• 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 Some of the earlier pages of this topic are now out-of-date.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

Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Martin

I've just spotted another glitch - a rogue chair. Might be me, of course, forgetting to tick or untick something!

rogue_chair.PNG


In the STL export, this manifests as a "negative" chair socket floating in the air, rather like a building brick. I've traced it to template 7 in the attached box file - also attached is the shapes file. The STL file attached is the fixed version.

This timber brick is printing as I'm writing this - I just added supports under the chair to keep the printer happy so I'm not too bothered by it as I can just break it off, but I thought you ought to know about it.

What I did notice that when I was I opened the shove timber box, selecting any timber under the rogue chair changed the position of the blue line under that chair.

Cheers,
Paul
 

Attachments

  • bricks_2022_05_14_1051_34.box
    169.3 KB · Views: 23
  • bricks.bgs3
    21.1 KB · Views: 22
  • brick2 - to print.stl
    1.3 MB · Views: 22
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@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

I'm appointing you Glitch-Finder-In-Chief. :)

paul_glitch_chair.png


That chair is on the B2 timber. Because it is a bonus timber it is picking up chairs on rail 4. You can remove it by unticking chair 4 on the timber.

Alternatively, on that template you could restore timber E1 and shove it along to the B2 position instead of using a bonus timber.

I didn't give bonus timbers much thought in the chairing process, so that's something I need to look at. Thanks for finding it.

The blue lines on the chairs on the control template show the keying direction and amount of key offset on the chair. Only the direction and offset, the actual key is on the other side of the rail. You can change the direction using the flip keys boxes on the dialog. The blue lines dance about as you use mouse actions (or press or hold down F12) because the key offset is randomised. The amount of offset and randomising can be changed. That's not fully working on turnout timbers yet, only plain track sleepers, and I haven't thought about what happens for the RG and FG dummy chairs.

Thanks again for finding the glitch.

paul_screen.png


p.s. that screen is an amazing confection in Templot! I never dreamed to see such things when I started scribbling on bits of paper 40 years ago. :)

Hope the brick printing turns out fine. Let us know.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Martin Wynne

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p.s. Paul,

I'm thinking of a duplicate clip function. To make copy of an existing clip from another brick, changing the gender and colour to match the current brick. Any thoughts?

At present it would be very easy to print a brick, and then find the clips missing because you forgot to change the settings for the shared clip.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
p.s. Paul,

I'm thinking of a duplicate clip function. To make copy of an existing clip from another brick, changing the gender and colour to match the current brick. Any thoughts?

At present it would be very easy to print a brick, and then find the clips missing because you forgot to change the settings for the shared clip.

cheers,

Martin.

Hi Martin

I've now fixed the rogue chair - in fact, chair 2 seemed to be a duplicate as well. So it was something I hadn't unticked! The print has just this second been taken off the bed, and the next three bricks are now being printed together. The second brick (the orange one) printed very well. I've found that end and side clip clearances of about 0.13mm work well. I sliced this in Prusaslicer and printed from there via OctoPrint running on a Raspberry Pi. I thought I'd compare slicing with Cura version 5 but it just complained that it was too big for the bed - no it isn't!

A duplicate clip function is something I was thinking of asking for, but I felt I'd asked for enough things already! Yes please, I would find that very useful, especially if there was also a way to show each half of the clip in its own colour. As it stands now though, it's only a matter of a few clicks to change gender/colour so not too onerous. The main issue is actually remembering to do it, and I have picked up one or two where I'd forgotten, but spotted on the STL

A few other observations:-
  • I find the Alt-Home shortcut very handy when trying to make sure I'm picking up the underlying template to copy to a new one.
  • The RGB labels on the screen are very useful, especially when making sure I've picked the right colour to change the clip!
  • I've found the labels print better at 6mm width. 5mm is ok, but at the default 4mm I found the letters vanished when sliced.
Is anyone else printing timber bricks yet?

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Printed and trial positioned! The brick near right won’t have rails on to represent lifted track, and it’ll also be cut a bit shorter. I printed two versions of that brick - one with flat tops and the other with recesses to represent chair indentations. The jury is still out on that…

B741CD03-C3BB-412E-A413-4D7D70574430.jpeg


EA51FBFB-A405-4AC6-8118-C4B0D6788B7B.jpeg
 
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@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

Looking good! How long did the print take? Is there any reason for using a light-coloured polymer for the timbers instead of grey/brown? Is paint on the polymer resistant to scratching to reveal the light colour? Or does the prototype have sun-bleached timbers? If it's in the Ffestiniog area I find that hard to believe. :)

How dimensionally stable is the jig-saw after assembly? It occurred to me that if some additional triangulation was added, like this:

paul_bricks_mod.png


it would be acceptable to have less closely fitting clips? Or maybe that's unnecessary and over the top.

I'm going to do something about the unwanted rails (blue here) on plain track, which confuse the brick colours. Also having the MS flag in brick colours is confusing. I will do something about that too.

A duplicate clip function is something I was thinking of asking for, but I felt I'd asked for enough things already! Yes please, I would find that very useful, especially if there was also a way to show each half of the clip in its own colour.

Ask away -- two heads are better than one. Having each half of the clip in its own colour would be a blindingly obvious improvement, and does away with the need for the dot symbol.

Is anyone else printing timber bricks yet?

I think we have scared them off with the complexity of all this! I'm still not convinced that I have done this the best way, merging with the background shapes functions, and duplicated background templates. I thought it would save work to use the existing shape drawing and template blanking functions, but it might have been better to start with a blank sheet and create something completely new and separate. Or maybe using the sketchboard instead of the background shapes -- although Nils's code for the sketchboard engine is quite fragile and easily wrecked if I start kludging too many extra functions into it.

But that does also raise the question of adding sketchboard items into the FDM print -- how about the walls of the engine shed included in the brick?

Also I'm wondering about including platforms in the brick? They would have a lot of joints, but could be smoothed over with filler. The slicers could add supports inside a hollow platform. Or maybe a separate platform print with a very low-density fill which clips alongside the track? It would save all the platform spacing and height adjustments after track laying.

Too many ideas. :)

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Martin

Looking good! How long did the print take? Is there any reason for using a light-coloured polymer for the timbers instead of grey/brown? Is paint on the polymer resistant to scratching to reveal the light colour? Or does the prototype have sun-bleached timbers? If it's in the Ffestiniog area I find that hard to believe. :)

It was something like a total of 5-6 hours for two prints, which covered the four bricks that don't so far have rails. The white was simply because the Evergreen strip used on the section already built was white, so I thought it best to keep a common base colour. I'll maybe use a grey plastics primer from Halfords which should should give better adhesion for the colour. I did look at getting some grey PLA, and there is another section of bullhead unconnected to this bit which I may well do in grey just to see how it looks. Most definitely not sun-bleached in North Wales!

How dimensionally stable is the jig-saw after assembly? It occurred to me that if some additional triangulation was added

Dimensionally it was surprisingly accurate! The formation placed is 1m long including the plastic strip timber section, and without any "adjustment" of the length I reckon its maybe 1mm longer than the plan, and I'm not going to try to work out where that millimetre has come from! Widthways, with no play in the clips, the extra splices you've shown I don't think are necessary. The blue template, not having any rails, is less critical anyway and will probably actually be cut in half. It's intended to represent what was a junction off the main line.

I'm going to do something about the unwanted rails (blue here) on plain track, which confuse the brick colours.

I agree that the unwanted rails are confusing!

Having each half of the clip in its own colour would be a blindingly obvious improvement, and does away with the need for the dot symbol.

I was mulling over that and wondering if the duplicate could be linked in some way to the original? I can see the possibility of someone adjusting the size or position of one clip and not the other, although if the two halves are shown as different colours it should be obvious. I deliberately choose contrasting colours on adjacent bricks but I can see larger layouts running out of contrasting colours so it would be less obvious!

I think we have scared them off with the complexity of all this! I'm still not convinced that I have done this the best way, merging with the background shapes functions, and duplicated background templates.

With so many options, I think complexity is unavoidable! I'm happy with doing this as background shapes, especially with the ability to save a separate shapes file for brick shapes. I've not done that (this shapes file only contains brick templates) but notice that you've prefixed the layout name with 'bricks' - excellent! When I first started playing with this I made a copy of the original box file to cover with brick templates, but now with the ability to show/hide bricks or show only bricks that's not necessary. I don't regard brick templates as duplicates but as having a different function.

At one point I'd saved the bricks as a separate box file, then later opened the full layout and had only brick templates showing - I managed to confuse myself as to which file I was working on! (and in this case, I was working with files in the Windows sense, not something I always do with Templot). I think for me the answer is that I don't ever need to save a separate bricks file! Shapes files though, I do prefer separate files, of which the brick shapes are one, so I can build up the various shapes on the trackpad from multiple files as required.

But that does also raise the question of adding sketchboard items into the FDM print

I don't use the sketchboard so less sure about that, but it sounds like it makes sense I'm guessing you just mean footprints of buildings or whatever!

Also I'm wondering about including platforms in the brick? They would have a lot of joints, but could be smoothed over with filler. The slicers could add supports inside a hollow platform. Or maybe a separate platform print with a very low-density fill which clips alongside the track? It would save all the platform spacing and height adjustments after track laying.

Hmm... Platform height? Overhangs? I'm not sure that's a feature I'd use. What could be useful is the platform edge line from a template that has that to use as a distance guide from the track. I can't quite visualise how that would look, and I wouldn't want a solid web between the platform edge and the timbers. I know we can now use slabs for the same thing though, which I think is sufficient - it doesn't really need to be a continuous line.

I've still got two more sections of plain track to turn into bricks so that's the next step. I also need to have a look at slightly bulged corners in the prints, which is why the edge/side clearances are maybe higher than you'd expect. It's only in the region of about 0.1mm though so it wasn't something I was too concerned about but I'd like to get it sorted. Apparently people print test cubes to optimise this sort of thing!

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Martin Wynne

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Having each half of the clip in its own colour would be a blindingly obvious improvement, and does away with the need for the dot symbol.

@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

Here we go:

new_clips1.png



If there is no duplicate clip on a different brick, the outline shows empty:

new_clips2.png


I've found the labels print better at 6mm width. 5mm is ok, but at the default 4mm I found the letters vanished when sliced.

There is something odd going on -- your 7-seg characters are much larger than the ones on my test bricks. They definitely fit on 4mm wide tabs here. :confused: I will sort it out.

Hopefully I will get 234c out in a day or two.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

There is an issue with the slicing:

slicing_issues.png


I've noticed some weakness in the finished bricks, where the brick snaps easily through the webs. Looking at the underside of the Cura preview it easy to see why (the above is actually one of yours, but mine are the same).

There are a few places where the web is a separate island, not connected to either of the adjacent timbers (purple rings), and several other places where the web is not connected to one timber. If these occur opposite each other (pink rings) the brick will easily snap apart at that location.

It's difficult to know whether to blame Templot, or the online repair tool, or the slicer, and whether changing the slicer settings might prevent it.

However, it happens only on curved track. Straight track is fine. Which makes me think it might be related to rounding effects in the STL export after the curving calculations.

Does your slicer produce similar results? Mentioning it now to warn you to be careful handling your brick prints!

I'm going to experiment with the web and flange dimensions to see if I can cure it.

But not today, because I have 288 bedding plants to install in a community garden here. :)

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

There is an issue with the slicing:

View attachment 3692

I've noticed some weakness in the finished bricks, where the brick snaps easily through the webs. Looking at the underside of the Cura preview it easy to see why (the above is actually one of yours, but mine are the same).

There are a few places where the web is a separate island, not connected to either of the adjacent timbers (purple rings), and several other places where the web is not connected to one timber. If these occur opposite each other (pink rings) the brick will easily snap apart at that location.

It's difficult to know whether to blame Templot, or the online repair tool, or the slicer, and whether changing the slicer settings might prevent it.

However, it happens only on curved track. Straight track is fine. Which makes me think it might be related to rounding effects in the STL export after the curving calculations.

Does your slicer produce similar results? Mentioning it now to warn you to be careful handling your brick prints!

I'm going to experiment with the web and flange dimensions to see if I can cure it.

But not today, because I have 288 bedding plants to install in a community garden here. :)

cheers,

Martin.

Hi Martin

I would suggest the problem is Cura! The attached photo and screenshot shows the underside sliced with Prusaslicer and it's absolutely fine - in fact, Cura seems to have made a right pig's ear of it! I don't really like Cura and have had better results with other projects (with the same STL) with PrusaSlicer. One thing Cura does have that I miss is a hole size expansion setting - with PrusaSlicer my hole size expansion is a drill bit because I refuse to draw the holes oversize! The Templot STL file was fixed using the link in Templot.

Regarding the 7-seg display, the characters expand to fit the width and do fit perfectly on a 4mm wide tab on the screen. I suspect that when slicing, the individual segment widths become too small to print. 6mm wide is probably a bit big, especially as 5mm prints the characters fine. I think there's a "thin wall" setting somewhere but I haven't explored that.

Those clips look excellent!! I'm hanging on for 234c before getting on with the rest of the bricks - there's plenty to be doing on the actual layout now I've got more bricks printed.

Cheers,
Paul

slicer.PNG
IMG_0446.jpg
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Just for interest, I sliced exactly the same STL with Cura 4.13.1. I think it's clear where the problem is, but whether there's a setting that can be changed I don't know. However, I notice that my Cura slicer has diagonal lines, but much more pronounced breaks, than yours so that suggests there probably are things that could be changed.

Cura slicer.PNG
 
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@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

Rain stopped play on the gardening, so I'm back on the computer. :)

Yes, in Cura I had concentric set for the bottom layer fill instead of lines. Concentric is supposed to provide better bed adhesion and less warping.

Tried lines instead, but same result for Cura, as your result.

Looking close-up at the STL, I can see the problem. This is, or should be, the join between the web and timber flange on some sharply curved track, but there is a gap between them:

slicing_issues1.png


That's an extreme close-up, the gap is about 0.005mm or 2 tenths of a thou. The much smaller gap in the double line is the difference between the top and bottom edges of the timber flange.

There are several settings in Cura to smudge over such small gaps, although the results are likely to be a bit unpredictable. Also I need to test each of several such options to see which is the most effective.

All this is caused by rounding effects in the STL export. STL files are currently being exported to 3 decimal places of mm. DXF files are exported to 4 decimal places for mm, and 6 decimal places for inches.

I restricted the number of decimal places because being text files, it has a direct effect on the file size. But I think they need to be increased. I don't want to go to the binary versions of STL because it makes the files unreadable for finding issues.

Also it would probably be better to program a small overlap at the join, and leave the online repair tool to sort it out.

I have now installed PrusaSlicer to see how it compares. It is based on Slic3r which I tried once before and didn't have much success with. Time to try again.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

Rain stopped play on the gardening, so I'm back on the computer. :)

Yes, in Cura I had concentric set for the bottom layer fill instead of lines. Concentric is supposed to provide better bed adhesion and less warping.

Tried lines instead, but same result for Cura, as your result.

Looking close-up at the STL, I can see the problem. This is, or should be, the join between the web and timber flange on some sharply curved track, but there is a gap between them:

View attachment 3700

That's an extreme close-up, the gap is about 0.005mm or 2 tenths of a thou. The much smaller gap in the double line is the difference between the top and bottom edges of the timber flange.

There are several settings in Cura to smudge over such small gaps, although the results are likely to be a bit unpredictable. Also I need to test each of several such options to see which is the most effective.

All this is caused by rounding effects in the STL export. STL files are currently being exported to 3 decimal places of mm. DXF files are exported to 4 decimal places for mm, and 6 decimal places for inches.

I restricted the number of decimal places because being text files, it has a direct effect on the file size. But I think they need to be increased. I don't want to go to the binary versions of STL because it makes the files unreadable for finding issues.

Also it would probably be better to program a small overlap at the join, and leave the online repair tool to sort it out.

I have now installed PrusaSlicer to see how it compares. It is based on Slic3r which I tried once before and didn't have much success with. Time to try again.

cheers,

Martin.

Hi Martin

I haven’t got as far as trying different styles of bottom layer, so that’s new to me. I believe ABS is more susceptible to warping so that sounds a useful thing to know if I ever I use ABS - I thought I may have to for the bricks but it transpires that butanone is fine as a solvent for PLA. Well, Anycubic PLA at least!

I don’t think file sizes are an issue these days, within reason. My biggest brick is a few hundred K, if bricks were a few Meg I don’t think anyone would notice! If another decimal place sorts it, go for it!

I’m also guessing that there’s a setting in PrusaSlicer that tells it to ignore gaps smaller than a certain size. Mostly though, I’ve just used Prusa’s default settings for the printer and filament which seem to work very well. I’m a bit wary of fiddling too much!

Cheers,
Paul
 
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Martin Wynne

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@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

I tried first adding overlaps everywhere, so that even when sharply curved (this is a silly 300mm radius in EM) there is no risk of gaps appearing anywhere. Which avoids the problem of knowing how many extra decimal places of precision would be needed to be safe.

overlaps_for_cura2.png



This is the exported STL, which looks messy:
overlaps_for_cura4.png



But the mesh repair tool seems happy enough to accept that, and returns this, which looks horrible:

overlaps_for_cura1.png



But it's all meat and drink to Cura, which happily creates this:

overlaps_for_cura3.png

Which seems to have fixed the problem. :)

So now there are another 2 new settings:

web integrity overlap
flange integrity overlap

both of which default to 1/4" scale (0.08mm at 4mm/ft) but can be set to zero if not wanted.

• They will need to be set to zero if a timbering fret (3D assembly template) is wanted.

Will be in 234c shortly. But first I need to print it on BIBO just to be sure.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

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Location
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Excellent - something else sorted (and more options to document :) ).

Looking at the 'concentric' output, I can see how that could reduce any warping as the heated plastic is distributed more evenly. Maybe it's time to explore some of the other options!

Cheers,
Paul
 
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@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

Printed fine:

webs_integrity1.jpg


All Templot export settings on the defaults (EM gauge). Timber tops given a quick rub over with a 320-grit sanding block (wet, soapy water) while still on the flat glass plate, which makes it easy to hold.

Usual cruel close-up shows a few strings on the plate while printing the first layer. The socket holes add a lot of travel moves -- I use a higher temperature for the first layer (205 degs), so stringing is more evident:

webs_integrity2.jpg


p.s. those 7-seg characters are the default size, 3.2mm high on a 4mm tab. They are easily readable -- if your slicer is rejecting this you may have the small-detail filter set a bit too aggressive? Sleepers are 3.3mm x 34.0mm.

But I agree the characters could be bigger without any problem. I will change the default to 15" (5mm in 4mm/ft scale).

All seems ok. Back to the clip pairing code. :)

cheers,

Martin.
 
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I think it’s time to play with some slicer settings!
@Paul Boyd @AndyB

Hi Paul, Andy,

Have you seen the froth about the recent Cura 5 upgrade? It seems they have rewritten the slicing engine to improve fine detail.

When I mentioned a while ago that it's possible to print fine detail with a larger nozzle by reducing the extrusion volume, not everyone was convinced. But now Cura is claiming to be printing 0.1mm thin walls with a 0.4mm nozzle:






Anyone tried it yet?

cheers,

Martin.
 
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Paul Boyd

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Hi Martin,

I installed v5 a little while ago but haven’t really explored it yet, preferring PrusaSlicer. However, I’m already aware that Cura has features that PS doesn’t, and it seems v5 will be even better for some things! I printed a 54mm figure with v4 and wasn’t really happy so it’ll be a good one to do a comparison with.

In the second video he mentions that the UI is still buggy - it’s the Cura UI I really don’t like, and I’ve also had some other issues. I will give v5 a go though to see what the end results are.

Cheers,
Paul
 
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I'm hanging on for 234c before getting on with the rest of the bricks
@Paul Boyd

Hi Paul,

234c is now on the server. :)

Select an existing clip, make sure to change the colour in the marker panel and tick the box, then:

paired_clips.png


A matching opposite clip is added. Any subsequent changes to the size or position of one of them will be reflected in the other.

Changing the gender from tommy bar to claws also swaps the direction.

cheers,

Martin.
 
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