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New Shapeways Maker Material Report

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 12:24 am
by csundstr
Hi Everyone

I just received my first test prints in the new Shapeways Maker Material (not yet available for public purchase). This material is an optically cured High Definition Acrylate material.

Here is an image of the material right out of the box. I will post updates as I work with the models.


In case you are wondering, these are the first test prints of several new models I have added to my store.
  • The two tip car bins are for 1:32n20 Fowler tip cars (usable in Gn15) - the main frames are being printed on another order in FUD due to small wire sizes.
  • The open wagon and passenger wagon are models of the early Duffield Bank Railway cars (a.k.a. the DBR 2x4 cars) as drawn in Mike Decker's plan packs. The axleboxes are attached to the end beams as sprues to save on print volume and to make it easier to add wheels.
  • The wheelsets are for these cars (one will be assembled with these and one with Hornby OO gauge 4-hole wheelsets)
  • The final small sprue is a pair of Heywood couplers in 1:24, operable once assembled.

First impression on the material is mixed.

  • The material feels cleaner than FUD, roughly the same feel to the material as their old Acrylic material but much more accurate.
  • There are very visible tooling marks where support structures were removed and there are indications of air bubbles in the material surface near these points.
  • Most significantly there is significant material overage in close assemblies; I think their rule for spacing between parts is overly optimistic.
  • The interlocked parts and a few areas where there should be a gap are filled with material.
  • The Heywood couplers on the cars, which should be operable (and would be in FUD), will have to be cut apart as the interlocking parts have been melded together.
  • The holes into which the axlebox sprues insert will have to be drilled out as they are undersize.
  • The inner frames have "grown" inwards and will need to be shaved back to clear the wheels (there is plenty of clearance on the model).
  • There is a bulge and "laddering" on the thin walls of the tip car bins.

Overall first impression: with some refining this could be a useful material, filling a gap between FUD and WSF. In bigger models (the Heywood cars for example), it saves about $5-$10 per model versus FUD. It should be interesting to see how this material progresses through the Maker stage.

I will be doing some cutting, assembly and painting of these models over the next few days and will report on how that goes.


Re: New Shapeways Maker Material Report

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:09 am
by csundstr
Second round:

Cleaning up the DBR 2x4 open goods wagon in Gn15, here are some notes:

  • DO NOT use a knife to scrape away sprue remains. It turns out there are no air bubbles in the models (which is to be expected). The pits are where the support sprues for the part were broken away during finishing by Shapeways. Using a knife to scrape the remains of a sprue away or trying to cut the sprue flush to the surface with flush-cutting side cutters results in the sprue fracturing away from the surface leaving a small crater.
  • Note that this means the material will fracture before it cuts. Put your knives to the side when using this material!
  • The material surface finish is easily marked, even with a fingernail, but only the surface finish. The material is not damaged.
  • A sharp single-cut needle file easily cleans away sprue remains and leaves a very flush and smooth surface. The material comes away as a powder rather than as cut-away material. Very reminiscent of how bronze powders when cut on a lathe or mill rather than forming chips.
  • Hand drilling with a pin vise is difficult, but drilling with a Dremel tool would be worse. The material is VERY grabby and a standard drill hooks into the material readily. Expect broken drill bits unless extreme care is taken. I would recommend using straight flute reamers or drill bits (check McMaster-Carr or similar) or diamond-coated burrs. The tip of a round needle file and a small burr both worked well. A drill bit near a thin wall resulted in that wall exploding into fragments before the hand-turned pin vise had turned even 90 degrees with no pressure. Worse than FUD to drill. I would not power drill unless the part was securely clamped in a machinist's vise and I was using a mill with power feeds and an auto depth return.
  • The material is VERY brittle. It seems even more brittle than FUD, although it also seems more durable than FUD up to the limit of its strength. I think it will be a better choice than FUD for many things (especially things with thick walls) but FUD may still be best for items with thin shapes (wires or thin walls).
  • The laddering on the tip car bins appears to be because the support sprues were in a linear line or two rather than supporting the entire structure. I suppose the support sprue algorithm may improve over time.

When this material becomes available for public ordering I will have to create a version of the model with add-on couplers rather than pre-mounted couplers; the pre-mounted couplers are unsalvageable due to the allowable Shapeways part spacing being far too tight for this production method. I will build this model as a shop demonstrator nonetheless.

The separate sprue of Heywood couplers worked although material growth means I will need to do some light filing or sanding and some very cautious drilling out of the holes to accept a standard wire size as the hinge pin. The "DBR 1881" and "ER 1895" text is clear and readable on all couplers.

The Heywood wheels and the axleboxes are apt demonstrations of material growth. The round sections of these were 1.5mm and 1mm in diameter in the CAD model. In real life they have come out as 1.65mm and 1.15mm in diameter. The holes they were to fit in were supposed to be 1.7mm and 1.2mm; they are closer to 1.35mm and 0.75mm.

The wheelsets did not hold linearity; their axles are curved slightly. They do not roll freely because of this (the wheel planes are not parallel). The curve is in line with the remains of the support sprues. Good only for a rip track or other shop scene. I will be fitting Hornby wheelsets to these models.

The support sprues seem to be defaulting to being on the "bottom" of most of the parts, but on the open good wagon they are on one end.

Tomorrow I will try the first coats of paint.


Re: New Shapeways Maker Material Report

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 9:55 am
by rue_d_etropal
There have been some rather negative comments on another forum. I still prefer the WSF simply because it is very strong and is very easy to paint. For very small items with fine detail then the newer plastics are probably better, but each plastic has good and bad points if you want the best, it is necessary to consider what really is best, and there probably is not one type that suits all models.
It is good to see people properly testing new products, but there is still too much hype about 3D printing, and some are expecting more than it can realistically do, and then want it as cheap as possible. I have deliberately kept away from actually owning a 3D printing machine myself, because I prefer to do the design work, and want to offer more models than I could by producing them myself.

Re: New Shapeways Maker Material Report

Posted: Sun Apr 24, 2016 1:46 am
by csundstr
I agree that there is a high expectation that is not yet matched by the reality. The reality is getting better all the time, however. I think it is the responsibility of the designer to test and choose the best materials for each application so that the reality that is received most closely achieves what is expected. WSF is a perfectly fine material for some applications, but in other applications FUD, Acrylic, High Def Acrylic and even metals and ceramics may be better choices. Since I am trying this new material, I thought I would let the community know how it has turned out.

I have just finished painting the open goods wagon. I deliberately chose the worst painting conditions (no cleaning or prep work, brush applied acrylics) just to see how it went.

The paint I use is Vallejo Model Color Acrylics. In this case Burnt Umber and Black.

The paint adhered to the surface very well and self-leveled to an even finish with little effort. I am very pleased with the final look.

In order to adapt the bearing boxes to accept the Hornby wheelsets I had to taper the axle hole on the back. This was done with a very small countersink centre drill in a pin vise. McMaster-Carr PN#2925A53 if you are interested. The near straight flute cleanly shaved away material until the wheelsets ran freely in the bearings.

I will be taking photos tomorrow at our local model train show.

Overall I am satisfied that the material can be made to work in some applications. The coarseness of surfaces affected by the support posts and the tendency to fracture rather than cut are concerning. It is worth keeping an eye on this material as it progresses through Maker status to full availability.

Re: New Shapeways Maker Material Report

Posted: Tue Apr 26, 2016 7:19 am
by csundstr
Here is a photo of the car, painted but not weathered, positioned on a wharf on my friend's On30 layout (the Gn15 layout I was hoping to use as a backdrop didn't show up).


I am doing test prints of a couple other variations on this Gn15 car frame; I should have them in hand (printed in FUD and WSF) by next month.

Happy modeling.