3D Print Orientation and What To Do When It’s Wrong

As promised in last week’s post this week I’m going to share with you how to identify if your 3D printed model has been printed correctly.

So what do I mean by correctly printed? Back in October of 2017, in a post which you can find here, I shared with you the new feature from Shapeways which allows the orientation of the print to be set.  This means parts such as a locomotive shell can be printed with the roof on top ensuring the smoothest detail, rather than upside down like a bath tub.

However sometimes, even though the print orientation has been set, some models slip through the printer’s checks and get printed in a cost-saving way; this normally means upside-down.  But how can you tell?  Well, there are a few tell-tale signs which are caused by the print process which give away the orientation of the print.  These signs can be seen when the model is first delivered but given the transparent nature of the material it is fairly hard to spot and nearly impossible to photograph.

So the first thing I always do with any model is soak them in Goo Gone for 24 hours, which makes them opaque, rinse them under warm water and leave to dry for another 24 hours.  Below you can see a set of Alco C-855 shells which have been through this process.  These shells were ordered with the print orientation set so they printed the right way up and at first glance they look good.

But a closer inspection reveals they have been printed upside-down.

The first clue is the direction of the print shadow. The print shadow is the area under a section which sticks out.  In order to print this section support material is required to literally support it. However, where this support material comes into contact with the actual model it leaves a slighty rougher finish which is called the print shadow.  For example, in the image below you can see the print shadow running up from the bolt detail around the base, which means the model was printed upside-down. As the bolt detail protrudes out from the base a bit of support material was required under it. Also looking at the doors and vents on the side of the body you can see these were also covered in support material in order to print the base which also projects out further.

This effect is repeated on the rear as shown below.

The second clue is the inside of the model.  In the picture below you can see all the detail is crisp and smooth.  This is because it hasn’t come into any contact with support material.  This is the best finish on the model and sadly it’s the one location where it’s not needed.

The third clue is the actual top of the model.  It should be smooth, like the inside, but as you can see it’s rougher and ‘furry’ with support material residue which has turned into powder because of the Goo Gone.  The whole of the top of the model has been submerged in support material, because the model was printed upside-down instead of the right way up as requested in the orientation setting.

Now, these shells are not bad and the powder residue can easily be removed with a soft brush in a Dremel style tool, or by hand with a brush, leaving you with a good model.  But the surfaces which should have been on top will never be as good as the finish on the inside and areas such as the doors and vents will also be a bit rougher.

So what should it look like? Below is another set of Alco C-855 shells. You can see that after the cleaning process the finish on the outside is not all the same colour. This is because a lot of the surface hasn’t come into contact with support material, as we wanted.

There is still a print shadow effect but this time it’s running down the model and not up.

The doors and vents still have some print shadow but only in a few areas such as the recess for door hinges etc.

The inside of the shell is rougher and covered in print shadow, as we would expect as it was full of support material.

The top is smooth and very well detailed which will show up when the shells are painted.  In the pictures they look rough or lined but this is simply where the Goo Gone has not affected any support material residue and the surface is still a bit transparent.

Hopefully this will help you identify if a model has been printed in the correct orientation or not.  But what should you do if yours arrives and you think it was printed the wrong way up?

Firstly check to make sure the model was designed to have the orientation set. I can’t speak for other designs but my models will state this in the description if it has been set and I can always confirm if you want to contact me and check.  As for the Alco C-855 shells you need to purchase the Deluxe version as it’s not set on the standard.

Secondly, take some pictures of the incorrect model showing things like the print shadow running the wrong way.  Then send an email to Shapeways at service@shapeways.com.  Include your order number, photos and let them know the model you received has not been printed in the correct orientation. Please note: this must be done within ten days of receiving the model.  Their customer service team are quick to respond and will organize a re-print of the model if indeed it was printed wrongly. But again, you only have ten days from the time you receive your print.

As I said before any excess powder will need to be cleaned off and you will find the detail is good underneath it.  You also need to clean this off otherwise any paint applied will flake off as the powder is loose.

You may also be wondering what I’m doing with so many Alco C-855 shells?  These are for a fellow modeller and I’m making a fully powered ready to run A-B-A set for them.  And I intend to share the whole build process with you in a set of posts which should be starting very soon.

Privacy and Materials

This week I have two things to tell you about and although they are not directly related to trains they are both things which affect my website and 3D printed models.

Firstly I have updated my Privacy Policy and you can read it by clicking here or on the drop down menu below the ‘Contact’ button.  The primary reason for this change is the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into affect on May 25th.  This law is fairly complex but put simply it means that no business or organization can hold any personal data of an EU citizen without their permission.  So I have updated my policy and added a tick box to my contact form as a confirmation that people are happy for me to have this information.  I do however have several contacts for fellow modellers and customers on file, which I only use as contacts for model railway purposes, but if you think you are on the list and would like your details removed then please let me know and I will do so.

My second announcement comes from Shapeways who provide the bulk of my 3D printed models.

They have had a reorganization of the materials they offer and more importantly they have rebranded or rather renamed several of them;

White Strong & Flexible (WS&F) and Black Strong & Flexible (BS&F) are now simply called Versatile Plastic which is available in several colours, including black and white.

Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) and Frosted Extreme Detail (FXD) are now called Fine Detail Plastic.  This is available in two finishes: Smooth and Smoothest.  Sadly this means the acronyms will be exactly the same so identifying them will be a bit longwinded but they are still FUD and FXD as we know them.  And I can also confirm there is no change in price.

Shapeways have also changed other materials but none which I currently use so I won’t cover them here.  I’ll be working through my products updating the pages for the new material names so please bear with me if you see the old names on any of them.

Next week I’ll have some 3D printed parts to share with you and some advice on how to see if your model was printed correctly.

A Little Holiday to the Dean Forest Railway

This weekend, as it was a Bank Holiday here in the UK, I decided to take off and visit the Dean Forest Railway in the Forest Of Dean, England.  I’ve written posts about the railway before and you can find one about their 2016 steam gala here.

This visit was not for a particular event but they did have a steam locomotive running and it was an old favorite of mine.  The Great Western Railway small Praire tank number 5541.

Below is a bit of history behind this locomotive (Taken from the Dean Forest Railway Society’s website http://www.dfrsociety.org)

5541 is a 4575 Praire tank engine built by the Great Western Railway. The 4575 class were a popular engine on the GWR, they were versatile and well liked by crew. They were an improved version of the 4500 (or 45xx) class steam engines, the main modification being the larger, sloped tanks.

5541 was built in 1928 at Swindon Works as part of lot number 251. Her original boiler number was 5546. Between June and August of 1930 she was allotted to Swindon shed; however by September 1931 she had moved to Bristol (Bath Road) where she stayed until the middle of 1938. Between December 1935 and March 1936, she underwent general repairs at Caerphilly Works, where she received a new boiler (number 5526). At this time she had covered 237,985 miles.

During the summer of 1938, 5541 moved to Machynlleth where she spent most of the rest of her working life. In the early months of 1945 she underwent general repairs at Swindon where a second new boiler (number 5519) was fitted; 482,639 miles now having been covered. Similarly, over Christmas of 1949 she underwent heavy general repairs at Swindon, necessitating another boiler (number 5505), after 616,385 miles. Another heavy general repair was carried out at Stafford Road, Wolverhampton in July/August 1958, after 839,123 miles. The new boiler fitted was number 3902. During 1960 she moved from Machynlleth to Laira, where she stayed until being made redundant on the 10th July 1962, after completing 921,589 miles.

She was sold to Messrs. Woodham Bros of Barry on the 4th September 1962 as part of Lot L03011/1. Various items had been removed from her between 1962 and 1971, but she had not been moved until being properly prepared for her move from the scrap yard out into the dispatch siding at Barry.

5541 was moved by rail to the Dean Forest Railway at Parkend from Barry, arriving on 10th October 1972 in time for the October Gala Day. Restoration was undertaken by Fund members on the siding behind the down platform at Parkend and was completed, and first steamed on 29th November 1975. On 16th January 1978 in light steam, she joined the movement of stock from Parkend to Norchard and was a regular performer on the short track constructed at the Steam Centre.

On 17 May 1983 she made an historic run over the A48 level crossing in Lydney town centre to collect a large train made up of wagons delivered to Lydney by British Rail. In 16 August 1985 she again went to Lydney Yard to collect the GWR150 exhibition coaches for a weekend display at Norchard.

Following another overhaul and boiler change at Norchard she returned to steam in August 1994. 5541 has made a number of visits to other preserved railways including Bodmin & Wenford, Llangollen, and the Gwili.

The loco boiler certificate expired early in 2004, and the loco undertook a major overhaul until it returned to service in April 2014. During the overhaul, its third on the Dean Forest Railway, the boiler was sent to the LNWR works at Crewe, and the rest of the loco was overhauled at Norchard by our own dedicated crew. The boiler ticket is due to expire in 2023.

Recently 5541 has been overhauled and repainted professionally by Western Steam Engineering at the DFR and I must say she looks amazing.

Here is a short video of 5541 running round its train at Lydney Junction, which is the southern terminus of the line.

And again running round its train at Norchard Low Level platform.  Norchard is currently positioned roughly in the middle of the line, although plans for extension are in hand.

Later in the day I also filmed 5541 doing a little bit of shunting in Norchard yard.

The shunting resulted in the collection of an impressive diesel crane which was built in the late 1950s.  And as this crane, also beautifully restored at the DFR by Western Steam Engineering, is from the western region, seeing locomotive 5541 working with it is very prototypical. Although I don’t think it would have shined as much as this back then!

5541 is regular performer at the DFR and it was a pleasure to see her running again through the forest, even if it was just a short trip over a Bank Holiday weekend.

When Schedules Go Off The Rails…

This week’s post will be a short one as I have lots of Ready-to-Run projects which need my attention so the drawing work, particularly the Union Pacific rotary snow plow, has taken a little bit of back burner while I get on top of things.  However I will have some more to share with you from the drawing side soon.

On a separate note, as some of you may already know there are new compliance rules for the use of personal data, or GDPR, coming into effect this May. I’m in the process of auditing my own process to ensure it meets the new rules, and will be updating the website and contact form accordingly, but in the meantime please keep an eye out in your inbox in case I send an email touching base with you.

I will leave you this week the information that my American N Scale group, from the Gosport MRC, and I will be at the Fordingbridge model railway exhibition this Saturday, the 14th April 2017, with a fair portion of our layout should you be in the area and want to stop by and say hello.

Follow-up on New Releases

Again this week’s post will be a short one.  Although I was at the Bournemouth N Trak Convention over the weekend I have a sprained wrist, having clumsily falling over in the snow, so things are moving a bit slower than intended.  But I’m hopeful that I’ll make a full recovery soon and then I’ll be back to modeling and 3D printing as normal.

Due to my wrist I didn’t take any photos this year at the N Trak Convention but there was one item that I wanted to share with you.  A few weeks ago I showed you the N Scale Architect’s new kit for a Pennsylvania Railroad’s F22 flat car set and Navel gun load.

Well, it made an appearance and did several laps of the Black Diamond’s layout behind a UP S2.

I will have more on this kit soon and will share a link once it is available on the N Scale Architects website. (These photos were kindly shared by the N Scale Architect.)

Although I won’t be there myself if you are in the Abingdon area of the UK this coming weekend you can see my club’s US N Scale layout, Solent Summit, at the Abingdon Model Railway exhibition.  A link to the exhibition can be found here.

Next week I’m planning on showing you some progress on the UP Rotary Snow Plow project.

No News This Week

My apologies but there will be no post this week aside to say that today we lost a fellow modeler, so I know you’ll excuse me if I take this evening off.

Look after yourselves, and I’ll catch up with you all next week.