Author Topic: 3D printen rails.  (Read 105 times)

Offline Marco_4124

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3D printen rails.
« on: June 07, 2019, 19:55:28 »
3D printen rails.

It all started with this remark of "playmofire" on the Playmofriends forum:

A wonderful time for all, and some very nice locos and rolling stock.  Thank you for sharing, Marco, and I look forward to more, especially about the 3D-printed rails.

I've been thinking about R2 curves as it seems they would make having a double track layout easier.

But before that, a piece of history. After Playmobil made some sets with passengers and railway staff, the first model train was introduced in 1980. Playmobil wisely did not develop its own system, but sought advice from its immediate neighbours in Nürnberg: LGB. Part of the rail system and the electric motor of the locomotives was taken over, and a standard chassis was developed that fitted the railway equipment of LGB. So if you bought a Playmobil train, you could later expand it with the assortment of LGB. Chances are that many train hobbyist has grown into a professional model railroader because of that.
Although the Playmobil trains were of a very good quality, it was too expensive for the average pocket money of children. Playmobil developed an RC train, running on plastic rails. This made it affordable, but you could not extend the rails with LGB rails. Also the geometry of the plastic Playmobil rails is different.

Description of the problem.

With this short piece of history, the problem of "playmofire" immediately becomes clear. He has Playmobil plastic rails for RC trains, and the range provides only one diameter of curved rails. This makes it impossible to lay a parallel track in a curved railway line.

This problem can be solved in 2 ways:

1) Developing curved rails for a track parallel to the existing rails assortment of Playmobil. This requires a good knowledge of 3D software and in addition you have to develop new curved rails for each track that lies next to it. This makes the range wider, but also more expensive because you have to develop different types of rails and have them in stock.

2) However, I also know of a simpler solution that applies to every model train brand, every scale and every range of rails: create a straight rail that is as long as the heart-to-heart distance from a parallel rail. If you lay a track of plastic Playmobil rails, and measure that heart-to-heart distance, you get to a length of 144 mm. This 144 mm straight track can be added before and after every quarter turn. For each track next to it, add an extra straight 144 mm before and after each quarter turn. With only one pice of rails it is possible to lay as many parallel tracks as you like. Moreover, a straight piece of track is easier to develop than a curved piece of track.

For clarification also see the track diagram below:

The design.

Good, problem described and solution found, now the piece of rail has to be designed. I am very enthusiastic about 3D printing, but unfortunately I don't have a 3D printer and I don't know anything about design programs. But fortunately I often know how to organize the right people together and find the basic material on the internet. On the website of I found the design of a railroad crossing by Lego Duplo, but made suitable for Playmobil rails. For a small amount of money you can download this design. The most important part of this design are the adaptors at both ends of the level crossing that allow the coupling of the level crossing with Playmobil rails. If you take these adaptors as a basis, remove the level crossing and fill in the space to 144 mm then you have the rails I'm looking for. My cousin Edwin ("Ed Steam", Eastern Balcony Railway) had made signposts for me before, but was now looking for a slightly more advanced challenge. I was also lucky that his company had just bought a professional 3D printer that needed to be installed.
But first I had to work on it myself. With Photoshop I could open the 3D design and make a preview of what I would like to have. It also makes it easier for the 3D designers to explain what I want.

Artist impression of the front of the adaptor rails. On it I indicated which connections are important for Playmobil rails.

And an artist's impression of the rails I'd like to have..

In the end he started to work, and a colleague of his also worked on the design.
Below you will find an overview of the activities.

This is what the rails look like, drawn with a professional 3D program.

In order to make the most of a large professional 3D printer, as many components as possible must be combined. HP also supplies a program that allows you to fill in the space to be printed as efficient as possible. Between the parts that this company makes for machines is also my piece of rails.

The production.

Yeah, well, then there's the moment when the rails are printed. During Edwin's visit to the Ferrovie dello Balconia, the first copy was handed over. Because it was still uncertain whether the rails would fit on the existing Playmobil rails, because we had blindly copied the design from the internet. My first impression of the printed track is that it meets high quality expectations, but the cost of 36,— Euro each is there. On the Havatec BV printer, parts are made for machines that are used on a daily basis, and then durability and high quality are extremely important. If the rails are distributed more efficient in the HP Jet Fusion 3D 4210 printer, the costs can be reduced even further, but perhaps it would also be better to wait until this technique is applied more generally and comes out of its infancy. Then there's the exciting moment: the rails fit!  For the time being I asked if one more specimen can be made, because then at least a semicircle can be made. In the meantime, my enthousiasm have been noticed at Havatec BV and I have received an open invitation to come and have a look. I will certainly do that!

The HP Jet Fusion 3D 4210. Let's say it's a lot better than a printer you buy at home. But what a beautiful machine this is. That certainly promises something for the future.

The first copy from the 3D printer.

Inspection by Henk and Ben. The rails fit perfectly, and has the approval of both gentlemen.


Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank everyone who has worked on this:

My cousin Edwin ("Ed Steam" of the Eastern Balcony Railways).
Senior elektro monteur/engineer.

Printer: Zortax model M200.
Printvolume 200x200x180 mm.
Nozzle diameter: 0,4 mm.
PETG filament.

Certainly to mention the employees of:

Havatec BV
Kunaweg 1
NL-2153  Nieuw Vennep
The Netherlands
Phone: +31( 0 ) 252 - 241 490

Printer: HP Jet Fusion 3D 4210.
The PDF with all technical information can be downloaded here.
That was a little too much typing to take over.

Offline tahra

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Re: 3D printen rails.
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2019, 20:08:40 »
Wow. I had no idea about "professional 3D printers"

Loved that pic of all the components! Thanks for sharing!

I know nothing of trains, but it does seem a wonderful solution and a great part - though not at that price, for the "casual" railroads, right?


Offline Junker Jörg

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Re: 3D printen rails.
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2019, 20:26:04 »
That's pure brillant! Though I've to admit I'm missing the sleepers as 144mm ist quite long a piece of track without any  :-\. Great work!

Einfach nur noch genial! Ok, ich geb zu, daß mir auf der Länge Schwellen fehlen, aber es ist trotzdem eine echt gute Arbeit!


Offline Marco_4124

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Re: 3D printen rails.
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2019, 20:39:28 »
That's pure brillant! Though I've to admit I'm missing the sleepers as 144mm ist quite long a piece of track without any  :-\. Great work!

Einfach nur noch genial! Ok, ich geb zu, daß mir auf der Länge Schwellen fehlen, aber es ist trotzdem eine echt gute Arbeit!


For that I need an expert in 3D drawing. Or Playmobil must enclose the original drawings of the Playmobil rails. But that is unlikely to happen.

Offline playmofire

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Re: 3D printen rails.
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2019, 20:49:00 »
Many thanks for that very detailed explanation of your project.  Who knows what the future holds?

(Actually, my thoughts on R2 curves were for my track-powered locos, but |I think your idea of how to get parallel tracks using the basic curves will also work with the LGB R1 curves and, maybe, the 150mm straight or something similar.  I shall experiment.)
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Offline GrahamB

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Re: 3D printen rails.
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2019, 08:19:35 »
What a fantastic project! From identifying the initial 'problem', visualising a very neat solution (the 144mm track piece), locating an existing (Lego) part with potential, modifying that part, getting the help of specialists for the final printing to the finished product. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing that Marco!
At that moment the ship suddenly stopped rocking and swaying, the engine pitch settled down to a gentle hum. 'Hey Ford.' said Zaphod, 'that sounds good. Have you worked out the controls on this boat?' 'No,' said Ford, 'I just stopped fiddling with them.' (With thanks to Douglas Adams)