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  • 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 Some of the earlier pages of this topic are now out-of-date.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 post.   For some practical modelling aspects of using Plug Track see The Book of Plug 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.

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

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Martin Wynne

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@Steve_Cornford

Hi Steve,

Two months on from that and my rusty brain finally remembered that I have another excellent 3D CAD program installed here -- and it's free.

Snappily named DesignSparkMechanical from RS Components:


View attachment 4796

Download: https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/mechanical-download-and-installation

To download you need a (free) account with RS but you probably already have one for ordering screws, connecting wire and suchlike. Easy to register if not.

It is aimed at getting folks started in 3D designing and 3D printing, for engineering-type applications. It won't open DXFs from Templot, but it does open STLs from Templot, both original (usually with some warnings) and fixed, after the mesh repair service. It can integrate with the Cura slicer for FDM printing. It works only in 3D, there is no option to print conventional 2D engineering drawings in the free version*.

Unlike Fusion360 it doesn't require an internet connection while running or make you jump through hoops to prove you are not using it commercially. Even if you don't intend to do any designing, it makes a nice STL viewer. There is a detailed beginners guide and tutorial in the right-hand column on the screen.

Having remembered it, I can't think why I haven't been making more use of it, instead of the more traditional TurboCAD:




If anyone is thinking of getting a 3D printer on the strength of plug track, this is an excellent free program to make the most of the printer and get into 3D CAD design.

* the paid-for 2D version appears to have been temporarily withdrawn because of its reliance on Internet Explorer.

cheers,

Martin.

RS have today released DesignSpark Mechanical 6, which has been a long time coming. There are new paid-for versions with increased functions, but the basic program remains free.

The paid-for versions are free until the end of March, i.e. you get 2 months free.

More info and download:

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/subscriptions-pricing-page

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/mechanical-software

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
RS have today released DesignSpark Mechanical 6, which has been a long time coming. There are new paid-for versions with increased functions, but the basic program remains free.

The paid-for versions are free until the end of March, i.e. you get 2 months free.

More info and download:

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/subscriptions-pricing-page

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/mechanical-software

cheers,

Martin.
Hi Martin,

I happened to be on the RS website placing an order when I saw your email, so went to the DesignSpark Mechanical page. The first thing I saw was “Tired of traditional CAD tools with parametric constraints?” as if they’re a bad thing! No, those constraints are what makes these tools much easier to use, and much easier to modify the design! Maybe I’m old-fashioned, or maybe I’m being spoilt using Creo Parametric, but I think I’d struggle using a 3D CAD package without parametric constraints!

I have tried Fusion360 but found it clunky and crash-prone. My only problem with Creo is that it’s only available to me (at home and work) whilst I’m with my current employer.

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Martin Wynne

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@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

I still prefer TurboCAD for proper CAD work, although I don't do much of that nowadays. DSM is 3D-only, and primarily intended for those who want to create parts for 3D printing.

Unlike Fusion360 it is a normal Windows exe, doesn't require an internet connection, saves your files on your own computer, and allows free use for any purpose including commercial. Fusion360 makes you jump through hoops to prove you are not using it for any commercial purpose.

But the main reason for mentioning it here is that it is entirely free and fully functional. Unlike most free CAD software it is not a trial version or full of nag screens or with very restricted functionality. Or at least the last version wasn't. I suspect the new basic version 6 will be the same, because clearly RS regard it as a sales aid for their robotic parts and components. Likewise their electronic components for the PCB version. Hence the free commercial use.

Of course you don't need any of this for plug track, Templot does all the work. But anyone having got a 3D printer is likely to want to create more than just track on it. :)

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

I still prefer TurboCAD for proper CAD work, although I don't do much of that nowadays. DSM is 3D-only, and primarily intended for those who want to create parts for 3D printing.

Unlike Fusion360 it is a normal Windows exe, doesn't require an internet connection, saves your files on your own computer, and allows free use for any purpose including commercial. Fusion360 makes you jump through hoops to prove you are not using it for any commercial purpose.

But the main reason for mentioning it here is that it is entirely free and fully functional. Unlike most free CAD software it is not a trial version or full of nag screens or with very restricted functionality. Or at least the last version wasn't. I suspect the new basic version 6 will be the same, because clearly RS regard it as a sales aid for their robotic parts and components. Likewise their electronic components for the PCB version. Hence the free commercial use.

Of course you don't need any of this for plug track, Templot does all the work. But anyone having got a 3D printer is likely to want to create more than just track on it. :)

cheers,

Martin.
Free is good! Allowing you to keep your own files is good! I will give it a go some time. At some point, hopefully not too soon, I’ll have to bite the bullet and use something other than Creo. Incidentally, Cura also requires an internet connection to work, which means that could also be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Printed this cupola on the Mars 2 Pro resin printer as a change from PlugTrack components:-
20230116_103536.jpg
From a thingiverse STL download, I used chitubox option to hollow it out as I think it was designed for FDM printing really.
Following that it reduced the predicted weight & resin usage, but it still seemed pretty heavy. I deduced that it must contain uncured resin, so having drilled a hole top & bottom an awful lot of resin drained out! Much lighter now!

20230119_102249.jpg

Now with the scalescenes printed overlays attached. It's for the large scalescenes station.

Just need some kind of finial now.
Steve
edited for typos etc
 
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Last edited:

Martin Wynne

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.
And another one:

loose_slide_option.png


IF (important IF) ALL the other stock-rail chairs are loose-jaw outers, it's not strictly necessary for the slide chairs to have loose jaws. That's because the stock rail will be added after the chairs, and can be flexed under the slide chair jaws where there is no opposite inner jaw. Which means it becomes optional to do this -- they can be solid chairs if preferred:

index.php


index.php



So they get their own separate tickbox. :)

Soon there won't be space for any more tickboxes, and I shall have to redesign the whole thing. I've been putting that off because it will be a lot of work. Hopefully it will last for at least one more update release.

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

Admin
Thread starter
Location
West of the Severn UK
Info
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Enjoy using Templot?
Thanks.

Please do not send requests for help direct to me via email.

Post your questions on the forum where everyone can see them and add
helpful replies.
RS have today released DesignSpark Mechanical 6, which has been a long time coming. There are new paid-for versions with increased functions, but the basic program remains free.

The paid-for versions are free until the end of March, i.e. you get 2 months free.

More info and download:

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/subscriptions-pricing-page

https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/mechanical-software

cheers,

Martin.
.
Having now tried DSM 6 there is a disappointing change. Some features which were previously free have been moved to the paid-for versions only.

Previously DSM 5 was free, with paid-for add-on modules available if required. Unfortunately DSM 5 is no longer available for download. However, if you downloaded it when I posted about it previously -- do not uninstall it if upgrading to DSM 6, despite what the web site says. Both versions can be on your computer at the same time and work fine.

The DSM 5 add-ons have now been discontinued and merged into separate versions of DSM 6.

For us the most significant change is that the STL import is no longer available in the free "Explorer" version. Which is a nuisance if you want to modify an existing design, such as the STL files created by Templot. It's not really relevant if you are creating new designs from scratch.

On the other hand if you go for the paid-for "Creator" version (£10 per month) you not only get the STL import, but also DXF import and lots of other extra features.

(There is also a more expensive "Engineer" version, but DO NOT get this, because there is no practical difference between Creator and Engineer for DesignSpark Mechanical, the differences apply only to DesignSpark PCB for electronic circuit design.)

Because we want to work with files imported from Templot, I have gone ahead and used the Templot funds to subscribe to the Creator version. It's free for the next 2 months, so I can cancel the subscription at the end of March if I'm not happy with it.

I could of course do all the same things in TurboCAD, but I want to have the same functionality here that Templot users are likely to be using, so that I can test the Templot output and answer questions about it.

• Finally, after all that waffle, I can get to the point. If you have the free DSM 6 Explorer version, and want to import STL files from Templot (or elsewhere), I can provide a conversion service to a file format which will import into DSM 6. Just attach your STL files here, and I will convert them to RSDOCX files. Likewise I can run them through my copy of the Formware STL mesh fixer if the online service is timing out.

Just to add again, you don't need any of this DSM stuff for plug track, Templot does it all for you. If you are not interested in CAD you can ignore all this. But having got a 3D printer, you might want to make other models too.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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Enjoy using Templot?
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.
Just to test that, here is a DSM 6 file, containing a few chairs from Templot.

If you have any version of DSM 6 you should be able to open it?

Martin.
 

Attachments

  • test_dsm6_fixed.rsdocx
    1.9 MB · Views: 7
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Martin Wynne

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Enjoy using Templot?
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.
We have a new chair:
sc_chair.png

This chair does not exist in the REA designs, it is entirely fictional. An ordinary single-rail chair with 4 screws. I have called it an SC chair.

The REA ordinary chairs have 3 screws. All the special switch and crossing chairs have 4 screws, but the ordinary chairs have only 3. I have created this fictional 4-screw chair so that the component parts can be used in creating the special chairs.

It is however possible to make some of these SC chairs if you wish, with or without loose outer jaws:

use_sc_chairs.png


which would make sense only for plain track templates. Such chairs might be useful to represent some non-REA pre-grouping chairs which had 4 fixings (although not usually all 4 were actual screws).

cheers,

Martin.
 
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