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TEMPLOT 3D PLUG TRACK - To get up to speed with this experimental project click here.   To watch an introductory video click here.   See the User Guide at Bexhill West.

  • The Plug Track functions are experimental and still being developed. Some of the earlier pages of this topic are now out-of-date.

    For an updated overview of this project see this topic.   For some practical modelling aspects of using Plug Track see Building 3D Track.

    The assumption is that you have your own machines on which to experiment, or helpful friends with machines. Please do not send Templot files to commercial laser cutting or 3D printing firms while this project is still experimental, because the results are unpredictable and possibly wasteful.

    Some pages of this and other topics include contributions from members who are creating and posting their own CAD designs for 3D printing and laser-cutting. Do not confuse them with Templot's own exported CAD files. All files derived from Templot are © Martin Wynne.
  • The Plug Track functions are experimental and still being developed.

    For an updated overview of this project see this topic.   For some practical modelling aspects of using Plug Track see Building 3D Track.

    The assumption is that you have your own machines on which to experiment, or helpful friends with machines. Please do not send Templot files to commercial laser cutting or 3D printing firms while this project is still experimental, because the results are unpredictable and possibly wasteful.

    Some pages of this and other topics include contributions from members who are creating and posting their own CAD designs for 3D printing and laser-cutting. Do not confuse them with Templot's own exported CAD files. All files derived from Templot are © Martin Wynne.

3D track - fun with laser-cutters

Quick reply >
I think the reason the clip fit work so well on laser cut timber (when the right size socket vales are found) is the clip is acting as the inverted version of the taper IE think of it more like a cross section of a Morse taper lock system.
@Phil G

Hi Phil,

If that's the case, you might do better with snap-fit rather than clip-fit:

index.php


You can adjust the taper angle by changing the jut width (amount the tang juts out from the plug):


snap_jut_width.png


snap_plug.png


cheers,

Martin.
 
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Hi Martin,
Good thinking. I will try that as well,
However its possible the clip fit has just enough flex to take exactly the same taper as the kerf is creating. where as with the snap fit setting the jut width exactly right for every socket, bearing in mind wood is natural so not all tapers are likely to be exactly the same. could add even more complexity. Only testing will tell us the answer.
If looking down on the chair in plan view, how wide would it be possible to make the clip?
cheers
Phil
 
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If looking down on the chair in plan view, how wide would it be possible to make the clip?
@Phil G

Hi Phil,

You can make it as wide as you like by changing the jut width.

However, if you make the overall plug width wider than the chair base (8" scale for most chairs) the socket will be visible alongside the chair, and the chair may not sit correctly on the timber surface. If you make it wider than the timber (10" scale for plain track sleepers) the socket will break through the side of the timber.

FDM timbers have a under-cut in the socket wall to allow for the tang. The default sizes have been set to work fine with FDM timbers. Everything is over to you for laser-cutting (until I get a laser-cutter of my own and can test things).

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Hi Martin,
some very interesting findings today, the first one is the speed and the power do most certainly have an effect on the size of the taper created, somewhat surprisingly to me at least, is running at lower power and slower speed makes this taper more pronounced.
we are not talking a great deal here though, for a 2.5 mm thick piece of 3 ply (Gabon faces)10 thou at the top and 6 thou at the bottom of the slot. ( single pass one straight cut)

The next thing is two passes are defiantly better than a singe pass, in fact at at both 21 mm/sec and 25 mm/sec just cutting a single straight line (two passes) I can get a 7 thou feeler to start at the top of the slot and a 6 thou to start at the bottom, so almost a straight cut
the pocket is slightly worse at least 2 to 3 thou when measuring a pocket taper.

The other thing I have found is the ply is remarkably flexible, you can push a 0.15 mm inference fit in and in some cases only see a slight bulge in the ply sides but not always. This needs a lot more trial and investigation to see if a slight interference fit is the right way to go.

With the clip fit plugs I have made, if you force the caliper to close the clip it will leaving the plug body at 1.97mm. my current sockets (best case IE cutting at both 21 and 25 mm/sec two passes) are giving sockets 1.89 mm at the top so we have 0.08 mm of squeeze on the ply side, Its a bit to much, so I need to just open the socket by say .06 total tomorrow. and see what happens.

The other thing is both material thickness and density do have a marked effect on the speed required to cut though, I tried 2.5 mm ply 1.8 mm ply 1.6 mm bass and 1.6 mm balsa not surprisingly balsa is by far the easiest.

The focal point is also very important, I can see why there moving to a manageable z plane option. a focal point difference of +- 0.4 mm will have a noticeable effect on both ability to penetrate and the taper produced. Sometimes wood distortion can be in that range.
will keep all posted with my findings.
cheers
Phl

2.5 mm Gabon test cuts.jpg
 
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@Phil G

Hi Phil,

Thanks for that detailed info.

I noticed on part of your test that the sockets are offset in opposite directions relative to the timber outline:


phil_laser.jpg



This applies to all the sockets in that row.

This can't be due to rounding effects from the axis stepper resolution, otherwise both sockets would be offset in the same direction.

It seems more likely due to backlash in the drives. Is the belt tight? Did you cut the sockets before or after the timber outlines?

On a laser-cutter, how fast does the head travel between cuts? Is it the same as the cut speed or faster? Travel speed is more likely to affect accurate positioning than cut speed.

Presumably you edited the snibs in CAD? As far as I know I haven't yet released 244a with a double angle on the snibs. Puzzled.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Hi Martin,
Well spotted there is something definitely off in that corner of my machine, only in the Y axis. the belts are both set with the same tension and are supposed to be the right tightness but I am not 100% that is right. what's odd is its mainly that corner that has the issue.

re cutting sequence its , text first done at max speed of the machine 41.mm sec or 2.5 meters min,
then all the sockets, then it comes back and does the outline profile last.
the sockets you have noticed are the first sockets to be cut.

interestingly the first one with the chair in is actually in the right place, its all the others cutting at 5mm sec and 50% that are off.

re head speed between cuts it's max speed. 41mm/sec

yes I have used cad quite a lot cause, its only 10 sleepers in Templot just copied and then the layers changed so lightburn understands it requires different processing values. re the snib angles I started doing that in cad just days before you had more or less the same Idea, it solves most of the conflicts especially with crossovers :) First time I have set the snib to zero to cut out the waste piece though.
I may have a play with modifying that a bit, as it would not be hard to generate some "new sleepers" for the P-way gang wagon loads out of the waste material.

Once I am happy with the results I will post the lightburn file, as it would be good to compare same program settings different machines see what happens.
cheers
Phil,
 
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Ps did you notice the gain is going the wrong way? this is just some handy sized scrap that does the job for testing.
 
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Last edited:
Here is my latest cut in:

https://hobarts.com/products/laserplylite-italian-poplar-plywood?variant=43925461237997

IMG_0802-1.jpg


It is soft with a good grain and not too smooth. Also the cheapest from Hobarts. I think the birch faced poplar surface is a bit too hard to soak up the stain. For the moment this looks like my preferred material. Pity they don't have it in 1.5mm for my 3mm scale.

This is scale 7 on a 6ft radius. My sleepers measure 59.35 x 5.82 which is not so different to last time with the slightly more expensive birch faced poplar at 59.3 (59.5) x 5.84 (5.833). This is not totally reliable test because I forgot to cut the containing box last. I must make a checklist for cutting. My settings were 0.2mm kerf and 0.6 x 0.6mm nibs. Some of the nibs broke a bit too easily for my liking but that maybe because of my sequence error.

I would have liked an extra smidgen on the gauge but I have decided to move away from the water washable resin so that may change things.

As I already found with the C&L chairs I need to adjust the underside of my printed fishplates to fit over the rail support..

Some of my very strong neodymium magnets have shattered, probably because they move like lightning when they get too close to each other. Now I have chosen the material for my sleepers I will use the other sheet to make some jigs to align the material, honeycombe and cutter and enclose the magnets.

Regards
John Walker
 
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I have decided to move away from the water washable resin so that may change things.
@John Walker

Hi John,

For the chairs the recommended resin is the ABS-Like resins. Tougher and far less brittle than the standard resins.

In particular we have excellent results with this one:

Anycubic V2 water-washable ABS-Like resin:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0C7BFQZ2C

(It must be the V2 version -- they are mixed up on the page)

To correct the gauge I suggest changing the output scaling a fraction for the laser cut:

index.php


index.php


The laser-cutter stepper resolution is not likely to be better than 0.05mm per step. Even that requires electronically micro-stepping the motor, which is affected by resonance and load variations, and varies with speed. So it's not possible to get dimensions accurate and consistent to the second decimal place of mm.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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@James Walters

Hi James,

I'm not convinced there is a problem, but without a laser-cutter I can't be sure. If I had a machine, my intended way of working would likely be:

1. make a trial cut in the desired material at the intended power settings.

2. measure the kerf using feeler gauges.

3. set that as the kerf setting in Templot.

4. export a file to make a test piece and measure it (cutting the sockets before the timber outline).

5. adjust the DXF socket size and scaling settings as necessary.


We seem to be going round in circles. Here's some stuff I posted 18 months ago:



This is how it is intended to look immediately below the chair base:

index.php


The plug dimensions (pink+red) are taken directly from the prototype at 1" inside the chair base all round, so for an S1 chair the plug is 6" x 12.5" (2.0mm x 4.17mm in 4mm/ft scale).

The socket dimensions (green) are then set so that there is an easy fit or small clearance at the sides of the plug, and an interference overlap (red) at each end of the plug to create a bash press-fit. In the FDM bases this causes the plastic to be deformed sideways into the green clearance spaces, creating a firm interference fit and an accurate track gauge. In the CNC milled bases, the MDF material compresses to produce the same result. The idea of a bash fit is that it is more tolerant of variations in socket size (caused by the fixed printer resolution) than a traditional engineering press-fit.

I'm not too sure how this would work best in plywood bases, and without my own precision laser-cutter to conduct experiments it is difficult to find out. I imagine the red overlap might need to be increased to achieve a firm fit, by reducing the socket length. Alternatively you might need to abandon the idea of a press-fit and glue the chairs in place.



I don't think anything much has changed with regard to laser-cutting.

For FDM I have since introduced the easy assembly clip-fit option, which allows for a greater socket clearance to accommodate the variations and rounding effects in different FDM printers, while still retaining the chair firmly in the timber. But it still requires a close fit at the socket ends to ensure an accurate track gauge.

All the default socket size settings:


View attachment 8465

View attachment 8464


have been derived from trials with FDM printers, so I would expect them to need changes for laser-cutting (and CNC milling).

I think perhaps I should post a bit more about FDM printing, to restore the balance of discussions here on Templot Club. I'm sure there are more users interested in that than in using smoke and mirrors. :)

cheers,

Martin.
Having only just started into this, pls excuse me if this has already been suggested and or dismissed somewhere in else in one of the tomes...
The idea I had after reading about tolerance, kerf, fit issues etc with PlugTrack using laser cut timbers was to provide extra vertical fins of a sort, perhaps in pairs, on the long sides of the plug base. These would press into the ply ensuring a tighter fit over a wider range of aperture sizes perhaps. Indeed, maybe the aperture could be made to be a looser general fit? Perhaps there could be more than a pair on each side?

Plug track suggestion for laser cut.png



Cheers,
Phil Insull
 
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I've had some fun today cutting timbering bases for my challenge project, and experimenting with pre-painted chairs.
The chairs have had a dusting of a suitable colour from the airbrush, and thus far, I've had no issues fitting the loose outer jaws. The chairs and timbers will all bet a more thorough treatment at the laying stage, but so far it all looks pretty good. :)
The timber has been coloured with Coloron Jacobean Oak wood dye, applied sparingly with a cotton bud. I think it's a reasonable starting point for later weathering.
2.jpg
3.jpg
Plug 1.jpg
5.jpg
4.jpg
 
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Hi Phil, I'm using Press-Fit. I've moved the Press-fit adjuster to read 140, so part way between firm and bash-fit which gives a very solid fit which I am most happy with. I'm also using the slightest smear of a school-type PVA on the turnout chairs, as a precaution rather than necessity. Just enough to reassure me, but a tiny amount such that the chairs are easily removable if need be. I thought it worth doing as I'm treating these as test pieces and it will be some time before they are fitted down. My concern was that should the timbering base flex in the interim (especially with rail fitted) that chairs might loosen.
So far so good.
 
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Hi James,
Another good video, interesting how the frame of this offering is all in one piece, I guess the good news you know its square, the not so good news is, that must prevent any sort of expansion of the working bed area. is that right?

I was especially interested in the etching of the arch and the cutting out of the B8.
The obvious question which you did not address on the video, which I can understand why. Is simply which did you find the better machine the Falcon 2? or the Atomstack x24 pro?

Also more out of curiosity, which machine did you use to cut most of the Jubilee project trackwork on? Or the sneak peak of the wagon hoist.
cheers
Phil,
 
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Hi Phil,
I really can't decide which of the two machines I prefer. Both work really well, and both have pros and cons. The slightly larger bed of the Creality machine is a plus, but the Atomstack machine has the laser cross-hair and a more powerful air assist.
I'd be happy with both.
As for my Jubilee project trackwork, that was mostly done using the Creality machine, but there is no difference between the two in terms of quality or cleanliness of cut.
Best,
James
 
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Hi Martin,
Interesting video, certainly points to the likely future developments of the technology.
Few points that James makes that are worth highlighting, I think.
1, Enclosures have to be a good thing, they contain the fumes and make it much easier to exhaust/ scrub them. noting scrubber are not cheap and a good extraction fan I note may not be included (he only showed the vent hose which is quite small)

2, Fire cut out protection is not as good as its is sold to be.(it does create a false sense of security) I have had two small fire now, (trying to cut 9mm ply with a 22W laser with multiple passes not railway related at all). what's interesting is they tend to start after the laser has moved past. IE its hot embers left behind in the wood that start fires. So stopping the laser head will not stop the fire. The best approach is to keep an eye of the job (with the correct PPE on of course).
A squirt bottle full of water is all thats needed to put an ember fire out, but to do that you have to be there watching the job.

3, The use of a true Z axis was always going to happen, they have picked up on what's available in the 3D printing world I.e. auto bed leveling technology.

4, I agree with James when it comes to diode lasers, re the more power the laser has the more the unit weights, so moving it around accurately, becomes a major cost consideration, 20 to 22W is very likely to be the sweet spot for what is need for track building and model work.

5, Lightburn is unquestionably the best laser software on the market today. any machine purchased really needs to work faultlessly with light burn. It sounds as though right now its not quite faultless. Yes Lightburn costs, I paid 60 USD for a a one year licence but its well worth it.
Its also capable of taking a Templot DFX file and making any changes required, IE removing, or repositioning nibs and snibs lines that maybe conflicting at crossovers etc. so it can be used as an alternative to a cad package certainly where export DXF for laser work is concerned.

All that said I am not sure I would take a James Dean video as a good recommendation, his appraisal looked to be quite honest. The problem is these days he makes a living out of these sort of videos. He will be getting the machine for free to review. So it's more of a paid advertisement than a true and fair review in IMHO.
I will wait and see if other videos that actually use the we-Creat to make something, such as a practical project come out and see what they say first.
cheers
Phil,
 
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IE removing, or repositioning nibs and snibs lines that maybe conflicting at crossovers etc. so it can be used as an alternative to a cad package
@Phil G

Hi Phil.

You can do that in Templot.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Here is my latest Scale 7 60ft panel and "gadgets":

View attachment 9321
There is more here: https://sites.google.com/site/swanagein3mm/track The S7 stuff is in the bottom half of the page.

That was all using 244c. Just noticed 244d while posting this.

Regards
John Walker
@John Walker

Hi John,

On your web site you say:

I have not used the Templot nibs on the sleepers because I could not find a happy compromise between being strong enough to hold the sleepers while sliding the rail through the chairs and still easy to cut off.

The intention with plug track is that you don't slide the rail through the chairs in situ. That's hard work and gets harder as each fresh chair is encountered. It also means that you can't add dropper wires until after assembly. And you can't have bends in the rail.

The intention with the solid-jaw chairs is that you first slide the chairs onto the rail one at a time, and space them out over the template. A dropper wire can be soldered on between them as needed. The rail with chairs and dropper wire is then inserted vertically into the timber base, locating the chairs over the sockets, and then running a block of wood to and fro along the rail top to progressively firm the chairs fully down into the sockets.

This method means that there is no side force on the timbers to break the nibs. It also means that complex formations can be built by inserting rails in between other rails, and rails can have bends in them where needed, such as in the wing rails at the crossing knuckle bends.

With the loose outer jaws, the chairs can be fitted in the timbering base first. The rail with dropper wire is then dropped vertically onto the chairs, again with no side force on the timbers, and is clipped into place by inserting the loose outer jaws. This method makes it even easier to build pointwork and complex formations where there is more than one rail in a chair. Also the rails can have neat squared-off ends and do not need to be chamfered to permit the chairs to slide on.

When I read of folks sliding rail into a chaired plug track base like assembling a plastic turnout kit, I wonder if there is something I have missed? Or have I failed to explain plug track properly?

Martin.
 
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Hello Martin

One of the attractions of Templot, and especially the plug track, is that it allows so many ways of doing things. I am still experimenting with different ways of building the plug track but I do like to be able to adjust the rail after assembly. This has been important on my O gauge in the garden after expansion and contraction of the rail and I expect it to be so on my scale 7 Hamworthy layout which will be housed in the conservatory. Hint: a flat bladed screwdriver at a rail join and a tap from a small hammer are very handy tools for this.

My current plan for drop wires is the same as on my 14.2 track using 3mm Society chairs. I cut the chairs in half and drill a hole through a sleeper under the rail. The drop wire, or better still a pin with a flat head, is soldered to the underside of the rail and feeds to the underside of the baseboard through the hole. The join is cleaned up in line with the foot of the rail and the half chairs fitted either side. A plug track chair can be neatly cut in half using a junior hacksaw blade between the jaws leaving the half plugs intact. The half chairs can then be installed either side of the rail. The only down side of this approach is finding the chair with the drop wires from above the baseboard!

I don't think you have missed anything. As you say, this is an experiment. It attracts folk with a similar state of mind. I think you are right to leave user documentation while development continues but it has left the likes of myself, who has been using Templot for longer than I can remember, a huge learning curve to climb on the history of plug track development. Keep up the good work.

Regards
John Walker
 
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One of the attractions of Templot, and especially the plug track, is that it allows so many ways of doing things.
Hi John,
A very well made point, There will always be Martin's preferred way to do things, as planning these things out, is a prerequisite of actually designing anything in the first place. For many folks simply following this approach, will be all that is required to take full advantage of Plug track.
There are also people who like to experiment in there own right, and plug track is a superb tool for that application as well.
I don't see any real conflict with either approach. Simply appreciation of Martin's efforts to get plug track into existence, and available to us all.
cheers
Phil,
 
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message ref: 11208
Hi John,
A very well made point, There will always be Martin's preferred way to do things, as planning these things out, is a prerequisite of actually designing anything in the first place. For many folks simply following this approach, will be all that is required to take full advantage of Plug track.
There are also people who like to experiment in there own right, and plug track is a superb tool for that application as well.
I don't see any real conflict with either approach. Simply appreciation of Martin's efforts to get plug track into existence, and available to us all.
cheers
Phil,
@Phil G @John Walker @James Walters @Hayfield

Hi Phil,

I'm happy for folks to do whatever they wish in and with Templot. My only concern is that they make an informed decision -- i.e. that they know how things are intended to work, before deciding to ignore it and do their own thing instead.

In fact they might discover a better way, and share it with us, so that I can incorporate it into Templot. That has happened a few times over the years.

But it would be a shame if someone was disappointed with the results or got into a pickle simply because they didn't know what was the intended way of working. There are quite a few areas where plug track differs from traditional track-building methods, so simply blinding on assuming that everything is the same as before would be a mistake. The way to avoid that is to read all the stuff about plug track here, but how to get folks to do that before jumping in at the deep end is a mystery I have never been able to work out.

An example of that would be the hundreds of pages written over the years about how to make a crossing vee. On web sites, in the society manuals, in magazine articles, in books, in videos. I've written about it myself quite a few times. I made and supplied hundreds of them when I was supplying pointwork kits and components all those years ago (it's 50 years ago this year since I started doing that). There are still traders making and supplying assembled vees.

But for plug track you don't make a vee. The point and splice rails are inserted separately into the crossing chairs, not even necessarily at the same time. It's not essential that they be soldered together, but that can be done very easily (and invisibly) in situ after assembly. Using a smear of SMT paste (solder cream) applied into the web of the point rail before adding the splice rail. The resin chairs will resist soldering temperatures for quite a while, sufficient to apply a dry soldering iron to the rails and flash the SMT paste. It works best if the rails have been prepared using the 3D-printed filing jigs, so that they match exactly the angle in the chairs and fit snugly.

Another example is how much easier it is to attach dropper wires to the rail before assembly. And to the underside of the rail where they are barely visible, instead of to the side of the rail.

Martin.
 
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message ref: 11209
But for plug track you don't make a vee. The point and splice rails are inserted separately into the crossing chairs, not even necessarily at the same time. It's not essential that they be soldered together, but that can be done very easily (and invisibly) in situ after assembly. Using a smear of SMT paste (solder cream) applied into the web of the point rail before adding the splice rail. The resin chairs will resist soldering temperatures for quite a while, sufficient to apply a dry soldering iron to the rails and flash the SMT paste. It works best if the rails have been prepared using the 3D-printed filing jigs, so that they match exactly the angle in the chairs in the chairs and fit snugly.
Hi Martin,
I fully understand what your saying in your post 11209, and I don't disagree with you at all. As I said in my previous post in order to develop Plug track you had to have a build concept in mind. what you have created is nothing short of brilliant.

I also agree there is currently no "official book of words" on how to use plug track so to speak. to make the Informed decisions you talk about. There are however a lot of posts, which if you read them clearly spell out current best practice thinking. And then there are the very good videos by James.
However even if a concise written methodology did exist to make all the Informed decisions. You can't make everybody do it that way. All you can do is explain the thinking behind the concept. Which as you have already said you have done many times over.

In the end everybody has a choice how they approach a project.
As you rightly say, some people will still do thing's the old way, simply because thats what they do.
People do have a right to try things out, also as you say sometimes out of the strangest of ideas may come an unexpected positive results. :)

However the quote above cuts right to the heart of it. It could be construed as, "this is the only way to make a crossing vee with plug track".
It's the best way to do it for sure. Its also the way to get the best out of plug track as a design concept. It certainly takes full advantage of your equally brilliant filing jigs. It is certainly the way I now do it. And personally I can't see any reason why not to splice the vee rails.

But its not the only way.

People could if they wished, still mix and match current plug track methodology with older though processes.
I am not sure why they would, maybe they have some old proprietary Vee crossings as an example. Which may well need some mods to the critical chairs to get them to work correctly. If thats what they want to do, they can. I don't even see a problem if they post there results, as long as they don't say. "This is the correct way to use plug track".

I am personally all about options and choices, So people need to be free to experiment and report there results, even if its not something I think would work for me.

cheers
Phil,
 
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@James Walters

Another laser review from James. Laser-cut baseboards? Laser-cut instead of etched brass?




Martin.
 
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Hi Martin & Terry,
Sorry, I've been a little off-duty recently trying to catch-up with lots of things, including getting the baseboards for my challenge layout built so that I can have some properly functioning Plug Track for display at Scaleforum.
Terry, it's my understanding that brass is a no-no, the LED light simply will not mark it, but stainless seems to work. I will be experimenting with nickel-silver as this may work. It would be great if it did, so fingers-crossed.
What is needed for brass work is a fibre laser, but these are way beyond my budget.
By the way, this 60W laser is a beast - totally over the top for our sort of work but fun to play with. I cut 22mm Oak yesterday (single pass) and used it to weld some thin steel, which is bonkers for a desktop machine sold into a hobby market. I'm glad it has flame detection. :)

James
 
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I will be experimenting with nickel-silver as this may work. It would be great if it did, so fingers-crossed.
I've experimented with nickel-silver with my Comgrow 20W laser, it etched the surface nicely but little cutting action. For scratch building it might be useful for etching a CAD drawing directly onto the surface as a marking out guide for cutting with a piercing saw.
 
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Hi Martin & Terry,
Sorry, I've been a little off-duty recently trying to catch-up with lots of things, including getting the baseboards for my challenge layout built so that I can have some properly functioning Plug Track for display at Scaleforum.
Terry, it's my understanding that brass is a no-no, the LED light simply will not mark it, but stainless seems to work. I will be experimenting with nickel-silver as this may work. It would be great if it did, so fingers-crossed.
What is needed for brass work is a fibre laser, but these are way beyond my budget.
By the way, this 60W laser is a beast - totally over the top for our sort of work but fun to play with. I cut 22mm Oak yesterday (single pass) and used it to weld some thin steel, which is bonkers for a desktop machine sold into a hobby market. I'm glad it has flame detection. :)

James
Hi James, I have a Falcon2 22W and it's brilliant for everything I need for timbers, buildings etc. I was wondering whether the extra oomph of 60W laser power would cut thin brass/steel etc rather than buying etched parts. I had not found any success online so, Your comments confirm its not worth upgrading.
 
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Hi James, I have a Falcon2 22W and it's brilliant for everything I need for timbers, buildings etc. I was wondering whether the extra oomph of 60W laser power would cut thin brass/steel etc rather than buying etched parts. I had not found any success online so, Your comments confirm its not worth upgrading.
@Terry Downes @James Walters

Hi Terry,

James has shown it cutting through a Stanley blade, which is 0.6mm steel.

This is 0.2mm (8thou) steel:

https://modelshop.co.uk/Shop/Item/Steel-tinplate-0-2-260-470mm-Pk4/ITM8199

That's tinplate -- tin-coated steel sheet. In the olden days before etched brass many models were constructed from tinplate. It's cheap, and it solders beautifully because of the tin coating.

(It can even be free, if you flatten tin cans, such as the ones motor oil used to come in.)

It's not so amenable to chemical etching, which is why we went over to copper alloys such as brass and nickel-silver for intricate kits and parts.

But if such parts can be cut from tinplate using a laser-cutter, it opens up a whole new set of possibilities for model-making.

That might be a big IF. James?

Martin.
 
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@Terry Downes @James Walters

Hi Terry,

James has shown it cutting through a Stanley blade, which is 0.6mm steel.

This is 0.2mm (8thou) steel:

https://modelshop.co.uk/Shop/Item/Steel-tinplate-0-2-260-470mm-Pk4/ITM8199

That's tinplate -- tin-coated steel sheet. In the olden days before etched brass many models were constructed from tinplate. It's cheap, and it solders beautifully because of the tin coating.

(It can even be free, if you flatten tin cans, such as the ones motor oil used to come in.)

It's not so amenable to chemical etching, which is why we went over to copper alloys such as brass and nickel-silver for intricate kits and parts.

But if such parts can be cut from tinplate using a laser-cutter, it opens up a whole new set of possibilities for model-making.

That might be a big IF. James?

Martin.
Thanks Martin, I have just ordered some of this tinplate and will give it a go on my 22w Falcon2 laser. I'll post some results when I have something worth reporting.
 
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Thanks Martin, I have just ordered some of this tinplate and will give it a go on my 22w Falcon2 laser. I'll post some results when I have something worth reporting.
@Terry Downes @James Walters

Hi Terry,

Great. (y) The results will be very interesting.

If you can improvise some sort of register pins you might be able to turn it over and cut from both sides. That would require a cut of only 0.1mm (4 thou) deep.

It might even be beneficial to leave a thin wafer at the core to keep the sheet in one piece, which can be broken apart as needed. That way there would be no need for the tabs between the parts which are used in etched kits.

p.s. 4D also have a slightly more expensive version:

https://modelshop.co.uk/Shop/Item/Steel-tinplate-0-2-260-450mm-Pk4/ITM1073

It's not clear what the difference is, apart from the smaller size. But it's described as semi-gloss finish instead of shiny, which might make a difference for the laser.

Martin.
 
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I'm going to have a try too, although I expect there to be some issues with the tin burning, probably best not to have a go with the 'old stock' tin plate I have here due to the lead content.
I'd ordered some .3mm stainless sheet, but that seems to have been lost according to the tracking, which is why I had a go at the Stanley blade in the video. From what I've seen, curling-up seems to be the main issue with thin stock.

Terry, I completely agree about not upgrading from 22W. There's a case for going to 40W in my opinion - but only to increase speed in a production setting, which we don't do. 60w to me feels like too much power for such a small machine and I'm not convinced the cooling fans or air-assist are really up to the job long-term, but that's just a gut feeling, I've no evidence to back that up..
When no-one is looking, I'm going to connect my workshop compressor to the air-assist line - I think that'll be quite the upgrade. Best not to try it just yet though as I'm not sure if or when they might want it back. :)

Best,
James
 
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60w to me feels like too much power for such a small machine and I'm not convinced the cooling fans or air-assist are really up to the job long-term, but that's just a gut feeling, I've no evidence to back that up..
@James Walters

Hi James,

I know nothing about laser-cutters, but I have worked EDM (spark-erosion) machines.

I'm wondering if laser-cutting of metal would be improved with a water-assist instead of air? (Or some other non-flammable liquid.) This would be much more effective at cooling, and washing away debris from the kerf line.

With the right equipment it needn't be any more messy than using cutting fluid (suds) on metal-cutting machines.

Martin.
 
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If you can improvise some sort of register pins you might be able to turn it over and cut from both sides. That would require a cut of only 0.1mm (4 thou) deep.

You don't need register pins, I've set mine up with a cheap laser cross-hairs mounted on the side and use the Lightburn offset x-y option. I've been using it for etching the planking on the inside and outside of some PO wagons made from thin ply.

I can flip it over get the alignment set on the corner and etch the planking on the other side.

cross-1.jpg


It's accurate enough to align the laser to etch lettering on the plank as well.

cross-2.jpg
 
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Hi James, I have a Falcon2 22W and it's brilliant for everything I need for timbers, buildings etc. I was wondering whether the extra oomph of 60W laser power would cut thin brass/steel etc rather than buying etched parts. I had not found any success online so, Your comments confirm its not worth upgrading.

Did you try this firm. Seem to specialise is laser cut metal for the modeller and a few users on Western Thunder have tried them with favourable results.
https://www.modelengineerslaser.co.uk/
 
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When no-one is looking, I'm going to connect my workshop compressor to the air-assist line - I think that'll be quite the upgrade. Best not to try it just yet though as I'm not sure if or when they might want it back.
Just make sure the workpiece is adequately held on the base plate!! I've been cutting some foam for stock boxes [ yes I did check the data sheet prior to cutting ] and had to dial back on the air assist as it was working under and lifting the foam as it was being cut.
 
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Did you try this firm. Seem to specialise is laser cut metal for the modeller and a few users on Western Thunder have tried them with favourable results.
https://www.modelengineerslaser.co.uk/
I used them in the past for some 5" gauge bits and pieces and the results were excellent. To my knowledge they don't sell material, just parts cut from metal.
I used to work as a fabricator/welder and would regularly get steel parts laser cut, or for very thick plate >25mm I'd use a water jet service. Water jetting doesn't flame harden the cut edges as a laser does which is worth bearing in mind if there are subsequent finishing processes to be done. I once had a job to produce a number of 600mm diameter pipe flanges, each with about 16 25mm dia. bolt holes around the flange.
I'd planned to cut them with oxy-propane and drill all the holes. It turned-out that they were cheaper to get water-jet cut with tremendous precision, than I could buy the material for. My labour for that job was about 5 minutes CAD work. Needless to say I didn't let on to the customer. :D
Which reminds me that I had all the plate work for my LNER V1 loco water jetted in brass and the parts were fantastic. I used Sciss in Staplehurst, Kent.

But back to our smaller models, I think that chemical etching is still the preferred method for our parts, but that laser etching the artwork onto the etch resist is a potentially interesting way forward. I've got etching equipment in my workshop, and a 100m of etch resist film so testing it out is on my list of things to do. So little time though. :(
 
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