Pending Shapeways Store Price Increases

UPDATE, JANUARY 30, 2019 – Shapeways emailed today saying the pricing adjustment for FUD plastics like my models are in is temporarily on hold while they try to work out some pricing issues with the changes. They are saying a few weeks, I will update this post again when a new date is announded.


I’m not sure how many people who stumble across my blog wind up being the ones who buy things from my Shapeways Store, but it seems only fair to warn people about an impending price increase. Shapeways told designers/sellers some time ago that their pricing structure was changing to factor in more things into the costing, which is a mix of material, machine space, and part handling charges. When they first told us, they said anything already on sale as being grandfathered at its current price until sometime in 2019. That time has finally arrived, and on February 4th, the new prices will go into effect. For most of my models, the price changes are not significant, and to be fully honest, a few things like the CNR/CPR Don Station and Cabin D signal boxes will actually go down a bit in price, but some of my top sellers, the S Scale Speeder Cars will be going up in price $3-4 US depending on the car and the material choice made (Smooth vs Smoothest Detail Plastic). The S Scale Speeders are currently between $18-$25US depending on the material.After February 4th, they will be between $22-$28US, so get them while they are a bit less.

 

Getting Cheaper, Don Station, getting more expensive, CNR D-1 components and Speeder cars in HO and S.

S Scale Speeders – M14, S2

HO Scale Speeders – M14, S2, Woodings CBI

I’m not happy about this, as they are really good sellers, but there is also no value in selling them as the couple of dollars I make on each fund me doing test prints for other projects that are in the work, unfortunately, as with everything, the cost of production is going up, and some of that has to get passed on to the end user. We will see if it affects sales. I’ll have to revisit this in say six months time, but its so hard to know with S Scale whether a change in sales is because I’ve literally sold to every S Scale modeller who wants them, or if the small price increase has driven people away.

 

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The S Scale Resource Online Magazine

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This is a thank you to the S Scale Community in response to the two Speeder Cars I have available on Shapeways.  I really should have bet Trevor on how many I’d sell.  I’d also like to thank the publisher of the online magazine the S Scale Resource for including my two speeder cars in their most recent issue to spread the word after a number of modellers who have bought them posted about them on various forums.

The S Scale Resource and its sister the O Scale Resource are free online magazines published by modellers.  Even if you aren’t in these scales, they have lots of great articles about modelling techniques that can be applied to other scales.  They are ad-supported, so if you sign up, visit and support their advertisers, it keeps great hard-working modellers who want to help build communities going and giving out a great resource to the rest of us for free!!

SScaleScreenCapLookit That, my speeder model in digital print being advertised to others!!  In the August-September 2018 issue.

Let it never be said I don’ t listen – Another S Scale Speeder Car Available

So to follow up on my post from the weekend, I’m rolling the dice to see if there is interest in a second type of 3D printed S Scale speeder car.  The Fairmont M14, another speeder in the collection of the Toronto Railway Museum that I have produced an HO Scale version of, has been converted to S Scale and Sn42 Narrow Gauge for my one customer (from and modelling all the way east in Newfoundland if memory serves!!).

No pictures, as I haven’t ordered them for myself yet, but I’ve made the adjustments I think are needed, and put them up for sale on my Shapeways Store at the links below the pictures.

Shapeways Renders of the S Scale standard gauge (left) and Sn42 Narrow Gauge (right) Fairmont M14 Speeder Cars.  The body details are the same other than some adjustments to get the body to fit the narrower wheels on the Sn42.

As I haven’t ordered them myself yet, I’m relying on this car having the same frame structure as the S2 Speeder to make sure the parts work and fit together when printed.

Hopefully the S Scale community finds these useful additions to their modelling.

Shapeways Sales Review – Who knows what will sell? It sure isn’t me.

The model railroad industry is a surprisingly competitive place, and it certainly isn’t a place where people go (at least not sane people) go to try to make money unless they have a lot of dedication or are crazy (see Exhibit A Jason Shron of Rapido Trains).  I’m a hobbyist, but one with some skills in 3D design, and whose dabbled in 3D printing for our hobby.  As part of this, I’ve been able to make some of the 3D printed bits and pieces I’ve done for my models available through my Shapeways Store.  I’ve sold a fair bit of stuff, but not nearly enough to make any kind of living or consider it to be a real business.  It’s a pleasing sideline to the things I need for myself to fund me buying things I design for myself.  I’m not treating it as a business, and have no plans too, but the emails when things are bought always amaze me and I’m constantly amazed at what sells.

imgp4766My Best Selling Item – A Sprue of HO Scale BBQ propane tanks. I’ve sold 39!!

My top three selling items are all HO Scale little details, the aforementioned sprue of BBQ gas tanks above, a block of 4 HO Scale lockers, then a residential BBQ.  Perfectly sensible small items that are all fairly cheap, and not readily available from commercial manufacturers.  This however, is where it gets weird.  My fourth best-selling item, is something I did initially as a “this would be nice for my friends layout”, a resizing of the HO Scale Canadian National Fairmont Speeder Car into S Scale.

The S Scale Fairmont S2 speeder on its own, and alongside its little HO Scale brother.

Not including the one I printed myself that was gifted to Trevor Marshall, I have now sold 22 of these!! I’ve only sold 18 in HO Scale in a much bigger pond than the S Scale universe.  The message here, is twofold, one, as Trevor keeps telling me, there is a pent-up demand in the S Scale universe for products, and two, even in S scale, something small ish like a speeder can be a profitable item at a reasonable price where its affordable enough to sell lots, but where I can have enough markup to actually make some money from it.

I’ve had a number of people as about the Fairmont M14 speeder I’ve done in HO in S Scale.  I am seriously considering looking at re-scaling it and doing it in S Scale, if there really is a market out there, I’d like to help those modellers, and I’m not going to complain about a few extra dollars in my pockets every month!

imgp6081rawconvFairmont M14 Speeder in HO Scale, aparently coming soon in S Scale based on market demand!

So, with that, S-Scalers, I still don’t do commissions or take on outside work, as my 3D modelling time is my lunch break at work, but if you see anything in the handful of small items or detail parts I offer in HO on Shapeways that you really think you must have or there is a market for, let me know in the comments.  That may be enough to push me over the top into adjusting the 3D model and offering it to you.

3D Printing Custom Design Requests or Requests to change the Scale of a Model – Not as easy or appetizing as people think

On a semi-regular basis I get two kinds of emails from people through my Shapeways 3D printing store:

  1. Hi, can you 3D draw item XYZ for me and not charge me an hourly rate for your design time.  I think you’ll sell lots of them and make money?
  2. Can you re-size item ABC that you’ve already drawn in HO Scale to N or S or O or whatever scale?

The first question is easy.  No, I can’t spend tens or hundreds of hours researching and designing something for you that I’m not interested in for no money.  The 3D modelling package I know and use is an older one that I learned in University and we bought at my office eons ago because I knew it.  It’s a bit (nee a lot) dated, but it works for me.  But, the fact that it is on my work computer means that I maybe get 30-40 minutes at lunch, and any time I want to hang around after work modelling (and contrary to popular belief, I do have a life and spending hours at work after work isn’t my idea of fun, even if it does lead to more models!).  I don’t have a sense of how long a project is going to take me to do when I start.  Some projects I thought would be easy have taken ages, and others I thought would be hard, have been advanced quickly.  And I don’t track how long I spend working on a model, as in some ways, I don’t want to know.  As my model making and Shapeways Store are a part of my HOBBY, I don’t want to put a dollar figure on my time, the hobby is expensive enough as is!!  Equally simply, in honest terms, large 3D printed items are not for the faint of heart.  The GO Single level coach is around $200US in cost before I apply any markup to make some money on it.  That’s just the cost from Shapeways.  That means, depending on how much markup I add to make some money, if I mark it up 30%, that’s a $260.00US model kit that doesn’t have wheels, decals, or detail parts.  I may not be a model railroad manufacturer, but I don’t need to be to know there isn’t a market for that when a complete resin coach kit from BGR group is around $160.00CDN and they are a niche market for people who actually want to build kits!

An accurate reflection of the transaction most people expect when they ask you to do custom 3D modelling for their Model Railroad projects, apologies for the swear word (Courtesy of Matthew Innman at theoatmeal.com)

So, on to Question 2.  First up, I need to explain how I create a 3D model.  I draw whatever I am modelling at full size inside the computer program (i.e. an 89′ long passenger car is 89′ long in the computer program.  Over the 5 years I have been designing for printing at Shapeways, I have learned their material tolerances.  For example, in Frosted Ultra Detail, the material I print most of my models in, I know that the minimum width for a wall to successfully print is 0.6mm, or 0.02 inches.  This works out to 1.75 inches in the 1:1 scale real world.  This, is the minimum width that a wall of a building or car needs to be to print.  As you pay by volume of material, you want to minimize any additional thickness to parts to avoid paying for material that isn’t needed. This means, that I know exactly what i am doing in HO Scale, as that’s what i model in.  Once I am done the model, I split it into parts as appropriate (i.e. car underbody, interior, body shell), and re-scale it down to HO scale, and then upload to Shapeways.

FormZScreenshot of FormZ 6.5 and the 3D model of Don Station (before parting out for printing)

So you ask, why is it so hard to then change it to N scale or S scale or something else?  Well, its twofold.  Going smaller to N-Scale, the fine details may no longer be thick enough to print. Going bigger to S or O Scales, the walls may be too thick, and details that are passable in HO become blocky lumps that look terrible.  This is particularly a problem for buildings, as the window mullions are so fine in HO they barely print, which means they won’t print in N. In S or O Scale, if the part will even fit in the print envelope of the machine, the parts can look clunky and oversized, as they probably are over true scale in HO to meet the minimum printable dimensions.

Another problem, especially for locomotive bodies or coaches I’ve done, in shrinking them to N Scale, I know nothing about it.  I don’t have N scale equipment or couplers to understand correct heights, how things are mounted, what will and won’t negotiate a curve or switch and on and on.  When I was convinced to re-scale my CNR D-1 to N Scale, I had to go buy an N Scale mechanism for it to make sure the body would fit over it and to see where the mounting points were as opposed to the HO Scale version. I also discovered that I had to turn the roof into part of the body in N scale to make it strong enough.

When I up-sized D-1 to S Scale, that then posed the problem that the body was too big for the printer, on top of needing to thin the walls to try to bring the huge cost down to something reasonable for my friend who wanted it.  At least in S-Scale, there is no expectation of a commercial mechanism fitting it, so I only had to design with mounting blocks to allow the body to be attached to a custom-made brass frame.  For the carbody to fit in the printer, it had to be split in two.  It took me a long time to figure out where and how to split it, and make sure I had found every possible place where parts needed to be cut, and adjusted so they didn’t bind up when the two parts of the print were assembled.  It worked, but similar to the requests above, if I’d been billing time, it wouldn’t have been cost-effective.

D-1 in Many Scales.  S and HO together on Trevor Marshall’s kitchen table, and N scale on my workbench.  The S Scale required the body to be split apart, while the N-scale required the roof to become a part of the body to be strong enough.  Not just a quick click to re-size when changing scales.

Similarly, I received  a request a few months ago to re-size an HO Scale Fairmont Speeder to S scale.  A request I would normally ignore, though in this case, I didn’t.  The problem with making things bigger, is that it exposes any faults in the modelling. The smaller the model, the more a fudge here or a size issue there goes unnoticed.  I honestly think the only reason I even considered the request was that I have a friend who models in S Scale that I could at least give it to when done.  I also have a lot of respect for S Scale modellers.  They can’t generally go buy anything off the shelf and run it.  They have to work at it to find models, and build things.  I am totally behind that, and like the notion of helping them with a few hours of my time on the speeder resize to make another model available for them.  S Scale is called a “Builders Scale’, you don’t get into it because you want to buy stuff and run trains, you get into it because you are a modeller who likes building things.

The S Scale and HO Scale speeder together, and the S Scale speeder showing it modified to be two parts instead of the single piece of the HO Scale one to ease painting the larger and slightly more detailed version.

For the S Scale speeder, with the details being more visible, it gave me more opportunity to improve the model, and to fix things like the seats which hadn’t printed right in several HO attempts.  I also modified it to have some extra details, to allow wood strips to be inserted for the hand lift bars for turning it.  Making these changes probably took me 4 or 5 hours of fiddling about to make sense of where more detail was needed, trying to do things like make the axles roll (didn’t succeed). I’ve sold one to the person who requested it, which is nice as at least he was true to his word that if I did the work, he’d buy it.  This is where these resizing requests become a problem.  On top of the time sink which is not insignificant to adjust a model, and go through all the checks, I have no reason most of the time to order one myself to make sure it prints and looks right. I also don’t have the budget to be doing that, as it would be even more of a sink than doing the modelling for free is.  Suffice to say, I’m not much of a business man, as I probably made about $1/hour for the modification time on the single sale to date!!

While it may not seem like a lot of time, any time I spend working on adjusting a model for someone else, is taking away from the limited amount of time I have to work on designing things for my own projects, or going home and actually working on the models.  There are times I wish I could walk away from my day job and make enough money designing model railroad parts and models for a living, but I know from friends that turning your hobby into a job takes away the fun of the Hobby.  I am happy to offer for sale what I do come up with on Shapeways to help build a community and help others, but that’s done with the understanding that I don’t have the time to do extensive customer support or custom projects. I will continue to generally politely decline requests for projects and re-sizing for the most part, though as you can see, I’m also inconsistent and at least sometimes, something will pique my interest enough to get me to take it on.

From Zero to a Million Miles an hour…

What happens when a much delayed shipment of 3D printed Goodies from Shapeways arrives.  I go from not being able to advance any of the projects on my workbench, to shooting forward with a handful like it’s going out of style.  It’s exciting to get things you’ve designed but never seen and don’t know if they worked until they arrive.  Waiting is definitely the worst part of the 3D printing process with Shapeways to find out if your design worked as you planned and envisioned.

In this case, parts for three different projects, one ongoing (587 Yonge St), one new (detailed below), and one that I now know I can actually announce September 30th (Mystery Rail Car Project) all arrived in one big order.  The biggest problem was the ever helpful people at UPS.  Because my order was delayed, Shapeways upgrades the shipping, for Canadians, that means going from US Post to UPS Courier.  This is good, as UPS is faster, but bad, as they are really hard to deal with.  Little things, like for instance say, you get an email Tuesday morning saying you have to pay tax on the shipment, and then you go and pay it online.  Then your package vanishes and doesn’t scan or show signs of existing for four days.  After much chasing, it magically appears where you wanted it to go, the UPS store two blocks from your house.

It’s a mighty big box for the relatively small 3D printed parts inside, but was packed well and all arrived safe and sound.

When I picked up the package Saturday, I promptly opened it, checked everything was there and appeared good, and took off to go watch the Toronto Argonauts football game.  Cleaning could wait till after the game, and doing anything else till Sunday.

When I got home from the game, all the parts were given a good but gentle clean in soap and water to remove any remaining support material from the FUD parts.  Once clean, they were allowed to dry overnight so I could prime them on Sunday morning.

One of the projects in the order was something new.  I don’t normally take requests for models being resized, but in this case, for some reason I did.  I received a request from a modeller looking to have my HO Scale Fairmont M1 re-sized to S Scale.  I’m not sure why I agreed, other than knowing that it wasn’t going to be that much work compared to some requests.  There was definitely some re-design and thought needed to change what was a 1 piece print in HO scale into 2 for S, and maybe its a simple as I have a friend who models in S so I know it will have a home to go to when I’m finished painting it.  It also gave me the opportunity to try a lot of things, and making a model bigger certainly exposes every little sloppy design error that smaller scales can hide!!

Fairmont M1 Speeder in S Scale being painted, and in yellow.  The model was modified so I can insert actual wood bars for the lift rods, which can be re-positioned as desired, rather than being part of the print in HO Scale.

Overall, aside from the fact that despite my best efforts to have the wheels and axles turn, it appears that the clearance was just too tight, and the support material hardened the axles to the frame, I am very happy with the print.  As you can see from the pictures, it’s now bright yellow waiting on me hand painting the details and weathering.  I didn’t try to get a perfect yellow coat.  Its thick and thin in places, as these cars had rough workaday lives, and having an uneven paint surface will help with weathering and making it look used.

I’ll post again with pictures of it fully painted, and hopefully looking natural on an S scale layout in the next couple of weeks when I get the chance for a get together with an S scale modeller.