcome.

              Comment


              • #8
                I've now replaced the SlotMan screenshot.

                The Track Power demo won't let me add more pieces, and since I now have four programs that are better (for me at least) I'm not willing to pay for the full version.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I figured showing a well known track couldn't hurt. This is one of the included circuits with TrackPower:
                  Last edited by MrFlippant; 04-17-2013, 05:35 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Nice one Mr Flippant, I've put your screenshot at the top with the others.

                    Now I probably need to do some work on the Open Office and Inkscape screenshots.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Jason,

                      Thanks, that's a nice resource guide. I suggest the moderators pin it up top!

                      I recently came across a great list of 2/3D CAD programs with links on the Shapeways site that might be helpful:

                      http://www.shapeways.com/tutorials/s...d-applications


                      JT
                      Last edited by JT Previa; 04-19-2013, 04:08 PM. Reason: Fixed link

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks, that's much appreciated.

                        I think the link has gone wrong though, was this the one?
                        http://www.shapeways.com/tutorials/s...d-applications

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Jason - thanks for putting up a correct link! ( the normal link tool didn't work for some reason - but I fiddled around and fixed it )

                          JT

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Just checked out the link in a bit more detail. It's a very useful list of programs, well worth a look if you're interested in CAD.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              How do you get ninco track out of sketch up?

                              I also tried slotman but the software looks for a track library in a .stl format, but the track library downloads come in a .sts format - and the program won't read them.

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