Research and Development

Laser Cut Balance Weights

At the start of April 2011 we purchased a desktop laser cutter for the development of some new products that we had in mind.

HPC LS3020 Laser Cutter

The laser cutter uses a 40watt water cooled CO2 laser tube and can cut or etch a number of different materials, some of which are listed below:

• Perpex
• Plywood
• Cardboard
• Hardboard
• paper
• Card

This is not a complete list and some materials should not be cut due to the gases that are produced when cutting them. Depending on the material, thinknesses up to 3/8" (10mm) can be cut. The maximum work area of the cutting table is 215mm x 275mm, around the size of a sheet of A4 paper.

Some of this products are still under development, but one has now started to be put into production, these are balance weights cut from 0.015" (0.4mm) black polystyrene sheet. We have now started to add these items to some of our conversion packs and as we add to the range we will also add them to our complete sets.

An example set for a GWR 28xx loco are shown below. Cutting these items out using the laser cutter is much easier then producing them by hand. For example the complete set for the 28xx shown below took just 15 seconds to produce.

Balance Weights for GWR 2-8-0 28xx

Below is one of the balance weights fitted to a GWR 5' 2" wheel

Balance Weight fitted to GWR 5' 2"

We are also in the process of producing some one off parts for individual customers. For example a water tank, made in polystyrene sheet and perspex. Pictures can be found below.

Water Tank

The main tank sides are cut from 0.030" polystyrene sheet and the tanks side detail is cut from 0.015" polystyrene sheet. As you can see from the photo of the 'Prototype Tank Side Detail' it was cut out as one piece. The runners help reduce distortion when cutting the parts as well as helping to keep the spacing and align the detail on the tank sides and were cut out before the detail was completely glue into final place.

Prototype Main Tank

Prototype Tank Side Detail

Prototype Tank with support legs fitted

New Products and Subtractive Rapid Prototyping (SRP)

We have decided to take a look at some new product ideas to compliment our existing range as well as going back to look at some old development projects that were not put into production due to the manufacturing costs at the time.

To this end we have now invested in 3D scanning and milling equipment as well as 3D CAD software. As well as SRP the equipment is also capable of small batch production runs.

Examples of some new products will be:

• Balance weights
• Connecting rods etc.
• New wheel moulds

Examples of some old development projects will be:

• Gear boxes
• Motor bogies
• Side frames

As a test of the scanning option, we scanned two rail chair masters which were made some years back now. The results from the scanned masters can be seen in the 3D images below.

2 Bolt Chair

3 Bolt Chair

The above 3D images were scanned at a resolution of 0.25mm per step in both the X and Y axis. Total scan time for each chair was around 3 hours. The best resolution would be 0.05mm per step, but would also take longer to complete the scan.

Once items like the chairs have been scanned or drawn from scratch it is fairly simple to use the milling option to reproduce the item. It can also be scaled and modified as required.

More details will be posted here as and when we have them.

Examples of some of the work carried out on the 3D plotter.

Gauge 1 Private Owners Wagon | Heljan Class 14 conversion | Goods Shed Subframe

Gauge 1 Private Owners Wagon

Below are some photos of the work carried out on the Roland MDX-15 3D plotter for the parts required to produce a Gauge 1 Private Owners Wagon.

During its development, we found that the software supplied did not allow for the basic requirement of drilling a hole and also the manual jogging of the x, y and z axis. We therefore, had some additional software specially developed by SpiralArm to allow us the do these operations. Details of which, for those interested, can be found on the SpiralArm web site.

Some of the wagon ironwork cut from 0.032" brass sheet.


Wagon side and base panels. The side panels are cut from 0.8mm plywood and the base is from 1.5mm plywood.


Wagon underframe, showing diagonals and cross members cut from 5mm Obeche.


Heljan Class 14 conversion

Below are some photos of the work carried out on the 3D plotter for the new Heljan Class 14 conversion.

Drawing of the profile for creating the template for the drive crank on the Heljan Class 14. This template is 8X size and is produce on a CAD programme, which also drives the 3D plotter.


Drive crank template being cut.


The completed template ready for use. This template is 8x size and will be reduced down to the required 4mm scale on the die sinker.


Goods Shed Subframe

Below is a photo of the work carried out on the 3D plotter for a Goods Shed subframe. This was work carried out for a customer who is scratch building 'Llangynog Goods Shed'. Cutting these items on the 3D Plotter has made the construction of the subframe easier and reduced the number of parts required to get the same result.

The kit of parts that make up the Goods Shed Subframe have been cut from 1.5mm plywood. The parts are to 4mm scale.


If you have any thoughts, comments or questions on the above, then please contact us, either by E-mail at or via the Feedback page.

If any one has suggestions for products that they would like to see available, then let us know and we will consider the possibility of adding it to our range.