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plarailfan

3D printed British Rail class 60 body / EF65 Plarail chassis project

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plarailfan

Hope this is ok to post on here and apologies, if it's not !

Here's a first, for Plarail - I've started a cloudfunding project, to pay for the design work, of a 3D printed class 60 body shell, which will be produced by Shapeways.

3D printing is quite expensive, so to try and keep the cost down, I'm looking at being able to fit the body onto a Tomy EF65 chassis.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/41294071@N02/15603388907/

Shapeways may charge anything up to, or maybe, around £100 to print a body shell, but until they have the design work, it's hard to be prescise at this stage.

I'm hoping they could do a print, for nearer to £40 and in order to gauge the cost quickly, the cloudfunding, for the body design work, expires in a month's time,

 

 

 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/design-cost-of-a-plarail-compatible-class-60-train/x/9529593

 

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cteno4

Plarail fan,

 

Interesting, but what are you offering your funders of the project in return for their investment? Is this just a one off for you? Will you offer folks that fund you a copy of the model or access to the design for them to print? Will this eventually be up for sale?

 

I'm guessing a plarail sized shell will cost about the same as many HO cars do. Since printing cost is based mostly on plastic volume, getting cleaver to keep things as thin as possible while being well supported. This is a lot of the art of designing 3d printing. The CAD design time is the hidden cost in doing things like this if you can't do it yourself. This can cost a lot to have someone do the CAD work for you.

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

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katoftw

Wow you really have to love plarail and/or Class 60 locos to spend that kinda of money on a single unit.  Good luck with your endeavours.

Edited by katoftw
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plarailfan

Thanks for your input ! This class 60 model, will be on Shapeways very soon and anyone will be able to buy a 3D loco body, even if they have not joined in this funding scheme.

The theory is, that this is an inspiration for future Plarailers, who will be able to buy these in years to come.

No one in the UK has done anything in Plarail, like this before. This idea is to test the market and see how much interest and enthusiasm there is right now.

Whatever happens with the class 60, a second cloudfunding scheme is planned and this will, either, be for, a class 37, or a 47 body.

I'm going to try my best to get the "60" up and running, but after that, I don't want to sink too much of my own money into something, if it doesn't seem to be generating a lot of interest.

The thing is, once the "60" is sorted, everyone will know almost exactly how much a subsequent (37, or 47,) loco body will cost to print at Shapeways and we have somewhere to start, for projects further down the line. I don't expect these to sell like the proverbial, "hot cakes" but hopefully, there will be more modellers, like myself, that want something not otherwise available. 

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kvp

I think for a project like this to attract any interest a preliminary 3D design should be presented, so at least one printable bodyshell must exist in 3D form. With the plans and a well explained business strategy, it's possible to start looking for supporters. On the other hand, the current crowdfunding page has lots of default text, which should be replaced with actual content before making the page public. Also, you should offer something in exchange for support, like a printed, assembled and painted chassis. This would mean anyone who supports the design process would also actually buy one ready made item. People won't join a crowdfunding project without goals, production deadlines and guaranteed benefits.

 

For 3D printing, imho plarail is not something meant for the frosted ultra detail plastics, so you might be better off with something more sturdy and also much cheaper. Instead of painting (actually pad printing), you can use a full body wrap vinyl sticker wich is much easier and cheaper to produce. Imho the 3rd alternative, using pre colored plastics is not an option, because those are rather weak structurally for something that is actually a kids toy and might be used as one.

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cteno4

Yeah the ultra frosted detail is probably overkill and I think can have some warping problems if done too thick if I remember correctly. One of the other plastics would probably work better and some are a bit more resilient that would be good with plarail.

 

It would be good to set a market to reach as well, adult plarail users or the kids market. It will effect the structural design, materials, final price point needed, and finish quite a bit. Might be easier to focus on one first to get the basic Design work done and then modify later if the other market is viable.

 

Usually with crowd funding you offer something to funders for their investment. In this case maybe ordering units at cost (ie shapways price) or finished unit, etc. otherwise it requires you to have a pool of very hungry investors who really want what you are working towards to offer up support with no return other than the possibility of a product being released later if things work out ok.

 

Is there a big plarail market in the uk? Did they make a bunch of UK equipment under the tomytec trains and tomica world lines? I would guess the Thomas stuff would be big. It's pretty popular here in the states, but i dont think any specific us equipment was ever made.

 

Have you found other plarail enthusiasts in the UK to talk with? That might really help figure out what product might be successful and als raise the enthusiasim. Might also help figur out if folks are willing to pay what it costs to 3d print these. Any hope of doing a meet and have a setup for a day with other enthusiasts?

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

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plarailfan

In the past, Tomy produced this Eurostar train https://www.flickr.com/photos/41294071@N02/6106839046/ and Tomy also made a Japanese (kintetsu) train, which was sold in the UK, in Virgin livery  https://www.flickr.com/photos/41294071@N02/15388558620/ Both the UK outline models, are only available secondhand, and fetch better prices on ebay, than almost any other Plarail models - the Virgin train often goes for around £30 which would suggest there is some demand for UK models.

I do know of a few Plarail modellers in the UK, but we all live over 100 miles away from one another, so we don't have much hope of a meet, or get together session.

Tomy did make an AMTRAK set, which was quite a large gift set, containing an F3 with a couple of coaches, with blue track, etc. These are very hard to come by and sell for around £100 / USD

I think a crowdfunding project for a Plarail compatible, 3D printed, SD40-2 body might go well, for the US market, but then, ideally, it would need some kind of freight to haul and I could imagine the whole idea would need Tomy themselves, to look at, as they have the manufacturing and distribution network to deal with a project of that size and scope.   

Edited by plarailfan

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cteno4

Yeah unfortunately n scale is sort of the cuttoff where 3d printing for shells can be done at a semi reasonable price for doing the very low volume projects. But even in HO you would still need a few thousand shells to even get close to paying for the tooling to do injection moulding.

 

Thomas plarail is pretty big here in the states and I think dominates it for the little kids. Perhaps the older kids and kids with train loving parents would like some general freight and passenger trains, but not sure that market is big enough or accessible enough to make a go for tomy, they like the big mainstream stuff. I do remember the Amtrak train now that you mention it.

 

Model trains are tough here in the states as most all toy stores stopped carrying them a decade or so and also most of our toy stores are big box like toysrus here. The independent toy stores are sort of boutique stores ad rarely carry anything in trains. Even hobby shops here have been focusing a lot more in r/c stuff than trains. So the speciality train market is pretty much an Internet thing now (few big model train shops left around the country but those are thriving because they have a large Internet business as well). Tomy likes the retail stream so I doubt it would go for this market at all. They did recently set up a distribution deal with Walters to bring n scale tomytec over to the U.S., but unfortunately they end up with a SRP of 150-200% of Japanese prices so I don't think it's going to be a big success.

 

I think your best market is for the more serious modeler/collector who wants something special and is willing to pay for it. A few dozen of these might spread out the design costs on top of the printing costs so you would not loose money. The other hidden cost in a project like this and can be a big factor in the success or failure is marketing. It can be a lot of time and money to get to the folks that would want the product. Niche markets like this don't require the big advertising investment, but a lot more research into finding the few folks in the odd places and more elbow grease to figure out unique paths to them. At leas the Internet has helped in this kind of marketing as you find more odd little groups have formed websites, forums, lists etc that you can possibly access and get some word of mouth going.

 

Many folks are doing unique n scale shells with 3d printing with shapeways. Most just invest their own time and money into the cad work so they can have the model. Some will put it up with a markup to recoup some of their investment, others put it up at cost for others to enjoy. Some put it up for others to drool over but don't allow others to print it (that's mean!) there are a few small companies actively using shapeways for n scale tram and interurban shells for sale and seem to be doing well (these were previously doing cast resin models).

 

Good luck with this!

 

Cheers,

 

Jeff

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plarailfan

I found it very interesting to read your comments. Here in the UK, there's been a rather alarming number of specialist model railway shops that have closed in recent years and toy stores rarely carry railway models. There doesn't seem to be many young people coming into the hobby these days and if you go round a show, many of the modellers, visitors and exhibitors, will be age, 40 and over.

There's an approximate, N gauge, style, version of Plarail, called "Advance" which I guess, may have a better chance, for 3D printed, custom designed body shells, being produced at a reasonable cost.

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cteno4

Yes much the same in the us, but folks have been saying model railroading is dead for a long time. I think it's more evolving with the Internet as how folks buy, sell, and interact (ie this forum). Small mom and pop retail is having a hard time across the board with all sorts of expense and competition pressures. But there is also a big renascence in garage businesses now that the Internet gives them a way to market and sell their niche products. Laser cutters, 3D printers, and such are now in the price range of a small garage business and new aspects like electronics are flourishing. Even the middle sized manufactures can do some things that only the big boys could in the past. So it's a double edged sword.

 

Other big element is societal where hobbies are not a real normal part of most modern cultures around the world. It's really a shame as hobbies are great way for quality personal growth, learning, relaxation, friendship, etc that has not been really replaced well with newer aspects of modern culture. So model railroading is having to fight against this along with all the other traditional hobbies. So the world has changed pretty fast here, it's going to take time for model rr to evolve to react. Also culture can be pretty fleeting and I sincerely think that the human part of us is pretty starved for many of the things that hobbies provide and that modern culture is cutting off from us. People themselves have not changed one bit evolutionary here, it's only the culture that has...

 

Back to the plarail! The advanced stuff is targeted at the older kids and adults, being less toy like and closer to prototype. Also being able to do the double track also takes it further. This indeed may be the best place for custom stuff as it will probably be a third the printing costs per unit and might attract more of the collector market. Big question will be to see how well the plarail advanced does in the Japanese market and if it carries over into the uk and other markets. Having the track be the same is a huge benefit for folks to transition if they are into plarail already and to leverage kids as they grow up.

 

Might do more taking with all the uk enthusiasts you know and see if you can get a community to form if only virtually. Yahoo groups are an easy way to start (although the recent interface upgrades make the web version difficult for many) if only just as a mail list group. The more you can start gathering plarail enthusiasts into some sort of a community the more hope you have for finding the critical mass for a market for the custom stuff as well as help suss out what exactly the best product and pathway to take on the project.

 

You might raise the idea of sometime trying to meet up with a few folks sometime! There is a group of Japanese n scale Modelers in germany that get together now and then for a weekend of trains from pretty good distances! Maybe it could be around a model train show and they let you guys do a setup of plarail at the show and that would be a way to find other possible interested in plarail. May be in the back of some model rrer heads and seeing it makes them really start thinking about it. Especially with Modelers with kids and Thomas plarail and giving them ideas for options of evolving the hobby for their kids (and themselves!)

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

Edited by cteno4

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kvp

 

here doesn't seem to be many young people coming into the hobby these days and if you go round a show, many of the modellers, visitors and exhibitors, will be age, 40 and over.

Personally i see lots of  kids at modell shows in eastern Europe. The trick is that the show must contain something for smaller kids who are not really interested in modelling. A good example is the Railway Historical Park in Hungary. They hold different events but have a ride on garden railway, real working steam locomotives (usually at least one is operating), railcars and handcars and kids can get on most trains parked there. There are at least two big model railway shows in every year, the garden railway meeting for larger scales (both ride on and smaller) and a tabletop scale event, mostly for modular club layouts, including international fremo layouts. Due to Lego being 0 scale and between tabletop and garden, i was at both as an exhibitor in the past years. Both are fun and many smaller layouts have driving stands for kids, so they can drive one of the trains themselves. There are shows for rc cars and boats too, usually together with the garden railway show or a similar event.

 

This gets us to the problem of kids not playing with trains. There are two very good solutions. One is to get sellers to show up at shows so parents can buy a startset for the kids if they don't have one and the other is to make clubs kid friendly. There are a few model railroad clubs in Hungary which are kid oriented. Two are operated by community centers (in H0 and TT scale) and the lego one by a hobby shop. All of them are also doing daycare summer camps for young members. This nicely offsets the more adult exhibition only clubs and many times the kids clubs have more action on their layouts during shows than most adult clubs. (having one dedicated member per locomotive and multiple members per station is a huge help) So it's possible to get more kids to do some modelling or just play with trains, but there has to be a will to do so.

 

About plarail and kid's friendly scales and sets. Plarail is not really known in eastern Europe, here the most popular ones are the wooden tracks and trains that even include motorised engines and the second is Duplo. These two are carried by most toy and general stores. Also the only easily accessible starter sets for bigger kids are usually Lego (L) and Piko (H0) sets, also carried by most all toy stores. From these two, usually Lego is the winner because you have more accessories readily available and they are much harder to break.

 

ps: To get back to the idea of printing a plarail shell in 3D, there is a prototype alternative that is more easily achivable. Building a wooden prototype form should be easier and it even allows vacuum formed serial production of plastic shells with home equipment. (actually besides the forms, you only need hot water and a vacuum cleaner)

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cteno4

We have a lot of talk here in the states of getting more kids into model railroading, but the action is not always as constant. It is very important for the hobby. As kvp pointed out having good dedicated activities for kids is important. We keep trying with jrm to have some kid stuff with small tram loops and such the kids can run, but it's tough for a small club as it's more stuff to transport and assemble and then it really requires having a member overseeing the kid activities at all times.

 

it sounds like there is more kid rr activities for kids in Eastern Europe than the states. Access to regular starter HO and n sets is spotty here as well, rarely if ever carried by toy stores and fewer and fewer hobby shops as well and few dedicated train shops left. Parents are then left with the Internet which can be daunting if they know nothing about model trains. Also basic starter sets are getting pretty pricy as well to get the kids started and thus gets painted as an expensive hobby.

 

Nice thing with the plarail is its kid oriented to begin with!

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

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Melandir

The train club I'm in it's very kids oriented

 

Our club modular layout it's entirely digital (we use a Z21 as command station) and we let kids drive trains on it, yes we let kids play with our trains :D (I have reserved 3 of my trains to be used by kids) without any damage so far

usually kid's parent are very attentive that their childs don't break anything and every kids is supervised by a clubmember during the drive to avoid serious damage.....we have some kids that follow us in many of the fair that we attend around Italy

 

The good of the Z21 is that trains are controlled by a tablet/phone application and the kids need to follow the train around the layout to control it directly by sight and are encouraged to play with it, slow at turns and push the speed when track is straight and stop at stations to pickup passengers

 

It's true that this hobby is perceived as pricey due to the starter sets initial costs, but there are things that could be done.

 

One of our member have been invited by his town school to keep a course on modelling as a voluntary laboratory, he instructed the students attending (teens) on how to build a module for our club layout, and at last year fair we received the visit of all the student's class (accompanied by a professor) to see the results.

Last year only four students wanted to do the course, but seems that this year a lot more will be doing it after seeing the results and after their classmates told them that It was fun and interesting to do it

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cteno4

Melandir,

 

Hey great stuff! Glad to hear the efforts!

 

Our club has discussed doing an after school class at a local Japanese school (mainly japanese damilies working for a while in doc) doing Japanese scenes on ttrak modules. Would be fun for them to do a bit of home and then mauve the school winds up with a little Japanese themed ttrak loop. But it's going to take a good chunk of time, so have to work that out first.

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

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