One of the reasons I like using 3D printing to help produce models and parts for railway modelling is that I can spend hours tweaking a model on the computer, knowing that I can easily revert back to a previous version. Once I'm happy I can then print as many copies of the model as I want, safe in the knowledge that each will be identical; not something I could guarantee if I was building the model from a kit as my modelling skills aren't that accurate. For the same reasons I've been thinking about using laser cutting for a number of projects. In a future blog post you'll see what I was actually wanting to create, but here I want to show you what I did with the off-cut of acrylic.
Penistone Railway Works I designed the logo to follow in the age old railway tradition of makers plates. These were usually made from brass and bolted to the cab side of each locomotive to record when and where it was made (very useful for knowing who to contact for spare parts) and the tradition lives on with many modellers producing etched brass versions for their models. So turning the logo for Penistone Railway Works into a physical item seemed like a good use of the spare corner of acrylic. It's difficult to judge the size from the photo but it measures 5.4cm across and I had acrylic left over as the online service I used, RazorLAB, offer each of their materials in one of three sizes; 7, 15 or 31 inches square. I was using the smallest size but I didn't need the entire sheet, hence the makers plate.
I had used InkScape to draw the original logo as an SVG file so that I could easily scale it to produce different sized versions (SVG does stand for Scalable Vector Graphics after all), and RazorLAB uses SVG files to guide the laser cutter so it was the work of only a few minutes to tweak the logo for cutting. Just as with Shapeways, for 3D printing, the process is very simple; upload the file, select the material, pay, and then wait for the postman. I choose to use the 3mm black acrylic as it fit perfectly with my main usage (which will get blogged about at some point), but they will also cut corrugated card, felt, mountboard, plywood, and MDF with many of the materials available in different colours and thicknesses which would open up a range of interesting possibilities.