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 Some of the earlier pages of this topic are now out-of-date.

    Some pages of this topic 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.

Extracting a 3D timbering brick from a track plan

Martin Wynne

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This is the first topic in a new forum section, so if you want to receive emails from this new Plug Track section, you will need to update your Watch settings accordingly. For how to do that, go to:

https://85a.uk/templot/archive/topics/topic_3839.php#p31676



Please be aware that Plug Track is still extremely experimental and in continuing development. There are various options you can now tinker about with, but very little which is as yet actually usable on your layout.



A timbering "brick" is a section of timbering base from a track plan, of a size which can be accommodated within the work area of a machine.

That might be a 3D printer, a CNC milling machine, a laser cutter, or something else.

For the usual home versions of such machines the work area is smaller than a typical track template in 4mm/ft scale and above. It's likely that parts of several templates will be contained within the brick, but not the whole of any one template. It's necessary therefore to have some connector clips attached to the brick, so that several bricks can be assembled accurately to create a larger timbering base for track construction. Here are two such bricks which can be clipped together:
index.php

This topic is about how to export the files from Templot to create such timbering bricks.

To get started click this option for the control template, and then store it:

brick_example9.png


Attached below are the files for an example timbering brick.

In order to see the background shapes as shown, you need to tick show modified for 3-D exports on the general options tab:

brick_example1.png


Note that creating a timbering brick containing anything other than plain track is currently purely for trial export purposes only, because there are as yet no special switch and crossing plug chairs to match. For now you could if you wished construct a hybrid stop-gap arrangement, using the plug-in S1 ordinary chairs, and C&L/Exactoscale moulded special chairs. They would cover the socket holes, which could be filled with suitable adhesive.



edit: If it is desired to mix plug-in chairs with flat-base glued chairs, individual plug-in chairs and sockets can now be omitted via the shove timbers dialog, to allow flat-base chairs to be glued in place:

shove_chairs.png


Select the timber in the usual way, by clicking on its number. Untick the boxes on the right to omit a chair and the corresponding socket from the exported files. The chairs count across from the MS (main side) of the template.

n.b. Templot Plug Track uses vertical rail. C&L/Exactoscale chairs are designed for inclined rail. Some fudging will be needed if Templot chairs and C&L chairs are mixed together.



Here are the files below, more notes to follow.

cheers,

Martin.
 

Attachments

  • brick_example.box
    55.4 KB · Views: 88
  • brick_example.bgs3
    6.2 KB · Views: 90
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Martin Wynne

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If you have loaded the files, and are following this topic as a tutorial, delete the two coloured templates from the storage box, and clear all the background shapes. So that they can be created again. You might also want to change the trackpad grid settings to your preference.

The first thing to do is to create a rectangle to represent the work area on your machine. Click the set... button top left:

brick_example2.png


This is purely a visual aid on the screen, Templot makes no use of this information. If you know the exact dimensions for your machine's work area you can enter them, or just a rough guide.

Now click the move button and position the rectangle as a guide to what will fit in the timbering brick:

brick_example3.png


Now tick this box, and click the colour patch to choose a colour for the timbering brick:

brick_example4.png


With that box ticked, background templates will automatically have the marker coloured applied to them as they are stored.

It's best to stick to the available colours, rather than create one of your own, so that you can easily select it again later if needed. If you are creating multiple bricks, each one must have its own colour.

All the above are existing functions in Templot, they are not new. I simply added extra buttons to make them easier to find.

More shortly.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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Now click on one of the turnout templates and copy to the control or press C:

brick_example5.png



With the peg on CTRL-0 adjust the overall length until the timbering fits within the brick rectangle, with some space for a connector clip. The rails can be ignored:

brick_example6.png


And then do the same with the blanking length:

brick_example7.png


index.php


And then click the store button or press the INSERT key:

brick_example8.png


With that box ticked, its marker colour will be set to match the colour patch.

We have now done the very thing we normally try hard to avoid -- created a duplicate partial template. When the brick export has been done, this duplicate template can be deleted from the storage box. Alternatively the original template could be deleted, so that the final track plan is comprised of the timbering bricks only and can be printed as such. Your choice, but if you do that, future changes to the track plan would be a lot more difficult to do.

So far we have been using existing Templot functions. But from this point on I want to emphasize that everything is still very experimental. Do not commit any of it to permanent brain memory because it could easily change in the next program update. So far the user interface is very clunky. At this stage my only interest has been to get stuff to work. Until it does that, there is no point in finessing a smooth user experience (like the rest of Templot! :) ) because it could all be time wasted. On the other hand if I wait until it is all super-smooth and finalised, we could all be dead before it gets released.

Next task is to repeat the process for the plain track template, for which I needed to make some changes.

More shortly,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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The process is then repeated with all other templates which cross into the brick area. In this case there is only one, some plain track:

brick_example11.png


For plain track the working is different:

brick_example10.png


For plain track templates it is necessary to have the fixing peg on the CTRL-1 end, and adjustment to the overall length takes place at the opposite end. Likewise blanking takes place at the CTRL-1 end, and applies to the timbering only, the rails are not blanked, as you can see below. This is of no consequence here, because the rails are ignored in exporting a timbering brick:

brick_example12.png


This way of blanking plain track is changed in 229a. It was necessary to prevent any changes to the sleeper positions from the underlying template. It's not ideal to have these differences in working between plain track and turnout templates, I hope to sort this out in future.

That completes the process of selecting which parts of the trackplan will be included in the timbering brick -- the DXF brick function exports only those templates which match the marker colour.

Now we can export a 2-D file, or add the connector clips and splints to make a usable 3-D brick for export.

More to follow.

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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At this point there is a parting of the ways.



If you want a 2-D file for CNC milling or laser cutting, nothing else is needed, you are ready to export the brick:

brick_example14.png


Click the timbering brick only option, and click the colour patch to set the colour of the required brick to be exported.

Then make your layer settings. It is probably easiest to switch them all off with the omit all button, and then set the DXF colours for the layers which you do want. For laser cutting the kerf setting can be set by clicking the 2-D cutter kerf... button.

(For 2-D files an alternative way of working would be use groups. Click the group > create smaller group > group by marker colour... menu item on the trackpad. Then click the group templates only option on the DXF dialog instead of the timbering brick only option. Note that this method won't work with 3-D files for 3D printing, you wouldn't get the connector clips and splints.)



For 3-D files for 3D printing the next task is to add the connector clips and splints to this brick. More to follow.

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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For 3D printed timbering bricks, some more work is needed. First the terminology:

brick_example15.png


Surrounding the timbers are several additional elements. They are all thinner than the timbers and intended to be lost in the ballast. They are all optional -- but if you switch them all off you won't have a brick, just a pile of loose timbers. :)

Around each timber are flanges -- side flanges and end flanges. Their purpose is to strengthen the timbers alongside the socket holes and create a more robust brick, with a larger underside area for glueing to the trackbed. If you opt for blind sockets, i.e. the hole doesn't go all the way through, you might feel that the flanges are not needed.

The flanges also permit the creation of a timbering fret (see below).

Linking each timber to the next one are webs. They are at the ends of the timbers so that it is easy to attach splints.

Splints are the links between templates which create a one-piece brick, with the templates held in the correct relative positions. Splints are added to the brick by drawing lines in the background shapes. You can have as many as you like, wherever you like.

All these elements can be adjusted for width and thickness if desired. Where they overlap, the online mesh repair tool resolves any conflicts in the STL file.

Connector clips are placed at strategic locations to enable one brick to be attached to the next one, in the correct relative positions. They consist of a tommy bar part and a claws part. The above diagram shows both parts, but of course only one part or the other is printed for each clip. The tommy bar part has a hole which can be aligned with target marks on a paper template.

Connector clips are added to the brick by adding target marks to the background shapes. You can have as many as you like, placed wherever you like. Normally they would be placed between the timbers, or attached to splints as required. Clips can be adjusted for overall size, but the tommy bar and claws remain a constant size so that they are interchangeable with any other clip.

If the brick is printed without the timbers, you can create a timbering fret (3D construction template). Timbers from any source, such as laser-cut plywood, or copper-clad strip, can then be inserted in the fret for construction. The fret can be removed from below afterwards, as with a paper template.

Sprues are an alternative to the webs for linking timbers together, where it is desired to remove them after track construction or after track laying. They are attached at the end of the timbers to make removal easier:

brick_example16.png


Sprues work well for individual plain track and turnout templates, but are difficult to arrange for more complex pointwork formations and timbering brick assemblies.

More to follow.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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In 229b I have added 4 more tickboxes on the shove timbers dialog:

brick_example19.png


They are used to switch off some or all of the flanges and webs on the selected timber.

N-flange = side flange nearer to CTRL-0
F-flange = side flange further from CTRL-0
MS-flange = end flange and webs on MS side of template
TS-flange = end flange and webs on TS side of template

Nothing to do with shoving timbers about, this dialog is just a convenient way to select individual timbers. The normal shove-timber functions are not affected.

These tickboxes are intended for situations where timbers are interlaced:

brick_example17.png


which as you can see causes the flanges and webs to break into the sockets on adjacent timbers.

After unticking the end flange and webs on the relevant timbers, the result is:

brick_example18.png


with all sockets clear.

Another use of these tickboxes is where a connector clip needs to be between the closed-up timbers at a rail joint. In that case there isn't room between the flanges for the clip. By switching off the side flanges on the adjacent timbers, the clip can be fitted in:

brick_example20.png


When a clip is used between timbers on adjacent bricks, it will usually be necessary to trim back the protruding webs on the end timbers, as above.

More soon.

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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Hi Martin just wondering. Is it possible to export a dxf/stl of a timber bank with solid sleepers.

Keith
@KHC1

Hi Keith,

Welcome to Templot Club. :)

Sure, you can do that -- except that in the current release version you can't, because I made a silly mistake in the code. I have now fixed it, and it will be working again in the next release in a day or two. Sorry about that.

To omit a layer from the file, set its colour to blank, which you can do easily by right-clicking on it. In this case you want to omit the chair sockets:

no_sockets_dxf.png


Without the sockets, you probably don't need the side flange stiffeners, so you can omit them too.

If you click the timbers only button (to omit all the chairs from the file), do that first before making any other changes, otherwise it will undo your changes.

The result is:
no_sockets.png


Note that if you intend to FDM-print this for use with injection-moulded chairs, you need to use ABS, ASA, or HIPS polymer. The butanone solvent doesn't work on the usual PLA polymer. Or use cyano superglue.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

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Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Martin

I've been following this thread and it seems to have stopped short before explaining how to actually add the clips! I have successfully created a clipless brick though. At the moment, I'm just trying to get timber frets that can be clipped together for 3mm Society chairs to be glued onto. I've got back into my 3D FDM printer and whilst it'll be fine for timber bricks, there's no way it'll do the chairs!

Target marks seem to be a key thing, and I'm guessing that's to line up the bricks within Templot!

(I can add clips and splints to the shapes file, but they're a different colour to those in your example file and in any case I can't get any of the clips to come out in the STL file. I hope I'm not jumping the gun, apologies if I am!)

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Last edited:

Martin Wynne

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I hope I'm not jumping the gun, apologies if I am!
@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

It's me who should be apologising! I do seem to have stopped dead in the middle of the explanation. I was sure I had written some more, but I can't find it anywhere. I can't even find any screenshots. Yet another brain malfunction. :(

The splints and clips are a bit clunky, I kludged them into the background shapes just to save a bit of work. I will get the topic finished soonest, by tomorrow at least. I can't believe it is more than 3 months old. Sorry.

I also have to devise some connector system for the CNC-milled bases.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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There is an edited update to the first post in this topic -- individual chairs+sockets can now be switched on and off, if it is desired to mix plug-in chairs with flat-base glued chairs:

https://85a.uk/templot/club/index.p...mbering-brick-from-a-track-plan.295/post-2822

This method is also used to control chairs being captured from an adjacent template in creating timbering bricks for complex pointwork.

More to follow.

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

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Location
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.
There is an edited update to the first post in this topic -- individual chairs+sockets can now be switched on and off, if it is desired to mix plug-in chairs with flat-base glued chairs:

https://85a.uk/templot/club/index.p...mbering-brick-from-a-track-plan.295/post-2822

This method is also used to control chairs being captured from an adjacent template in creating timbering bricks for complex pointwork.

More to follow.

Martin.
Thanks! I was looking for an option to turn chairs off, then realised that there would then be no position guide for the rails. What I actually did was to reduce the length of the socket to something very low - when sliced, there would then be a visible indication from the filament path.

I thought the splint and clip positioning worked quite well, clunky or not! I just haven’t worked out how to use the clips/target marks to line up bricks, or to get them to export.

Talking of slicing, I loaded a Templot STL into Cura and it just wasn’t having it (can’t remember the exact problem now). PrusaSlicer was pretty close but the webs were scrappy. I ran the STL through an online fixer, Cura was still unhappy but PrusaSlicer took it quite happily! I’m sure I’ve seem elsewhere that some people use different slicers for different projects, so maybe that’s a normal thing.

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Martin Wynne

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I was looking for an option to turn chairs off, then realised that there would then be mo position guide for the rails. What I actually did was to reduce the length of the socket to something very low - when sliced, there would then be a visible indication from the filament path.
@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

Can you explain a bit more what you mean there?

To create plain timbers you can exclude all sockets from the export by setting the relevant combo to blank in the DXF dialog. I assumed that if you do that, the timbering brick would be stuck down to a printed paper template in the usual way for construction.

I could add some sort of groove or narrow slot on the timber surface to mark the rail gauge-face, but it would be obscured by the chairs or baseplates or other fixings, so not very helpful unless I'm missing something?

Setting the socket to a very short length is a clever way to get a mark on the timber surface, but it won't necessarily be in line with either of the rail edges or the rail centre -- the chairs are not symmetrically dimensioned under the rail.

Yes, a fix/repair process for the exported STL files is an essential part of the workflow at present. I'm hoping that one day the "fixing" can be done in Templot when exporting, but we are a long way from that yet. The best online fix/repair function I have found is this one:

https://www.formware.co/onlinestlrepair

for which I have provided direct links in the program:

stl_repair1.png


program menu:

stl_repair2.png


Once "repaired" I have found that the Cura slicer gives good results on both my FDM printers, but all printers vary of course. I can post my Cura settings if wanted -- I believe your extruder uses a bowden tube rather than direct drive, so the retraction settings would likely need increasing.

More to follow.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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The geometrical background shapes are normally used to show the position of baseboard outlines, control panels, etc.

They are included in the 2-D exports to serve that purpose.

For the 3-D exports of chairs and timbering such detail plays no meaningful part. So for 3-D exports some of the background shapes are re-purposed to provide needed additional functions:
  • line shapes are used to define the position of timbering splints.
  • target mark shapes are used to create timbering brick connector clips.
  • rectangle shapes are used to define the support slabs under resin-printed chairs.
This means these features can be created in the same way as normal background shapes, and saved in a BGS3 file. If your track plan includes normal background shapes, it would be best to save them in a BGS3 shapes file, and then remove them from the trackpad. The additions for 3D printing can then be created and saved in their own BGS3 file.

Here are some lines and target mark shapes. To see the 3D changes to the shapes, use this tickbox on the general options tab:

clips_splints1.png


clips_splints2.png


While that box is ticked, the background shapes are shown as they would be 3D printed.

Untick the box to return to the normal view.

More to follow.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Martin

I hadn't really thought very far ahead with this, if I'm honest! The mark on the surface was intended to be just a quick visual guide, although I hadn't really thought about the socket position relative to the rail - I just assumed based on nothing! I'll have another play this evening, switching chair sockets off completely. I think a groove across the timber in line with the gauge face would actually be useful (another tick box!). Thinking about plain track, for gluing a chair in place (and obscuring any mark on that timber), the marks on adjacent timbers would still be visible. I don't glue chairs sequentially, but do maybe every 5th chair, then fill in the gaps. P&C work might be a different matter though.

I knew about the online repair links within Templot but by the time I was playing with slicing (just as a curious afterthought before going to bed) Templot was closed so I just used the first online tool I found. The learning point for me there is that STL files can be read differently by different slicers, something I hadn't appreciated before. I will use the one you recommend next time!

I'm still not sure why the splints and clips from your example files weren't coming out in the STL file but I have a niggling feeling I'm missing something very obvious!

This whole thing is getting quite exciting! It's a shame I simply don't have the facilities for a resin printer so I can do chairs as well, even my FDM printer is still sitting on a board across the arms of a dining chair!

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Martin Wynne

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I'm still not sure why the splints and clips from your example files weren't coming out in the STL file but I have a niggling feeling I'm missing something very obvious!
@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

For the clips to appear several settings have to be made.

Unfortunately Templot isn't very bright and needs to be told which half of the clip to export:

clips_splints4.png



Only one half of the clip gets exported -- the dot shows which one:

clips_splints5.png


The result of the latter would be:

clips_splints6.png


which the STL repair tool will likely delete as disconnected from the model.

For the same reason the body of the clip needs to overlap part of the model.

When exporting the adjacent brick, it is necessary to:

1. change the colour of the clip to match the brick.
2. swap the dot to the other half.

But don't change the size or position of the clip, otherwise the bricks won't align correctly. I will write some more about these adjustments shortly.

To be included in a brick, the clips must be set to the same colour as the brick, and the combo box colours for the layers must not be blank:

clips_splints3.png


If none of that explains it, I'm a bit puzzled. :confused:

This whole thing is getting quite exciting! It's a shame I simply don't have the facilities for a resin printer so I can do chairs as well, even my FDM printer is still sitting on a board across the arms of a dining chair!
The small Elegoo printers need a lot less space than an FDM printer. After using mine I'm wondering if the health/fume warnings may have been a bit overdone. I seem to have got used to the smell of the resin, and the few splashes of resin on my hands have washed off with no lasting effects. I think washing parts could be done in a tub of IPA in a kitchen sink, and with sunnier weather UV curing can be done on a window cill or outdoors. Lots of modellers on other forums are now routinely making 3D parts without any reports of problems that I have seen.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Martin

Thanks for that info - just had a bit of a play and I have success! Colours are obviously the key to this. I don't intend to actually print this one but it was just an exercise to get to a sliced model. I clicked your online repair tool link and in fact that was the same one I found last night, and I had to wait in a queue just now as well! As you can see, the fixed file dropped into Cura and sliced with no problems.

success.PNG


I'm really pleased with that! Once I've got back from shopping shortly, I'll see if I can get two adjacent bricks sorted out. I'll also have a play with getting rid of the sockets, not to mention deciding exactly how I'm going to use these.

Maybe I'll have another look at resin printing as I am a bit envious with the results I've seen. The FDM printer has its place - it's been at work for the last fortnight churning out various size PCB mounts for both MERG and my own boards!

Incidentally, for my own (and work!) 3D modelling I use Creo Parametric, definitely not a home user jobby. When I've uploaded STL files from that to Shapeways, it also goes through a fixing process so you're not alone in needing that!

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Martin

Good this, innit?? It's clicked now, so I've just exported a second brick and tomorrow I'm going to print the two, really just as a test and to see how well the clips work - I'm sure there'll need to be some printer adjustments. The test prints will be PLA, but I'll probably use ABS for the real thing although that's apparently smelly and fussy!

I've found the rotate and shift function for the clips - I knew it had to be there somewhere! I got caught out by a rogue background template that happened to be the same colour I'd chosen for my second brick, but that was immediately obvious when checking the STL file.

I haven't forgotten this is very much work in progress, but is there somewhere on your long to-do list an option to save all the settings on the export window? The 'save custom data' XML file looks like it has a lot of scope for expansion!

Cheers,
Paul
 
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