Experimental Plug Track: 3D-printed, CNC-milled, laser-cut

Trevor

Member
Location
Morecambe
Hello Martin,
Maybe a flashing header that comes up automatically to advise users they are unsupported when they click on the Experimental option?
Regards
Trevor :)
 
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Trevor

Member
Location
Morecambe
Hello again,
I may have to take the cover off my Reprap Mendel filament printer. I built it then calibrated it but then covered i up some years ago. This 3D printing lark can become pretty obsessive especially when others are encouraging.
Regards.
Trevor. :)
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
@Paul Boyd

Bright red tends to be seen as an error or warning of some kind, so I'm a bit reluctant to have a big splash of red on the screen.

But we can do you a nice orange. :)

View attachment 2267

Martin.
That’s ok, I think! Definitely not flashing though, @Trevor , at least, not continuously! Some of us get ocular migraine, migraine with aura, silent migraine, whatever the current name is (often just called “the jaggies”) and flashing lights can be a trigger.

I seem to be printing some owls on my new 3D printer 😀
 
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Charles Orr

Member
Location
Leicester UK
Wow Martin!
I've just installed 228z and had a quick play.
Exported an stl file which opened perfectly in Simplify3d and Prusa Slic3r.
I've sliced it and will now try printing it.
Superb work, I'm very impressed.

Charles
 
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Martin Wynne

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Some notes about 228z:

_3dexp1.png


Entering experimental mode shows apricot colour behind the top tool buttons as a reminder it's in force, and there is a new section at the bottom of the program menu. There's a shortcut to the DXF exports and access to the timbering bricks functions (only half-done yet).


_3dexp2.png


This setting is template-specific. That means it is included in the BOX files for templates. Note that you can switch it on and off for any template, but it won't have any effect unless you are in experimental mode.


With the chairing switched on, this is the additional detail which you see on the trackpad when zoomed-in:

_3dexp3.png


1. timber outline.

2. black lines -- cutter kerf line for laser cutters. Outside the timbers, inside the sockets.

3. extent of the timber flanges.

4. chair base outline.

5. chair base corner radius.

6. socket outline. The default size is derived from the centres of the base corner radii. For REA S1 chairs, that's 6" wide x 12.5" long.

7. chair plug outline. There is a small clearance from the socket on the sides, and a smaller clearance at the ends.

8. outline of the plug at the bottom, allowing for the bottom taper on the plug.

9. plug corner relief angles. Small for FDM and laser-cut sockets. Larger for CNC milled sockets.

10. outline of the top of the support pyramid below the plug.

11. outline of the bottom of the support pyramid.

12. chair screw/bolt centres.

All the above can be adjusted via the buttons on the DXF export dialog (except 4, 5, 12). They are shown on the trackpad so that you can see the effect of any changes (after rebuilding the templates). The chair dimensions 4, 5, 12, are set in the custom chairs dialog (not yet done).

The above detail will significantly slow down the screen response, so you won't want to have it switched on while doing track design. For the background templates, you can switch some of it off on the background details dialog:

_3dexp4.png


n.b. none of this detail is yet shown on the printed templates, PDF files, exported image files or sketchboard.

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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_3dexp5.png


1. as I said, it's all experimental/unfinished. These 3 buttons all do exactly the same thing, because I forgot to sort them out before releasing 228z, and there is no way yet to set the splint width. On the other hand, if I wait until everything is finished I never will release anything. :(

2. use this button to set all the socket and plug dimensions and fits. I know it's a long way from the other ones, and logically they should be together.

3. if you change anything, remember to click this button before exporting the file.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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With 228z available, some detailed notes about this dialog are needed:

dxf_exp2.png


But as it changes almost daily at present, it's difficult. If you are reading this after 30th September 2021, bear in mind that almost certainly there will have been some significant changes since then.

1. In an ideal world it would all be explained by clicking the help button. In practice, those notes haven't changed since written in 1998, so they won't be much help now. On the other hand you ought to read them, because most of that stuff still applies. One fine day when the 3D stuff is finalised and fully tested I will re-write them, or a Companion page, but there is no point in doing that while this dialog is in constant flux.

2. The first thing to set is whether you want a 2-D or 3-D file export.

2-D files will be wanted for importing into CAD and CAM programs for use with laser-cutters, CNC millers, etc., and for track and layout design in CAD programs.

3-D files are wanted for 3D printing, and for layout visualisations and walk-throughs in CAD rendering programs.

If you select 2-D for the DXF file, you can also optionally have a matching EMF* metafile (not yet implemented) for use in graphics design and drawing programs, some of which can't import DXF files from Templot.

Small 2-D DXF files can also be re-imported into Templot's background shapes, and EMF files can be displayed on the sketchboard or loaded as background picture shapes. By such means you can see what is being exported even if you don't have any CAD or graphics program which can import the files.


If you select 3-D for the DXF file, you can also optionally have a matching STL file for use with 3D printing software.


3. If you leave everything on the default settings and click the export DXF button, this is what you get when imported into a CAD program:

dxf_exp1.png

i.e. a 2-D file containing almost everything except the 3-D chair detail, as thin single lines.

It shows the timber outlines (with extensions), timber flanges and webs, chair base outlines, chair screw/bolt positions, and socket outlines (in red), and the kerf cutter lines for laser and other cutters (in green and blue). Plus timber centre-lines, track centre-lines, dotted and solid background shapes, and the timber numbering. Plus the rails of course.

It's very unlikely that you would want all of this at the same time, it would be usual to switch off the unwanted items before exporting a 2-D file. For example you won't want the timber and socket outlines, and the kerf cutter lines, at the same time. Just one or the other. Alternatively, because each item is in its own DXF layer, items can be switched on and off, or have colours changed, in most CAD programs.

Some of the above items can also be switched off in the generator settings in the usual way -- Templot can only export what has been generated.

A lot of this is meaningless for 3-D purposes, such as the track centre-lines, other dashed and dotted lines, timber numbers, etc., and is automatically excluded from 3-D files. Optionally the background shapes can take on new meanings in 3-D files -- rectangles can become support slabs for 3D chair printing, lines can become timbering splints, target marks can become timbering brick connector clips.

More about all this to follow.

*EMF files can also be exported as image files at output > export a file. In that case they can include thick lines, solid areas of colour, background maps and images, etc., but don't match the DXF 2-D export.

p.s. 2-D and 3-D are hyphenated like that when referring to files, and not hyphenated when referring to processes, such as 3D printing. I'm not too sure why I'm doing that, but having started I shall carry on.

Martin.
 
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Hi Martin,
Thanks for producing such concise & clear documentation.
Even if Templot does evolve further this is all really usefull information, and probably a good aide memoire.

Pity there isnt a
1632995908777.png
icon in the "good" options as I would have awarded you one!

Steve
 
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Martin Wynne

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An important difference between 2-D and 3-D files is that the resin/polymer shrinkage allowance is added to all 3-D dimensions, but is ignored in 2-D files:

dxf_exp3.png


This means that if both a 3-D file and a corresponding 2-D file are imported into some software at the same time, they won't match. To export a 3-D file without any shrinkage allowance, matching the corresponding 2-D file, change this setting to zero. Some 3D CAM software also adds a shrinkage allowance, so make sure you are not adding the allowance twice. You may need some trial and error to find the correct shrinkage factor for your equipment and materials. If you do both FDM and resin printing, it's likely that the respective shrinkage factors will differ.

Now here's a 2-D DXF file re-imported into the background shapes in Templot. This provides a means of seeing, and printing out if needed, what is in the DXF export if you don't have any other software which can import DXF files. And also a means of comparing a DXF file with the current track plan -- useful if you have made some changes and want to see the before and after effect at the same time, without adding and grouping the old templates. The background shapes can be displayed in any colour on the trackpad.

dxf_import2.png


Obviously I need to look at the font sizes, I must have changed something since the last time I tried this -- although they do become readable if you zoom in:

dxf_import1.png


Note that the DXF import is a long-standing function and works fine in normal mode, it doesn't need experimental mode. Likewise the long-standing 2-D DXF exports if you don't need the new chairing functions.

And I do mean long-standing -- this stuff hasn't changed much since the beginning. My AutoCAD manual with the DXF spec I'm using is dated 1985. :)

The DXF import works only with 2-D files, it won't import the 3-D DXF files. At present it just ignores them without any explanation or error message, so that's something else I need to look at. :(

More to follow.

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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You may have noticed this menu item:

2_031310_320000000.png


The relevant discussion is at:

https://85a.uk/templot/archive/topics/topic_3230.php

But I haven't heard from Adam since.

XTrackCAD is still going strong:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/xtrkcad-fork/

https://xtrackcad.groups.io/g/main

But there's no obvious interest at present in integration with Templot (unless you know different) -- still no DXF import in the recent upgrade.

I'm going to remove the above menu stuff because it's getting in the way of the recent DXF changes. If there is interest in future it can be reinstated, or more likely start again with something different.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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A few more notes and exp: experimental work in progress:

dxf_combos.png


These combo boxes serve 2 purposes:

1. when blank, the corresponding layer is omitted from the DXF export. This applies to both 2-D and 3-D files. A quick way to set it blank is to right-click on it.

2. when not blank, it shows the colour used for each layer in 2-D files. For 3-D files some of the actual colours used are overridden by the settings on the 3-D chair colours ... button, but the presence of some other non-blank colour in the combo box continues to act as the on/off switch for the layer.

exp: currently the DXF colour codes are taken directly from the combo index, which means there is a limited range of colours available, biased towards shades of red. I'm intending to have a wider range of colours available from a look-up table, which will mean the 3-D chair colours ... button will be unnecessary. Work in progress.

Colours and layers have no meaning in STL files, so if your only interest is in the STL file for 3D printing, it doesn't matter what colours are set anywhere, only the fact that the combo box is or isn't blank is relevant. STL files can be exported only when the DXF file is set to 3-D.

Switching a layer on doesn't cause anything to be exported if the corresponding data is not being generated (generator menu), or if none of the templates contain such data (such as all templates set to no timbering, etc.).

Not all of the layers are included in 3-D files, such as track centre-lines, radial centres, dotted background shapes, etc., which have no meaning in a 3-D representation. exp: This isn't entirely consistent yet, I'm still working on it. Some of these layers are in the 3-D files at present even though they are always empty.

A quick way to change a lot of settings in one go is to click these buttons:

dxf_combos_change.png


which make all the (default) setting changes needed for 3D printing the timbering bricks, or alternatively 3D printing the chairs. For 2-D timbering files for laser-cutting or CNC-milling you might need some further changes.

The line style combo boxes apply to 2-D files only and have no meaning in 3-D.

I imagine many folks will be interested only in STL files (for 3D printing) and have no interest in the DXF settings. exp: I'm intending to create a separate simplified dialog for STL exports, but like so many things that's not yet done.

At present we have a grand total of 34 possible DXF layers:

layer_str[ 0]:='RAILS|';
layer_str[ 1]:='ADJTRACK|';
layer_str[ 2]:='CENTLINE|';
layer_str[ 3]:='TIMBOUTL|';
layer_str[ 4]:='SLEEPEND|';
layer_str[ 5]:='TIMBCENT|';
layer_str[ 6]:='GDMARKS|';
layer_str[ 7]:='RADMARKS|';
layer_str[ 8]:='RADCENTS|';
layer_str[ 9]:='JOINTS|';
layer_str[10]:='SBGSHAPE|';
layer_str[11]:='DBGSHAPE|';
layer_str[12]:='INFOTEXT|';
layer_str[13]:='TIMBNUMB|';
layer_str[14]:='RLSIDE3D|'; // 3-D rail section
layer_str[15]:='CHBOLTHD|';
layer_str[16]:='CHAIRS|';
layer_str[17]:='TIMBER3D|'; // 3-D timbers
layer_str[18]:='CHMARKER|';
layer_str[19]:='CHBOLTBO|';
layer_str[20]:='CHINJAW|';
layer_str[21]:='CHOUTJAW|';
layer_str[22]:='CHKEYS|';
layer_str[23]:='CHSOCKET|'; // chair sockets
layer_str[24]:='TIMBSPRU|'; // timber sprues
layer_str[25]:='TIMBFLNG|'; // timber side, end flanges
layer_str[26]:='SOLEPLAT|'; // switch sole plates
layer_str[27]:='TIMBWEBS|'; // timber webs
layer_str[28]:='BKSPLINT|'; // brick splints
layer_str[29]:='BKCONN|'; // brick connectors
layer_str[30]:='SYMBOLS|'; // dropper symbols
layer_str[31]:='DROPID|'; // dropper ID text
layer_str[32]:='KERFTIMB|'; // timber outline with laser kerf adjustment
layer_str[33]:='KERFSOCK|'; // chair sockets with laser kerf adjustment


But that may yet change. Layers which never appear in 2-D files and do not have a corresponding combo box, such as the chair keys (CHKEYS) are switched on and off via the tickboxes on the left.

exp: Some layers are for the future and not yet implemented anywhere in Templot (e.g. switch sole plates) or still work in progress (e.g. brick connectors)

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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I've been working on the brick connector clips and added a couple of new mouse actions.

Here's a bit of very scruffy video showing work in progress:

https://flashbackconnect.com/Default.aspx?id=FV_gjzhnwQRTtJ_u0-rg0Q2

with this result:

brick_clips.png


It uses the background shapes. In 3-D exports, line shapes become brick splints, and target marks become connector clips, if the corresponding layers are switched on. If not they are exported as the existing background shapes, as in the 2-D files.

The actual Tommy-clip part is quite small, as it needs to be to fit between the timbering. The overall clip size can be adjusted to accommodate varying timber spacings, but not the Tommy-clip part (without going into the full DXF customising).

The clip can be beefed up by making it thicker, but then it's more trouble to hide it in the ballast. Normally there would be only a few clips on any given brick, so that may be worth doing. In which case size it sufficiently to connect into the timber, rather than just the side flanges. The mesh repair tool sorts out the conflicts. But you can't go too far into the timber, otherwise the clip will break into the sockets.

Templot will decide which way the clip should face, but if you want to swap it the other way you can do that on the size adjustment, as shown in the video.

Ideally Templot would do all the sizing and fitting automatically, but so far my attempts at such an algorithm are a dismal failure, so it's back to the human eye and the mouse. No doubt we will soon develop some tips and tricks for choosing the best brick outlines and clip positions.

When fitting two bricks together, there will be conflicting bits of webbing on the end timbers, which will need to be trimmed off with snips. In the screenshot above I cheated by doing it in the image editor. :)

Here's another screenshot:

brick_clips1.png


I will try to get another trial update out soon.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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I have added a few duplicate functions to the menu:

brick_clips2.png


So that multiple clips can be added and adjusted with the background shapes dialog resized smaller out of the way.

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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After years of doing my best to prevent it, the toolbars have finally gained a 3rd row. :(

At this rate, Templot will soon resemble those programs where you perform keyhole surgery in a tiny space in the middle of the screen, surrounded by massed ranks of icons, buttons, panels and lists. :)

store_marker_colour.png


Yet another tickbox. This one causes a background template to gain a marker colour as it is being stored. Much faster than selecting it and setting the colour later -- this could prove very handy. Click the colour to change it.

But the actual reason for it now is in connection with the timbering bricks. I have scrubbed the previous brick definition method based on individual timbers, it was far too tedious and clunky.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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Signs of progress -- a couple of brick files. Each one contains parts of several templates:

bricks_3.png


This is what it looks like on the screen. Bricks are colour-coded in order to link them to the splints and clips in the DXF export:

bricks_1.png


bricks_2.png


But we are not there yet. For example where timbers are interlaced, the flanges and webs are breaking into the sockets:

bricks_4.png


And I made a silly mistake in putting a clip too close to the web.

Still a lot to do before I can finally get back to the special chairs. It's now 5 years since I did the S1 chairs. Don't know where that time went.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Hi Martin,
How did you manage to get part of one template and part of another template separated from their respective templates and then joined on one brick. For instance the yellow brick?
Sorry if I have not been paying attention.
Steve
 
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Martin Wynne

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@Steve_Cornford

Hi Steve,

You have been paying attention. I haven't written the explanation yet. :)

It's doable with the existing Templot functions, but I have added some new ones to make it easier and to link the clips and splints to the brick. It's all based on the template marker colours.

I'm hoping to release another experimental update later today or tomorrow, and I will write a more detailed explanation then.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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Overnight FDM brick production:

cura_test_brick1.jpg


cura_test_brick2.jpg


EM gauge. 0.6mm actual nozzle, programmed as 0.5mm in the slicer. I went back to Cura for the slicing -- for the top surface smoothing ("ironing") function, although it adds 33% to the print time. Reduced the print temperature from 195 to 180 degrees, which made a big improvement to the stringing problem. I've no idea of course whether that is the actual temperature of the nozzle -- without some accurate sensing and calibration of the thermistor, eveything is purely relative, trial and error. The webbing is very messy (the camera makes it look worse), but it all gets lost under the ballast -- I need an "insert dummy ballast" function in my graphics editor. :)

The sockets were a fraction too short for the intended plugs, so in theory needed some adjustment of the tolerance. But instead I tried the chairs which I made for the CNC milled sockets, with the increased corner relief on the plugs. They were similarly too long for the sockets, but because of the reduced end area of the plug, I found that a sharp tap on the rail top with a toffee hammer seated them firmly down into the timber, with a tight interference fit in the socket. I'm wondering if I have hit on (sorry!) the best way forward? With such a bash interference fit, slight variations in the size of plug or socket are not so critical. Although the PLA-Plus resin is tough, it appears to be softer than the cured chair resin, to make such a method feasible:

index.php


For anyone wondering whether to get an FDM printer or a CNC miller (which cost roughly the same), here are the same chairs in a one-piece milled MDF timbering base:

index.php


I'm fortunate in having both, but if I had to choose just one it would be a difficult decision. There are strong pros and cons for each.

There are a few changes I want to make to the design of the clips, to remove the visible "elephant's foot", but I'm still hoping to post another experimental program version later today.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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