Model Engineering in the 21st Century

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GreenTwin

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I am breaking off this thread from another one, because it is off-topic from the original thread where it was posted.

From the other thread:

I recall seeing Brian Rupnow's work in Solidworks on this site in perhaps 2008, and I remember thinking "This is the future of model engine engineering".

And I distinctly recall posting a 3D image from Solidworks that I made on one of the forums in about 2012, and one of the BIG modelers (name withheld to protect the guilty) said "Well its just a pretty picture, but not really of any use to anyone", mainly referring to some of the high-res renderings, but I think also dismissing 3D modeling in general. (side note: that same person is one of the most serious 3D modeling users I have ever seen these days).

I realized then and I still realize that 3D modeling and especially 3D printing of patterns, combined with backyard foundry work, is the future of this hobbby.
Sorry, we are off the deep end on this topic, and maybe need to split it off into a separate topic.

Pat J.

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Member "trlvn" (Craig) posted this link, which basically describes how the graphical user interface made its way into the mainstream personal computer market.
A very fascinating story, with some fascinating characters involved.

This link clears up a lot of the history of how the computer graphical interface technology got transferred from Xerox to Apple and Microsoft.


https://www.mac-history.net/2010/03/22/apple-and-xerox-parc/
 
I started using AutoCad, making 2D drawings for engineering work, in 1993.

Prior to this, I had been making engineering drawings on a large drafting board, using pencil and ink, with vellum (the modern version of vellum, which is basically large format cotton-based sheets of paper) for 10 years.

CAD drafting systems and AutoCad started appearing in the late 80's in quantity, but the early versions of AutoCad were slow and unstable, and the IBM PC and the later AT were marginal with their computing power.

Most engineering firms started experimenting with various versions of 2D CAD in the early 90's, and I recall some architectural firms being arranged around a huge room with glass walls, that contained two Microstation workstations.

Most engineers threatened to go back to the manual drafting system, after trying the early 2D CAD systems, myself included, because the 2D CAD systems and plotters were terrible, and nobody knew how to make 2D computer drawings that looked like manual drawings.

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Once the 386 computer came out, and once AutoCad stabilized their 2D software, the argument was over, and everyone began using various CAD programs.

I started playing with Solidworks in 2011 after seeing Brian Rupnow's work here, and I realized the potential for using 3D modeling programs for model engineering work.

As with the engineering industry, there was a lot of pushback by the old school traditional modeler folks, who did not want to learn 2D drafting, much less 3D modeling. I recall having a LOT of disagreements with a lot of old school modelers, and some new-school folks too.

I don't think there are any serious disagreements today about how far the model engine hobby has come, and where it is going.

The power of 3D modeling is nothing short of spectacular, and when combined with 3D printing of patterns, this capability has truly revolutionalized the model engine engineering hobby in a major way.

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I think some people are still not aware of all the things that can be leveraged in a 3D modeling program.

I tried to map out some of the differences between 2D drafting and 3D design in this graphic, as much to understand it myself as to show others.

JasonB constantly points out additional powerful features of 3D modeling to me, so my learning process is continuous and ongoing.

3D modeling basically reversed the design process, and puts the emphasis on the central figure that contains the database for the part, which is the 3D model.

The key feature and strength in my opinion of 3D modeling is the parametric nature of the model, ie: any change to any part of the model automatically propagates to every other part of the model, and propagates to all the associated 2D drawings.
This is a HUGE thing in the design/engineering world.

The interference and motion studies in 3D modeling are another HUGE thing, and you can basically run an engine virtually, and determine if the design is functional before you actually ever start machining metal.

And if each individual part is separately 3D modeled, then it becomes a modular design, where parts can be mixed, matched, modifed for different appications, and otherwise interchanged in an infinite number of ways.
3D models can be recycled and used for more than one model engine design.

Anyone who understands how 3D modeling works understands that the modeling hobby has changed dramatically forever for many folks, and will continue to have a dramatic effect on the hobby into the future.

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SW-Overview-2D-01.plt.jpg



SW-Overview-3D-01.plt.jpg
 
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And I distinctly recall posting a 3D image from Solidworks that I made on one of the forums in about 2012, and one of the BIG modelers (name withheld to protect the guilty) said "Well its just a pretty picture, but not really of any use to anyone", mainly referring to some of the high-res renderings, but I think also dismissing 3D modeling in general. (side note: that same person is one of the most serious 3D modeling users I have ever seen these days).



Pat J.

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I don't know.. but for me, when I come to a place called "hobby", let people do it the way they want and they like. ;)
 
In essence, me seeing a 3D modeling program being used to create model engines (by Brian Rupnow) was like Steve Jobs seeing the Xerox graphical user interface for the first time at Palo Alto.

Lights went on, and my head started spinning at the possibilities for the hobby.

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I don't know.. but for me, when I come to a place called "hobby", let people do it the way they want and they like. ;)
This thread is just a summary of where I think the hobby is headed in the 21st Century, and in no way implies how anyone should do anything.
You are misreading the intent and meaning of this thread.

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For me, this thread is for those who want to consider the possibilities in this hobby, including but not limited to 2D work, 3D work, 3D printed patterns, foundry work, backyard casting, etc.

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As many of the traditional casting kit companies in the US go out of business, it makes one look ahead and wonder where this hobby will be in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years from now.

I can only speculate, but I definitely see trends, much of which seems to center around hobby-level 3D modeling, 3D pattern printing, and backyard casting.

The fact that the old-school US industrial base and all of its superb machinists see to be fading out would seem to emphasize that the hobby is drifting away from a machinists-based hobby to more of a computer-design-casting base.
The younger generation don't seem to know how to machine things, but they all seem to be able to use computers.

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The first computer class I took used an IBM mainframe with puchcards, running FORTRAN.

FORTRAN was the most common program used for engineering, and was used to get to the moon.
It is a very powerful engineering language, but crude from an interface standpoint.

I distinctly recall standing at the card punch keyboard, typing and watching one card at a time getting punched in front of me.
One keystroke mistake ruined the card.
Bending the card or damaging it slightly may result in all of your cards being ejected violently onto the floor as they were read by the high-speed card reader.

The results were printed out on a large floor-shaking line printer, which printed an entire line across wide paper all at once.
The machine made a very loud CHUNK, CHUNK, CHUNK sound as it pounded out each line.

This was about 1981 if I recall correctly.
No mice, no screens, no hard drives or floppy drives.
Your storage sytem was your cards.
If you dropped your card stack, you had to get them back into the exact order again, else the program would not run.

So you can imagine seeing the progression from a punchcard mainframe system to what is possible from microcomputers today, and see how fascinating the progression has been for me.

Never in my wildest dreams in 1981 did I envision high resolution computer graphics that we have today.

And I distinctly remember watching Star Trek, and looking at the small communicators they had.
And I told everyone I knew "That is really cool, but they will never be able to make a communications device that will fit into that small of a package".
Fast forward, and now we have the cellphone.

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I see it possibly going in another direction to the 3D - Printed pattern - Home Casting route you describe Pat.

With gantry routers and CNC Mills becoming more common and affordable the CAD designer does not have to follow the traditional Casting route they can cut from solid not just the parts that may have been supplied as castings in a kit but a lot of the other smaller parts too. Not only can this save time, avoid the possible bariable nature of castings bit all so avoid the problem of how to hold a casting as it is often easier to start with a block that is easy to hold and machine that.

This is the weekends effort, easy to hold the 2" x 1/2" bar that it was cut from, would have been a lot harder if it were a casting. I was also able to get on with other parts while this was being machined.
 

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Potential trends that I see in this hobby:

1. I see 3D printing continuing to advance, and remaining very important in pattern making.

3D printing is also making its way into mold making, where the printer 3D prints sand molds.

And 3D printing is also making metal parts.

2. I think as 3D printer sizes get larger, you will seen folks not only 3D printing individual patterns, when are then mounted on some type of backing board, but instead the entire board/matchplate, with all of the pattern halves, the sprue, runners, gates, risers, etc. will be 3D printed all together.

3. It remains to be seen if 3D file sharing will improve across multiple programs.
This remains a significant impediment to the hobby folks who want to share 3D models across differing software platforms, or even across different versions of the same software such as Solidworks.

4. CNC machining has made a lot of progress in recent years.
I personally think that as 3D printer resolution and materials imrpove, CNC-made patterns will become obsolete for the purposes of pattern making.

5. I think at some point, modern model engine commercial companies will dominate the landscape, with 3D designed engines, and mass-produced CNC'ed parts. This trend is very obvious with a quick search for ready-to-run model engines on the net.


I think what is important is that the hobby guys not lose their design and engine making skills and abilities as the mass-produced/CNC'ed engines become ever more prominent.

If the hobby folks lose their skills, the hobby as we know it will vanish.
It is really important to transfer your skills and knowledge forward to the next generation of model engine engineers/builders.

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I see it possibly going in another direction to the 3D - Printed pattern - Home Casting route you describe Pat.

With gantry routers and CNC Mills becoming more common and affordable the CAD designer does not have to follow the traditional Casting route they can cut from solid not just the parts that may have been supplied as castings in a kit but a lot of the other smaller parts too. Not only can this save time, avoid the possible bariable nature of castings bit all so avoid the problem of how to hold a casting as it is often easier to start with a block that is easy to hold and machine that.

This is the weekends effort, easy to hold the 2" x 1/2" bar that it was cut from, would have been a lot harder if it were a casting. I was also able to get on with other parts while this was being machined.

Everything I post here is purely my speculation about the trends I see, and how things may develop in the hobby.

It is anyone's guess as to what will actually transpire.

And there is the possibility of new technologies emerging that we don't even know about, or have not yet envisioned.

We can look back at this post in 20 years, and see which trends actually turned out to be important in the hobby.
(Yes, I plan on still making model engines 20 years from now).

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Edit:
And as Jason'B's very nice work suggests, it brings to mind folks farming out their 3D models to commercial companies who will create a CNC's part like Jason's for a reasonable price.

The danger of farming out the machining work is that folks could lose their ability to manually machine things.
I saw this a few years ago at a nearby community college, where the entire class had to build their own operable hit-and-miss model engine, but the kicker was that all the machine work was by CNC, and they did not have any lathes or milling machines at the school.
This is a bit scary since it relies heavily on microprocessors that may or may not aways work, and may or may not always be available.

I guess the same argument could be made for relying too much on 3D modeling and computer generated/printed 2D drawings.

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Another possibility I see is the potential for on-demand castings being offered to the hobby sector, ie: send a company your 3D model, and they send back one or a limited quantity of castings.

Similar to what JasonB is doing with CNC, but with castings being made.

With a small induction furnace, and some of the modern molding or lost filament methods, a company could potentially make on-demand castings for the model engine hobby efficiently on a small scale.

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Another possibility I see is the potential for on-demand castings being offered to the hobby sector, ie: send a company your 3D model, and they send back one or a limited quantity of castings.



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That is already available, the likes of Shapeways will take your 3D file. print a wax and investment cast it. It is possible to get larger stuff done by 3D printed pattern or routed polystyrene in whatever you want - brass bronze aluminium grey or ductile iron.

Does not have to be under one roof, for example I got an e-mail about 5.00pm yesterday. Drew it up and sent the STL files ready for someone else to print this morning, prints have been fettled this afternoon and will be sent to foundry for iron casting tomorrow, hopefully a quick turn round and castings will be with the person ready to be machined in a week or two. I too should get a castings for my troubles.
 
That is already available, the likes of Shapeways will take your 3D file. print a wax and investment cast it. It is possible to get larger stuff done by 3D printed pattern or routed polystyrene in whatever you want - brass bronze aluminium grey or ductile iron.

Does not have to be under one roof, for example I got an e-mail about 5.00pm yesterday. Drew it up and sent the STL files ready for someone else to print this morning, prints have been fettled this afternoon and will be sent to foundry for iron casting tomorrow, hopefully a quick turn round and castings will be with the person ready to be machined in a week or two. I too should get a castings for my troubles.

That is an interesting development.

Much like what I see in the foundry industry with 3D printed sand patterns, to make cast parts very quickly, in a rapid-prototype-developement situation, or rapid parts replacement situation, where a part may otherwise take months or even years to obtain, or even obsolete part replacement, where the part is not available at all.

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As equipment becomes cheaper then so much in the future will be CNC based modelling and metal printed/sintered parts. Or even just kits and ready made engines for many.
When I see some of the CNC work on here and other sites I am often envious of the level of detail that's achievable but on equipment way beyond my means. In essence, If I could afford the tooling and if I wanted to spend time learning 3D then I would certainly be using those methods myself.
As it is at 74 years old with not much more than a lathe and drill to work on 2D drawings meet my needs and ability. I would expect my grandsons if they were into the hobby to automatically be using 3D.
 
What I observe as a bystander.

A lot of the hobbies separated more and more. There is a group, playing and buying "ready to play".
Visiting a model shop today one can see a lot of "ready to run", "ready to fly" models.
Bringing the remote control model to the "service checkup"? (I am guessing that is a thing too)

In the 80ies when I was a spectator at the model air field, there were no "ready to fly", no "foam" models, a remote cost an arm and a leg.

Then there is a small group that builds entire models, becaues the enjoy making the thing more than playing with it. Maybe the group even became smaller. (but I guess it is better connected today)
I think they even became more and more proficient in making models from ground up, using more and more elaborated tools.
I guess machining of metal models was always "another level" section, not so much "average consumer" level.

Imagine 1982 (random pick): Anybody having a CO2 Laser? A 300 dpi printer good enough to print a mask for photo etching brass? Any computer to feed said printer with data? CNC-machine in the basement, anyone?

I do not think manual machining will disappear quickly, because when starting it, people find it rewarding not to use a computer and have the "setup-challenge" as the best part of the hobby. :cool: Taking a hand file from time to time will still be a valid part of these hobbies.

As for casting, more difficult part:
  • neighbors that do not call the police, if they see sparks and fire ( I already got in trouble using an 100 mm angle grinder :) )
  • convince the wife that it is not dangerous and the neighbours are in the wrong ("No honey the fumes are actually good for men, the neighbors Canary was already old, probably sick anyway!")
  • have an idea about safety and risks,
  • find the materials for casting
Getting started with casting is not easy. I think people need to be fairly persistent before the first good results are obtained.
My guess is before casting makes a big comeback, because of easier pattern making.

Machined parts ordered from the Internet, 2.5d machining (already available at reasonable invest) will replace casting even more than now.

Somr old techniques do not disappear, they just become more a niche or hobby.
 

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