3D Printing Accurate Detail Parts with Shapeways

Inspired by Shapeways.

The technology available to model train enthusiasts is now entering an amazing age. I love going online and reading the latest progress my friends have made, especially when it comes to detailing their layouts, and it truly is the little things that make the biggest difference. Unfortunately we all know that those little details can take the longest time to get perfect. But now we can harness emerging technology to make our modeling lives even easier!

I’d like to share a little secret, something for the modern modeler will love – the endless possibilities of 3D printing!

I have a 3D printer at home, which is quite good for basic projects. However the quality of items I can print on my machine is nothing compared to what dedicated 3D printing companies can do.

When it comes to quality 3D Printing, its hard to go past Shapeways.com

Shapeways NZR j5

NZR J5 Body 1/48 By – NeilWard

Shapeways have got you covered. They invest heavily in top notch equipment which can print in a range of different colours and materials – Plastics, Metals and even Ceramic or Sandstone! Now that’s cool.

You can browse a bunch of models online, order exactly what you need, they print it and send it to your door. Its practically magic!

At present there is something like 15,000 different models tagged in the Model Train category, and if my maths is right, about 1,000 of those are HO Scale. If you’re into something a bit different like Z, S or even TT scale you’ll be able to find a lot more variety here than at your average hobby shop.

Check out their huge selection in the Model Train category at the Shapeways store.


Don’t get me wrong there is always great stuff at my Local Hobby Shop (LHS), but you may have found that sometimes they haven’t quite got what you were after.

Sometimes the differences are only subtle but enough for you to notice. Maybe the prototype you model has certain features that are not on the model or kit. Or maybe some detail parts don’t quite suit the era and need to be tweaked slightly.

Something small like a missing detail on rolling stock may take a lot of time to fabricate and install, and I imagine a bit of extra frustration comes with the smaller scales too! All of a sudden you’re out a bunch of time and a bunch of sanity. You’ve spent hours working on the layout and when the wife comes in, the progress is barely noticeable (to her)…


So how about this for a solution, find the perfect detail part or even complete piece for your layout in Shapeways.com’s Model Train section.

If you can’t find what you want, you could head to their 3D Modeling and Design Tools section and have a crack at designing something unique.


Services like Shapeways are revolutionising the hobby, especially if you’re modeling something a bit different than the norm.


I’ve been checking out some things on the Shapeways store. Like I said, they have a whole section dedicated to model trains… In ALL the scales! I’ll be mainly looking at HO, but there is a bunch of stuff, all the way down to Z scale – maybe even smaller. Have a hunt around, you’ll definitely be impressed.


Here are a few things that caught my eye while browsing the Shapeways Store:

SD40q HO Scale

shapeways sd40q

– By Jess_Glz

You can print an entire loco shell with Shapeways! This is a SD40q, it is run in Canada.


HO scale 1:87 CSX SD40-3 Wabtec Cab

shapeways sd40-3cab

Shapeways sd40-3

– By 3rdboxcar

3D print the cab of this loco to convert an EMD SD40-2 to a SD40-3, This was designed to work with the Kato brand chassis.


Bowler and Top hats HO scale

shapeways hats

– By masonamerican

A little detail like this period headwear could be a huge improvement to the existing miniature people on your layout.


Row paving with border HO Scale

Shapeways Row Paving

– By railNscale

Perfect finish for some light rail in an old style street. Just roll the pattern into some suitable modeling material.


Interurban Trailer Truck Peckham Style

Shapeways Interurban truck

-by Volkmar

Pair of cool looking Interurban Trucks. Use them for trailers or as dummy motor trucks.



There are heaps of things on the store that I really like, especially as an Australian modeler, I’ve got a big list of bookmarks to go thru. The thing about being an Australian model train enthusiast is that a lot of the companies that design model train equipment and accessories base their models on North America or UK/Europe prototypes. Which means that there are a number of differences between the trains we see in the hobby shops and the trains we see in real life. I know 3D printing can help make our layout more realistic.


Shapeways also offer the ability to print your own designs, in metal, plastic or porcelain, using tools that don’t even require any 3D modeling experience.

I’m thinking of doing a follow up article to showcase some of these tools.

Stay Tuned


 Inspired by Shapeways.

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