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Re: STEP/CNC for Creating Low-Demand, High-Quality Z Gauge Items

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  • jim_manley_alpha_six
    Hi Steve, I m going to continue with this in public on the list until a poll of the list members indicates we need to go private, but I think it s important
    Message 1 of 26 , Nov 30, 2003
      Hi Steve,

      I'm going to continue with this in public on the list until a poll of
      the list members indicates we need to go private, but I think it's
      important for the future of our scale in all its glorious gauges
      (thanks for the clarification, Jeffrey - I should have known better!
      :) Besides, there's a handy "Next" button at the top of every message
      that allows non-interested parties to ignore my babbling. Those who
      are interested could very well determine our future - or not, our
      mileage may vary.

      Anyway, your wish is the manufacturer's command. The lowest-cost RTR
      (Ready-To-Run, for our newbies :) "desktop CNC milling machine" (yep,
      like desktop publishing) that I've found so far is the MaxNC 5 for -
      are you sitting down? - $895, which has 8" X-axis by 5" Y-axis by 6"
      Z-axis travel and a claimed resolution of 0.00012" (yes, that's 120
      microns - the next level of machines can supposedly get you down to a
      micron or less), which is plenty for Z scale). Here's a link to the
      product description:

      http://www.maxnc.com/page12.html

      Now, it's designed to have a hand motor tool (e.g., Dremel Moto-Tool,
      etc.) clamped into the Z-axis frame, so it doesn't come with a true
      milling machine spindle, or even a spindle motor, but it looks like
      those could be retrofitted, if you decided to get into this seriously.
      The purists are going to immediately jump on this and say, "You fool!
      Those hand tools aren't able to withstand very much side-force on the
      cutting heads because of their puny bearings, so accuracy and speed
      will suffer!". This is absolutely true, but we are more likely to be
      working plastic, wood, and soft metals like brass and non-alloy
      aluminum (aluminium for our UK friends :) and not making titanium
      airframe parts for the F-22 Stealth Fighter (the cockpit/fuselage
      interface is CNC milled from a single roughly 6 x 8 x 1 foot block of
      titanium over several days!). If you run the cutting tool at a low
      enough feed transit speed (measured in inches per minute, so we're not
      talking about something all that fast anyway), you can still do some
      pretty neat stuff. Besides, we're not trying to pump out hundreds of
      thousands of identical parts, and it certainly would have to be faster
      than what it takes dealers to get stuff from most manufacturers
      (measured in products per month ;)

      As John pointed out, Sherline (http://www.sherline.com) also has a
      line of desktop CNC milling machines, but they start at a couple
      thousand dollars and go up rapidly from there. You can find other
      manufacturers if you look long and hard enough via Google (and believe
      me, I have), but their lowest-priced models also start in the
      mid-thousands. However, their focus is on small professional shops
      (there are an estimated 500,000 of them out there) and so their
      machines have spindles with motors, larger beds, better mechanical
      resolution, more capable (but also much more complex) software, etc.
      Our good friend here on the list, Yuji Kuwabara, used a Taig
      (http://www.taig.com) desktop lathe to create some of the parts for
      his wonderful Big Boy, and there is a CNC option for that lathe and
      their desktop milling machine, but the prices are close to the range
      of the Sherline units. A useful source of info on lower-end
      commercial products is at:

      http://www.super-tech.com/default.asp

      You can get a quick feel for the range of CNC machines that have been
      manufactured over the years by monitoring the CNC milling machine
      section of your favorite four-letter WWW auction site (which shall not
      be mentioned by name here - Ah-ah-mennnn! ;) You can find some pretty
      interesting older models that are definitely in the industrial
      category (they are measured in cubic yards and weigh tons!), but good
      luck getting them into your garage/basement without laying a new
      concrete slab and putting in a dedicated exterior door, much less
      figuring out how the software works (many are proprietary and no
      longer supported, but some have been retrofitted with PC interfaces
      very similar to what the MaxNC and Sherline models use).

      If you're a real glutton for punishment, you can even Do It Yourself,
      i.e., build your own CNC milling machine (or lathe). MaxNC sells
      their PC interface board (with their basic software package) with
      three stepper motors (very low-torque - only 70 ounce-inches, but
      again, probably more than adequate for our needs) for $295, and you
      can build the milling bed from all sorts of interesting materials
      (some people have used Medium Density Fiberboard - MDF, or particle
      board, all the way up to machined aluminum and steel). Since the
      stepper motors don't care how long the feed screws are (they move the
      feed table around under a fixed spindle, or the spindle over a fixed
      table), you can build a much larger table - some DIYers have machines
      the size of a 4 x 8 sheet of particle board, and even larger, where
      the spindle moves over the work. Some good WWW sites for DIY CNC are:

      http://213.10.73.60/majosoft/index.html (lots of examples of DIY machines)

      http://www.hobbycnc.com/ (3-axis controller kit + three 85 oz-in
      motors $219)

      http://www.stepperworld.com/ (3-axis controller kit $50, kit + three
      33 oz-in motors $119, kit + three 125 oz-in motors $219)

      http://www.mendonet.com/cnclinks/index.html (links to all sorts of CNC
      stuff - hardware, software, controllers, motors, kits, assembled, etc.)

      There are links from some of these sites to DIY efforts all over the
      world, if you follow enough of them. Stepper motors can be had on the
      aforementioned four-letter auction site starting at a few dollars for
      used ones, less than $30 for new, and going up pretty much linearly
      with their torque and speed capacity. So, the minimum cost of entry
      for a bare-bones DIY CNC machine is probably a few hundred dollars and
      a few dozen hours of work. A lot of sites sell plans, but if you're
      willing to peruse Google for several evenings, you can find info
      similar to what I've listed above.

      The free and shareware CNC software is fairly basic (and some is even
      written in BASIC!) that allows you to manually control the tool and
      process G&M code files, but there is a lot of it out there, and I
      haven't even scratched the surface, yet. Most of the commercial stuff
      has 30 day trial versions that can be downloaded, so you can get an
      idea of what's possible, especially if you can afford to spend a few
      hundred dollars. TurboCAD is a good lower-end choice, and I happen to
      know the guy who is the master machinist and mechanical engineer in
      the aerospace industry who led the development of AutoCAD (he's quite
      a character, and has no limit in his animosity for what the executives
      at AutoDesk did in ignoring their own technical experts, in addition
      to buying out better upcoming competing products just so they could
      bury them, one of which he also directed the development).

      Analysis continues, as we say in the intelligence business.

      All the BeZt,
      Jim


      --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, STEVDEL@p... wrote:
      > I've been wondering when equipment like the CNC
      > would be widespread and economical enough to start to
      > show up in the model railroad supply chain.
      > What's the order-of-magnitude of the cost of this
      > kind of equipment now?
    • Robert Allbritton
      Hi Jim & Group, Just a comment or two: I don t want to dampen ANYONES enthusiasm, but when it comes to machine tools, you really do get what you pay for. I
      Message 2 of 26 , Dec 1, 2003
        Hi Jim & Group,

        Just a comment or two:

        I don't want to dampen ANYONES enthusiasm, but when it comes to machine
        tools, you really do get what you pay for. I have owned 3 lathes:

        A Unimat One - $150 This thing is a toy, I can make parts with it, if I have
        about a day per part of free time on my hands.

        A Harbor Freight Lathe (forgot the model number) - ~$600 Nice Lathe and mill
        combo machine, but it was a pain to switch back and forth between Mill and
        Lathe. It also needed to be readjusted regularly to keep it in tolerances.
        Probably OK for prototyping, but forget production.

        A Sherline Lathe with Milling attachment - ~$1500 with all the attachments.
        This thing is *GREAT* right out of the box, works like a champ. VERY easy to
        go from Lathe to Mill and back. Could you do production runs with it?
        Probably, but even then, it is going to get tedious awful fast. A small
        production run of say 20 units (assuming we are talking about a locomotive
        frame) could be done.

        But in the big picture, you are still talking about Locomotives that will
        cost in the AZL price range when you get done - unless you are willing to
        donate quite a few man hours to our hobby, and I thank you if you are
        willing!

        People forget that it takes more than just time and materials to produce a
        product. There is a TON of your own time spent on design, marketing,
        distribution, support, repair, and a hundred other little things. You really
        need to sell a product for at least 50% more than your production cost just
        to break even with all of the other cost built in.

        Again, I'm not trying to rain on anybody's parade, but consider just making
        models for yourself - did you see the pictures of the Big Boy? - and how
        many man hours did that take? Its a lot easier to rationalize big purchases
        on machine tools when you say: I'm going to make things that will pay for
        this "investment." But it is a lot more realistic say that you are doing it
        because you enjoy the hobby - oh, and if you do make any money, use them to
        buy more trains (grin)

        Best,
        -Rob

        -----Original Message-----
        From: jim_manley_alpha_six [mailto:jim_manley@...]
        Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 1:12 AM
        To: z_scale@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [z_scale] Re: STEP/CNC for Creating Low-Demand, High-Quality Z
        Gauge Items


        Hi Steve,

        I'm going to continue with this in public on the list until a poll of
        the list members indicates we need to go private, but I think it's
        important for the future of our scale in all its glorious gauges
        (thanks for the clarification, Jeffrey - I should have known better!
        :) Besides, there's a handy "Next" button at the top of every message
        that allows non-interested parties to ignore my babbling. Those who
        are interested could very well determine our future - or not, our
        mileage may vary.

        Anyway, your wish is the manufacturer's command. The lowest-cost RTR
        (Ready-To-Run, for our newbies :) "desktop CNC milling machine" (yep,
        like desktop publishing) that I've found so far is the MaxNC 5 for -
        are you sitting down? - $895, which has 8" X-axis by 5" Y-axis by 6"
        Z-axis travel and a claimed resolution of 0.00012" (yes, that's 120
        microns - the next level of machines can supposedly get you down to a
        micron or less), which is plenty for Z scale). Here's a link to the
        product description:

        http://www.maxnc.com/page12.html

        Now, it's designed to have a hand motor tool (e.g., Dremel Moto-Tool,
        etc.) clamped into the Z-axis frame, so it doesn't come with a true
        milling machine spindle, or even a spindle motor, but it looks like
        those could be retrofitted, if you decided to get into this seriously.
        The purists are going to immediately jump on this and say, "You fool!
        Those hand tools aren't able to withstand very much side-force on the
        cutting heads because of their puny bearings, so accuracy and speed
        will suffer!". This is absolutely true, but we are more likely to be
        working plastic, wood, and soft metals like brass and non-alloy
        aluminum (aluminium for our UK friends :) and not making titanium
        airframe parts for the F-22 Stealth Fighter (the cockpit/fuselage
        interface is CNC milled from a single roughly 6 x 8 x 1 foot block of
        titanium over several days!). If you run the cutting tool at a low
        enough feed transit speed (measured in inches per minute, so we're not
        talking about something all that fast anyway), you can still do some
        pretty neat stuff. Besides, we're not trying to pump out hundreds of
        thousands of identical parts, and it certainly would have to be faster
        than what it takes dealers to get stuff from most manufacturers
        (measured in products per month ;)

        As John pointed out, Sherline (http://www.sherline.com) also has a
        line of desktop CNC milling machines, but they start at a couple
        thousand dollars and go up rapidly from there. You can find other
        manufacturers if you look long and hard enough via Google (and believe
        me, I have), but their lowest-priced models also start in the
        mid-thousands. However, their focus is on small professional shops
        (there are an estimated 500,000 of them out there) and so their
        machines have spindles with motors, larger beds, better mechanical
        resolution, more capable (but also much more complex) software, etc.
        Our good friend here on the list, Yuji Kuwabara, used a Taig
        (http://www.taig.com) desktop lathe to create some of the parts for
        his wonderful Big Boy, and there is a CNC option for that lathe and
        their desktop milling machine, but the prices are close to the range
        of the Sherline units. A useful source of info on lower-end
        commercial products is at:

        http://www.super-tech.com/default.asp

        You can get a quick feel for the range of CNC machines that have been
        manufactured over the years by monitoring the CNC milling machine
        section of your favorite four-letter WWW auction site (which shall not
        be mentioned by name here - Ah-ah-mennnn! ;) You can find some pretty
        interesting older models that are definitely in the industrial
        category (they are measured in cubic yards and weigh tons!), but good
        luck getting them into your garage/basement without laying a new
        concrete slab and putting in a dedicated exterior door, much less
        figuring out how the software works (many are proprietary and no
        longer supported, but some have been retrofitted with PC interfaces
        very similar to what the MaxNC and Sherline models use).

        If you're a real glutton for punishment, you can even Do It Yourself,
        i.e., build your own CNC milling machine (or lathe). MaxNC sells
        their PC interface board (with their basic software package) with
        three stepper motors (very low-torque - only 70 ounce-inches, but
        again, probably more than adequate for our needs) for $295, and you
        can build the milling bed from all sorts of interesting materials
        (some people have used Medium Density Fiberboard - MDF, or particle
        board, all the way up to machined aluminum and steel). Since the
        stepper motors don't care how long the feed screws are (they move the
        feed table around under a fixed spindle, or the spindle over a fixed
        table), you can build a much larger table - some DIYers have machines
        the size of a 4 x 8 sheet of particle board, and even larger, where
        the spindle moves over the work. Some good WWW sites for DIY CNC are:

        http://213.10.73.60/majosoft/index.html (lots of examples of DIY machines)

        http://www.hobbycnc.com/ (3-axis controller kit + three 85 oz-in
        motors $219)

        http://www.stepperworld.com/ (3-axis controller kit $50, kit + three
        33 oz-in motors $119, kit + three 125 oz-in motors $219)

        http://www.mendonet.com/cnclinks/index.html (links to all sorts of CNC
        stuff - hardware, software, controllers, motors, kits, assembled, etc.)

        There are links from some of these sites to DIY efforts all over the
        world, if you follow enough of them. Stepper motors can be had on the
        aforementioned four-letter auction site starting at a few dollars for
        used ones, less than $30 for new, and going up pretty much linearly
        with their torque and speed capacity. So, the minimum cost of entry
        for a bare-bones DIY CNC machine is probably a few hundred dollars and
        a few dozen hours of work. A lot of sites sell plans, but if you're
        willing to peruse Google for several evenings, you can find info
        similar to what I've listed above.

        The free and shareware CNC software is fairly basic (and some is even
        written in BASIC!) that allows you to manually control the tool and
        process G&M code files, but there is a lot of it out there, and I
        haven't even scratched the surface, yet. Most of the commercial stuff
        has 30 day trial versions that can be downloaded, so you can get an
        idea of what's possible, especially if you can afford to spend a few
        hundred dollars. TurboCAD is a good lower-end choice, and I happen to
        know the guy who is the master machinist and mechanical engineer in
        the aerospace industry who led the development of AutoCAD (he's quite
        a character, and has no limit in his animosity for what the executives
        at AutoDesk did in ignoring their own technical experts, in addition
        to buying out better upcoming competing products just so they could
        bury them, one of which he also directed the development).

        Analysis continues, as we say in the intelligence business.

        All the BeZt,
        Jim


        --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, STEVDEL@p... wrote:
        > I've been wondering when equipment like the CNC
        > would be widespread and economical enough to start to
        > show up in the model railroad supply chain.
        > What's the order-of-magnitude of the cost of this
        > kind of equipment now?







        "Z" WARNING! HANDLE WITH CARE! Highly addictive in Small DoseZ!


        Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
      • Bill Hoshiko
        ... that will ... . You really ... cost just ... My old bookkeeper training told me that the final retail price of any product should be 5 times the
        Message 3 of 26 , Dec 1, 2003
          --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, "Robert Allbritton" <robert@p...>
          wrote:
          > Hi Jim & Group,
          >
          > <snip>

          > But in the big picture, you are still talking about Locomotives
          that will
          > cost in the AZL price range when you get done -

          <snip>
          . You really
          > need to sell a product for at least 50% more than your production
          cost just
          > to break even with all of the other cost built in.


          My old bookkeeper training told me that the final retail price of
          any product should be 5 times the cost to manufactur. The retailer
          generaly marks everything up 100% over his wholesale cost. The
          wholesaler also makes a profit. If it is not sold within a
          reasonable time, the retailer is lucky if he nets 20%

          As for this step/cnc stuff please take it to:

          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/traintools/

          It is interesting but not really specific to Z.

          All those interested in this subject can subscribe to the traintools
          group and continue to follow this thread.

          Bill
          El Toro, CA
        • Reynard Wellman
          Hello Rob, Glad to see your notes. I, too, have used this equipment. These small lathes and mills are time consuming to setup so I use them solely for
          Message 4 of 26 , Dec 1, 2003
            Hello Rob,

            Glad to see your notes. I, too, have used this equipment.
            These small lathes and mills are time consuming to setup
            so I use them solely for prototyping. But building your own
            "one of a kind" locomotives can be a real pleasure
            and I would recommend the Sherline for anyone who is motivated
            to do this.

            For locomotive consumer production, many surfaces need to be
            CNC milled on heavier spindle & way bed machines after casting
            or molding. This must be done at a fast rate per hour to provide
            cost effective products. But prototyping, testing, marketing
            research and advertising consume most of the product budget.

            BTW, we have revised some of our product line items and are
            adding free US retail shipping for December, 2003.

            Best regards,
            Reynard
            http://www.micronart.com/

            On Monday, December 1, 2003, at 08:29 AM, Robert Allbritton wrote:

            > Hi Jim & Group,
            >
            <edited for length>
            >
            > People forget that it takes more than just time and materials to
            > produce a
            > product. There is a TON of your own time spent on design, marketing,
            > distribution, support, repair, and a hundred other little things. You
            > really
            > need to sell a product for at least 50% more than your production cost
            > just
            > to break even with all of the other cost built in.
            >
            <edited for length>
            >
            > Best,
            > -Rob
            >
            <edited for length>


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Reynard Wellman
            Hello Bill, I would like to disagree. What provoked this discussion was all the buzz about Yuji Kuwabara s Union Pacific Big Boy in Z scale. Naturally that led
            Message 5 of 26 , Dec 1, 2003
              Hello Bill,

              I would like to disagree. What provoked this discussion was all
              the buzz about Yuji Kuwabara's Union Pacific Big Boy in Z scale.
              Naturally that led to discussions about building Z scale locomotives
              and to the machinery involved in doing just that.

              I believe that as we refine and focus our desires in this scale we
              will continue to have discussions like this about equipment and
              techniques. Many items, not just locomotives, need some rework
              in order to operate properly. It is a natural outgrowth of this
              "jeweler's" scale requirements that these debates be engaged.

              Best regards,
              Reynard

              On Monday, December 1, 2003, at 09:38 AM, Bill Hoshiko wrote:
              >
              <edited for length>
              > As for this step/cnc stuff please take it to: 
              >
              > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/traintools/
              >
              > It is interesting but not really specific to Z.
              >
              > All those interested in this subject can subscribe to the traintools
              > group and continue to follow this thread.
              >
              > Bill
              > El Toro, CA


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Bill Hoshiko
              ... locomotives ... Reynard, Like I said, it is interesting and I did read through 50% of the original post, but there is a point where those of us, who will
              Message 6 of 26 , Dec 1, 2003
                --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, Reynard Wellman <micron@m...> wrote:
                > Hello Bill,
                >
                > I would like to disagree. What provoked this discussion was all
                > the buzz about Yuji Kuwabara's Union Pacific Big Boy in Z scale.
                > Naturally that led to discussions about building Z scale
                locomotives
                > and to the machinery involved in doing just that.


                Reynard,

                Like I said, it is interesting and I did read through 50% of the
                original post, but there is a point where those of us, who will
                never consider purchasing a mill or a lath or even a Dremel Tool,
                will only skip any further postings.

                Perhaps, if highlights of this process are continualy posted here,
                we can all be excited about it. When the posts become a little
                technical, then I will become disinterested. There are only so many
                hours in the day.

                I have been involved with handlaying track for over 55 years. I
                occasionaly post some thoughts about handlaying track to the Z_scale
                groups but I don't think that this group is very interested. They
                may like the idea, but they are not planning to get involved.

                I post most of my handlaying track ideas to the Nn3 group or to the
                handlaid track group. These two groups are more active in
                handlaying track. With these two groups I may get some feedback.
                The only communications that I have had about handlaid track from
                the Z-scale group has been from Ole and Svein-Martin Holt . (Ole,
                if your are reading this, we think of you often.)

                When I reach a point that my work is Z scale specific, then I shall
                make some posts to this group but untill then I will make only
                occasional remarks.

                I, for one, do respect your remarks, Reynard. You are involved in
                metal fabricating, manufacturing and marketing. Your efforts are
                instrumental in the advancement of Z scale. Someday I wish that our
                paths will cross and I can shake your hand. It will make my day.

                Bill
                El Toro, Ca
              • Reynard Wellman
                Hello Bill, I admire your restraint. Sometimes this stuff is not as interesting to all of us unless we are directly involved. Yes, I miss Ole Rosted as well.
                Message 7 of 26 , Dec 1, 2003
                  Hello Bill,

                  I admire your restraint. Sometimes this stuff is not as interesting
                  to all of us unless we are directly involved. Yes, I miss Ole Rosted
                  as well. He was excoriatingly critical of inaccurate track
                  and turnouts. He is an advocate for code 40 in Z scale and I believe
                  he is right. Also, handlaid track can be very beautiful in any scale.

                  I respect your remarks as well but want leave open ended the
                  various traces we follow as we blunder through this technology.
                  Z scale needs criticism as much as it needs as advocacy.

                  We (Micron Art) will have booth #450 at the Seattle NMRA 2004
                  show in July. If you are there, please stop by. We can exchange
                  war stories on the railroading front. All of us can agree
                  that it is railroads that we want to promote as the alternative to
                  the millions of acres that are continually squashed under concrete
                  every day.

                  Best regards,
                  Reynard

                  On Monday, December 1, 2003, at 10:51 AM, Bill Hoshiko wrote:

                  > --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, Reynard Wellman <micron@m...> wrote:
                  > > Hello Bill,
                  > >
                  > > I would like to disagree. What provoked this discussion was all
                  > > the buzz about Yuji Kuwabara's Union Pacific Big Boy in Z scale.
                  >
                  <edited for length>
                  >
                  > Reynard,
                  >
                  <edited for length>
                  >
                  > I have been involved with handlaying track for over 55 years.  I
                  > occasionaly post some thoughts about handlaying track to the Z_scale
                  > groups but I don't think that this group is very interested.  They
                  > may like the idea, but they are not planning to get involved. 
                  >
                  > I post most of my handlaying track ideas to the Nn3 group or to the
                  > handlaid track group.  These two groups are more active in
                  > handlaying track.  With these two groups I may get some feedback. 
                  > The only communications that I have had about handlaid track from
                  > the Z-scale group has been from Ole and Svein-Martin Holt .  (Ole,
                  > if your are reading this, we think of you often.)
                  >
                  > When I reach a point that my work is Z scale specific, then I shall
                  > make some posts to this group but untill then I will make only
                  > occasional remarks.
                  >
                  > I, for one, do respect your remarks, Reynard.  You are involved in
                  > metal fabricating, manufacturing and marketing.  Your efforts are
                  > instrumental in the advancement of Z scale.  Someday I wish that our
                  > paths will cross and I can shake your hand.  It will make my day.
                  >
                  > Bill
                  > El Toro, Ca
                  >
                  >
                  <image.tiff>
                  >
                  >
                  > "Z" WARNING! HANDLE WITH CARE!  Highly addictive in Small
                  > DoseZ!
                  >
                  >
                  > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.

                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • jmac_han
                  Hi Gang, You may notice that I have changed the tag line for this posting. This is a good way to let the membership know that I am not about to give an opinion
                  Message 8 of 26 , Dec 1, 2003
                    Hi Gang,

                    You may notice that I have changed the tag line for this posting.
                    This is a good way to let the membership know that I am not about to
                    give an opinion on CNCs, milling, lathing or whathaveyou. I would
                    like to comment on one of the reasons that this forum exists i.e. to
                    promote the free exchange of information related to the world of Z-
                    scale model railroading. To that end, there have been thousands of
                    posts covering hundreds of topics presenting every facet of the
                    practice of, passion for and future of Z-scale model railroading.

                    There are so many incredibly talented and knowledgeable people who
                    are members of this group and who have taken the time to share with
                    the rest of us. I learn from practically every post here. That is
                    not to say that I am promoting the idea that everyone should read
                    everything, no, not at all. We all have our particular interests.
                    But the great thing about an internet-based forum is that one can
                    chose to read the messages one wants, skipping the subjects or themes
                    that are of less interest.

                    As a general-delivery style forum, Z_Scale can and has played a
                    significant role in bringing like-minded people together to form
                    groups, create new products, promote the hobby, meet face-to-face and
                    find so many ways to enjoy the hobby.

                    This is why any posting of relevance to Z-scale model railroading,
                    including many topics that may be of limited appeal, is welcome
                    here.

                    Thank you to everyone who has posted to Z_Scale. You have broadened
                    my horizons.

                    Cheers,
                    Jeffrey MacHan
                    Moderator

                    --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, "Bill Hoshiko" <billhko@y...> wrote:

                    >
                    >
                    > Reynard,
                    >
                    > Like I said, it is interesting and I did read through 50% of the
                    > original post, but there is a point where those of us, who will
                    > never consider purchasing a mill or a lath or even a Dremel Tool,
                    > will only skip any further postings.
                  • jim_manley_alpha_six
                    GreetingZ FriendZ, RomanZ, and PlanetperZonZ (yes, I m still eating Turkey/Tofurkey/TurDuckEn Day leftovers :) Thanks for everyone s comments thus far on this
                    Message 9 of 26 , Dec 2, 2003
                      GreetingZ FriendZ, RomanZ, and PlanetperZonZ (yes, I'm still
                      eating Turkey/Tofurkey/TurDuckEn Day leftovers :)

                      Thanks for everyone's comments thus far on this topic. I was
                      hoping to stir the pot, and I'm really glad to hear everyone's
                      comments (especially yours, Bill - now I know where to look for
                      more tool-oriented stuff! :) I don't have time to "track" (PFI - Pun
                      Fully Intended) much more than this list, and if I can help just
                      one other member of this list learn something, then I've achieved
                      my purpose.

                      Reynard "gets it", along with Jeffrey, Steve, the Johns, Lajos and
                      Randy (but they're really smart, handsome, all-around good
                      guys, so that's what we would expect! :) Several are also
                      experienced with the kinds of tools I've been describing, so it's
                      probably easier for them to grasp what I'm talking about. If we're
                      able to produce some really detailed operating models that none
                      of the mainstream manufacturers have addressed, at
                      reasonable prices or otherwise, then I'm sure Bill will "get it" too.
                      He's already a really smart, handsome, all-around good guy, too,
                      so it's just a matter of time before we win him over, and I need to
                      better explain how this idea applies to Z, in particular.

                      The whole purpose of my concept is to help solve the
                      chicken-and-egg situation where we have a very limited
                      selection of locomotives, rolling stock, track, structures, etc., at
                      affordable prices, in reasonable quality, and in appropriate
                      quantities. Not to pick on any of our highly-respected
                      manufacturers, but just as an example, while the selection from
                      AZL is getting better, the numbers produced and the prices are
                      not. Only eight of a given road number in a particular road name
                      for a specific model is ridiculous, regardless of the price, which
                      could come down significantly if enough volume were produced.
                      I think my idea may positively impact this problem, and I would
                      love to discuss this with the folks at AZL and in Korea (my
                      company is doing a lot of new business with manufacturers
                      there, and although it's in the consumer electronics space, I
                      believe there are useful parallels).

                      I believe that some of the more basic parts can be produced at a
                      reasonable level of quality, fairly quickly, in the number needed
                      for everyone on this list, using the mid-level CNC equipment
                      we've discussed. This would include locomotive and rolling
                      stock metal frames; sheet metal shells that are typically now
                      etched (and parts produced via CNC can be finished using more
                      limited etching, sintering, sandblasting, etc.); wheels, axles and
                      trucks (especially those for locomotives beyond F7s and SDs);
                      and masters for non-injection-molded objects (e.g., shells and
                      their accessory details like horns and bells, body and structure
                      details, etc.). Over time, I think that very detailed injection molds
                      can be produced using my idea, but they are a whole level of
                      complexity above what I think we can for now (my brother-in-law
                      is a foreman for Hitachi multi-ton injection molders, so I've been
                      learning a whole lot about what it takes to generate molds, and
                      set up, operate and maintain the molders).

                      I think that final finishing, such as painting, printing, etc., can be
                      accommodated if the right materials and techniques can be
                      identified to use in CNC machines. This is probably going to be
                      the trickiest thing to get any level of quality established, and may
                      take years to achieve. However, I'm already waiting for a lot of
                      new models, so I've got nothing but time (except for my
                      day/evening job, family, maintaining my health, keeping up with
                      this job, I mean hobby ... :)


                      Here's what I AM proposing:

                      - Customers and manufacturers could generate the .stl (STEP),
                      .dxf (AutoCAD Data Exchange Format), G&M code, or other files
                      containing 3-D part/product description data. They could be
                      generated by (auto)tracing photos and edited to 3-D, or via stylus
                      (many CNC systems have an option for producing 3-D data from
                      physical objects by running a stylus over the objects' surfaces in
                      a raster-type path). An abundant source of surfaces could be HO
                      or larger scale locomotives and rolling stock (assuming they're
                      accurate to begin with). The files could represent something as
                      simple as a brass bell, or as complex as Yuji's entire Big Boy.
                      Data files for models could be built up from contributions from
                      multiple manufacturers and customers, perhaps from parts
                      libraries built up by everyone.

                      - I think it would be fantastic if everyone on this list with access to
                      a computer (I hope that includes everyone on the list, except
                      perhaps former neighbors of the Unibomber) generated some
                      portion of a 3-D model for a particular locomotive, piece of rolling
                      stock, or structure that everyone would want to have (it could
                      become our signature icon - in the physical, not computer
                      graphics, sense - to be proudly shown at model railroad events
                      - can you spell NTS 2004 Seattle? - and that new members of
                      the list could obtain as a welcome-aboard gift at cost, if they
                      weren't capable of producing it themselves). We would need to
                      work out the intellectual property issues, but I would suggest
                      something like the GNU Public License (GPL) Copyleft, where
                      the data files are copyrighted and placed in the public domain so
                      that everyone can benefit from them, and no one can control
                      dissemination of them except those who produce them.

                      - Customers who have CNC-compatible equipment (lathes and
                      milling machines are both necessary to produce all parts) could
                      experiment with manufacturing parts from shared data files at
                      whatever level of accuracy/detail/quality their equipment is
                      capable of producing. They could do this for themselves and
                      other customers.

                      - Manufacturers who have CNC-compatible equipment could
                      generate parts at higher levels of accuracy/detail/quality for
                      whatever prices the market will bear, perhaps on a sliding scale
                      according to how much time/effort is required.

                      - Any part/product/tooling could be data-modeled and produced,
                      for locomotives, rolling stock, track, ties, turnouts,
                      people/animals, structures, injection and resin masters/molds,
                      lost-wax/plastic/wood/metal masters for metal castings ... Can
                      you hear me now? Good!


                      And here's what I AM NOT proposing:

                      - Putting anyone out of business - in fact, I'm trying to come up
                      with a way to expand our market, to the benefit of manufacturers
                      (especially those producing smaller numbers of higher-quality
                      products) and customers.

                      - Forcing anyone to go out and buy any equipment - there are
                      probably already enough of us with access to the appropriate
                      computer and fabrication equipment/software to produce more
                      parts than everyone on the list could assemble over our
                      lifetimes, especially if this becomes a primarily automated
                      process.

                      - Excessively raising the hopes and expectations of anyone - I
                      will be the first to admit that I spend a lot of time thinking outside
                      of the box, and sometimes the box is a 12-dimensional
                      hypercube that, in an earlier age, would have gotten me tossed
                      into a well-padded cell for treatment of psychoses, or a dungeon
                      for heresy. However, it was once thought that the world was flat,
                      blood-letting was the best way to treat diseases, electric lights
                      were an impractical curiosity (it took Edison decades to get
                      electric power generation and distribution to become
                      widespread in New York alone), the speed of sound couldn't be
                      exceeded (many scientists were genuinely concerned it would
                      result in certain death to the pilot, in the unlikely event the aircraft
                      could survive structurally), and that no one could ever walk on the
                      Moon, much less return to Earth to talk about it. My idea is
                      probably on the order of the pet rock, but hey, a lot of people
                      thought those were a good idea!


                      So, what should our signature model be, and who is interested
                      in generating data model files that we can assemble into a
                      complete digital representation that can then be transformed into
                      the constituent physical parts? How about the very first
                      locomotive to be used in service, or the largest locomotive ever
                      built (my favorite is the
                      completely-impractical-to-operate-on-a-Z-layout 1969 era Union
                      Pacific DD40XA Centennial, which is over 98 feet in prototype
                      length, and over five inches long in Z)?

                      OK, enough babbling, as I've been up working all night, and it's
                      now after 5:30 AM here (Beginning of ad: and I'm happy to report
                      we've now got over a million TiVos to support - the more you buy,
                      the sooner I can retire and make this dopey CNC idea work! End
                      of ad. :)

                      All the BeZt,
                      Jim


                      --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, Reynard Wellman
                      <micron@m...> wrote:
                      > I believe that as we refine and focus our desires in this scale
                      > we will continue to have discussions like this about equipment
                      > and techniques. Many items, not just locomotives, need some
                      > rework in order to operate properly. It is a natural outgrowth of
                      > this "jeweler's" scale requirements that these debates be
                      > engaged.
                      >
                      > Best regards,
                      > Reynard
                      >
                      > On Monday, December 1, 2003, at 09:38 AM, Bill Hoshiko
                      wrote:
                      > >
                      > > As for this step/cnc stuff please take it to: 
                      > > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/traintools/
                      > > It is interesting but not really specific to Z.
                      > > All those interested in this subject can subscribe to the
                      > > traintools group and continue to follow this thread.
                    • ztrack@aol.com
                      ... Why would this locomotive be impractical to operate on a Z layout? Z is the perfect scale to operate such a large locomotive. HO and above is impractical.
                      Message 10 of 26 , Dec 2, 2003
                        In a message dated 12/2/03 8:38:47 AM, jim_manley@... writes:


                        > How about the very first
                        > locomotive to be used in service, or the largest locomotive ever
                        > built (my favorite is the
                        > completely 1969 era Union
                        > Pacific DD40XA Centennial, which is over 98 feet in prototype
                        > length, and over five inches long in Z)?
                        >

                        Why would this locomotive be impractical to operate on a Z layout? Z is the
                        perfect scale to operate such a large locomotive. HO and above is impractical.
                        One of the benefits of Z scale is that we can model large locomotives and cars
                        with zero compression. We can have completely prototypical curves that can be
                        broad enough to handle a 5 inch loco with no problem. The only limitation is
                        ones own space for a layout, but again, that is where Z scale has it's
                        advantages. Though we work small, it is time to think big.

                        Rob Kluz
                        Ztrack Magazine Ltd.
                        6142 Northcliff Blvd.
                        Dublin OH 43016
                        www.ztrack.com


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • kimvellore
                        Jim, I don t want to bring your enthusiasm down but I feel what we currently lack in building Z scale anything is either casting or injection molding. Some
                        Message 11 of 26 , Dec 2, 2003
                          Jim,
                          I don't want to bring your enthusiasm down but I feel what we
                          currently lack in building Z scale anything is either casting or
                          injection molding. Some level of detail can be obtained by Photo
                          etching, but none of the lathe and end mills can get to the level of
                          detail that casting or injection molding gets. For Z you need all the
                          tiny details. For example take a Z-scale loco from Marklin and
                          observe the details from the rivets to the trucks, no mechanical
                          machine can do that. I own a 4 axis CNC Mill and CNC Lathe and access
                          to most CAD software. The only things I can build for Z loco are some
                          parts for the drive mechanism, even making the gears right is
                          extremely time consuming, so I use Marklin gears and drive mechanism.

                          If we could find an artist like Yuji who could make a master
                          mould in styrene or wax or resin then it could be reproduced in
                          Brass, add some PE details and use some CNC for making the chassis
                          and drive mechanism parts and you have a working loco.

                          So in order of priority I would say Casting, Photo Etch, CNC
                          machining, decal making and painting. The CNC parts could also be
                          eventually cast.
                          It is a great effort that you making for Z scale community,
                          but concentrating on CNC alone will not be able to achieve what you
                          are trying to do.

                          Regards,
                          Kim
                        • themohican2003
                          ... Everyone: As I recall when Yuji described what his model consisted of I believe he mentioned that the drive gears he used were from Marklin, I presume he
                          Message 12 of 26 , Dec 2, 2003
                            --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, "kimvellore" <kim@b...> wrote:

                            > If we could find an artist like Yuji who could make a master
                            > mould in styrene or wax or resin then it could be reproduced in
                            > Brass, add some PE details and use some CNC for making the chassis
                            > and drive mechanism parts and you have a working loco.
                            >
                            > So in order of priority I would say Casting, Photo Etch, CNC
                            > machining, decal making and painting. The CNC parts could also be
                            > eventually cast.
                            > It is a great effort that you making for Z scale community,
                            > but concentrating on CNC alone will not be able to achieve what you
                            > are trying to do.
                            >
                            > Regards,
                            > Kim
                            Everyone:
                            As I recall when Yuji described what his model consisted of I believe
                            he mentioned that the drive gears he used were from Marklin, I
                            presume he used those to save time and effort since his model is a
                            one time project.
                            I myself am planning to use a combination of resin castings for
                            bodies and chemically etched metal detail parts like the end frames,
                            roof walks and hopper hatches.
                            I almost considered making metal bodies from etched sheet metal, but
                            I didn't care to solder all those cars, plus I would still have to
                            cast the frame for mounting the coupler/truck assemblies.
                            Hoppers Away!!!
                            Allan Borg
                          • michael
                            What about 3D (Stereo) Lithography? Is this technology too far out of reach, or is there another obstacle preventing it s use for Z? Viewed from my distance,
                            Message 13 of 26 , Dec 2, 2003
                              What about 3D (Stereo) Lithography? Is this technology too far out
                              of reach, or is there another obstacle preventing it's use for Z?
                              Viewed from my distance, it appears to offer the best of both
                              worlds: the qualities of casting with CNC repeatability. I have
                              seen some machines going at online auction for a *fraction of their
                              original prices. There must be companies out there that rent time
                              on these things. Or maybe a club with a big enough local nucleus
                              could set up a non-profit testing ground where interested parties
                              can pool money for the cause. ...just throwing out ideas here,
                              folks.

                              This is a wonderful discussion on a subject which I have been very
                              interested in.

                              Also, as a side note, I have direct access to a couple of pieces of
                              CNC-type machinery. I own a small CNC milling machine which was
                              designed for printed circuit board fabrication (Brand-LPKF, Model-
                              C60). I also have access to one of the MaxCNC machines which Jim
                              pointed to in his first posting.


                              Cheers,

                              Michael

                              --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, "kimvellore" <kim@b...> wrote:
                              > Jim,
                              > I don't want to bring your enthusiasm down but I feel what we
                              > currently lack in building Z scale anything is either casting or
                              > injection molding. Some level of detail can be obtained by Photo
                              > etching, but none of the lathe and end mills can get to the level
                              of
                              > detail that casting or injection molding gets. For Z you need all
                              the
                              > tiny details. For example take a Z-scale loco from Marklin and
                              > observe the details from the rivets to the trucks, no mechanical
                              > machine can do that. I own a 4 axis CNC Mill and CNC Lathe and
                              access
                              > to most CAD software. The only things I can build for Z loco are
                              some
                              > parts for the drive mechanism, even making the gears right is
                              > extremely time consuming, so I use Marklin gears and drive
                              mechanism.
                              >
                              > If we could find an artist like Yuji who could make a master
                              > mould in styrene or wax or resin then it could be reproduced in
                              > Brass, add some PE details and use some CNC for making the chassis
                              > and drive mechanism parts and you have a working loco.
                              >
                              > So in order of priority I would say Casting, Photo Etch, CNC
                              > machining, decal making and painting. The CNC parts could also be
                              > eventually cast.
                              > It is a great effort that you making for Z scale community,
                              > but concentrating on CNC alone will not be able to achieve what
                              you
                              > are trying to do.
                              >
                              > Regards,
                              > Kim
                            • Lajos Thek
                              ... To build an injection mold for a well detaled product you need to use mill and lathe. The trick is knowing how to design and make the necessary tooling. To
                              Message 14 of 26 , Dec 2, 2003
                                --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, "kimvellore" <kim@b...> wrote:
                                >
                                >...none of the lathe and end mills can get to the level of
                                > detail that casting or injection molding gets.

                                To build an injection mold for a well detaled product you
                                need to use mill and lathe. The trick is knowing how to design
                                and make the necessary tooling. To design something in 3D is
                                the least expensive part of the process. To convert the program
                                to a working product requires many expensive steps. On the basic
                                three or four axis CNC machine you need to figure out the correct
                                holding of the already machined surfaces (special tools made
                                strictly for the product), a more sophisticated shape requires
                                many tool changes, and even the production of a simple gear
                                requires a "fifth" axis. To make the proper tooling is the
                                biggest cost factor. Requires the "know how", what is rarely
                                "public domain". I wish we'll see CNC machines capable to make
                                the necessary tooling prior production of the parts, using the
                                product's design and machining information. Then position the
                                necessary cutters into the automatic tool changers, set-up
                                the part holders, insert the material and go...
                                Anyway, if someone with a small CNC machine is interested to
                                manufacture small numbers (few hundred?) of parts, I have a
                                nice, long wish list.
                                Lajos
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