EggHaulers are printed using a higher end 3D Printer. Our printer uses plastic filament and then heats and extrudes the plastic in a pattern programmed by the computer.
We use a Lulzbot 3D printer that gets us higher quality prints. When we first came up with the idea of an EggHauler several years ago it cost $350 to 3D print just one. As with any technology the cost has come down over time.
Many people ask why we 3D print EggHaulers and not create molds and use injection printing like with other Large Scale rolling stock. The problem is that the molds are very, very expensive. Based on the market for Eggliners and then the quantity of EggHaulers we could sell it would not be cost effect. Plus we could not offer all the different colors and options as we offer now if we used injection molding to create EggHaulers.
EggHaulers are designed in a high end 3D modeling program call Solid Works. That file is converted into a common STL format. It is then put into a program that will slice that file and create what is call GCODE. This is the language that the printer understands to position the print head.
Here is a very small sample of the code to print one of our new BOX CARS.
M190 R60.0 ; wait for bed to reach printing temp
G1 Z2 E0 F75 ; prime tiny bit of filament into the nozzle
M117 TAZ 6 Printing… ; progress indicator message on LCD
M221 S100 T0
G1 F600 E-1.75
G0 F1575 X76.031 Y103.876 Z0.425
G1 F600 E0
G1 F900 X76.165 Y103.783 E0.00543
G1 X79.483 Y101.591 E0.1379
G1 X79.579 Y101.53 E0.14169
G1 X87.127 Y96.915 E0.43639
G1 X91.593 Y93.78 E0.61814
G1 X95.898 Y90.376 E0.80096
The 3D printing process is kind of like a slow replicator on Star Trek. Picard could order some Earl Grey tea, but he would have to come back in about 2 hours as it would take that long to print the cup.
When we print EggHaulers we have to walk a line between quality and speed. It takes about eight hours to print all the parts that make up a standard EggHauler. Our new Box Cars and Cabooses take even longer.
We did a lots of tests and had people look at the different levels of speed vs quality. We found a sweet spot and we now produced a good looking product. But it still takes a bit of time. Those that understand 3D printing can tell that is how EggHaulers are made. But many people do not notice or care. We have yet to get a complaint about any aspect of our EggHaulers.
Wait I take that back. Garden Railways thought the screws were a little hard to screw in when attaching couplers. So we made a small change to the drawings in about 5 minutes. Updated our STL files and GCODE and we were ready to role. All new EggHaulers now printed were update. As we print on demand, we were not stuck with old design or stock.
This is not something that is easy to do when you have molds. We never noticed because we use a small electric screw drive when installing couplers. I guess they were doing it by hand. No matter. Everyone is happy and the change was easy and fast.