Sound and about! The TTS Vent Van and all the latest news
Good afternoon and welcome to September’s edition of Hornby’s Development blog, The Engine Shed. Today’s instalment has a great deal of news, as we catch up on all the recent activity here at Hornby HQ. We begin by checking in with the TTS Vent Van – a unique project that has captured the imagination of many railway modellers. With the release date rapidly approaching we have the approval sample here for you, with a look (and listen) to the final sounds that will be included with the model.
We also have the two remaining Decoration Samples of the J36, to complete the ‘set’ from the last edition of the blog. With exclusive photography, we are keen to receive your reactions to these models. Rounding out the samples in this edition, we also have the GWR Mk3 coaches to show you.
However, there’s much more to cover in this blog too as we can include a special article, written by our Researcher. Looking at Stereolithography in detail this will provide you with an insight into this crucial stage of the development process and provide you with a much deeper understanding of just what we do here at Hornby and why.
Lastly, we are incredibly excited to look ahead to the upcoming Great Electric Train Show, including an Engine Shed competition to win a pair of tickets (with five pairs up for grabs), courtesy of Hornby Magazine.
With so much to cover we are definitely looking at a longer edition, so please settle in and enjoy.
The Latest Samples
When we took our first look at the TTS Vent Van back in April, it was clear we had a special model on our hands. With sound, and especially TTS sound, being so well utilised by railway modellers, it was always going to be an interesting development. Following this first listen, the feedback was incredibly positive with the Vent Van being generally received much as we had intended. The ability to add an extra layer of 'atmosphere' to your layout is surely a positive thing and sound is an extra dimension that can definitely be utilised.
Since that video in April, work continued apace and the approval sample was recently received here in Sandwich. Soon after the initial check and work had taken place, we managed to grab the model and record it for you here. You will notice the project has not gone through any major changes since April but there have been some adjustments.
With 29 sounds included, we did not want to slowly work our way through each one but instead wanted to follow up from our first video. The Vent Van uses a variety of single play, loop and randomised loops to layer sounds and create appropriate ‘soundscapes’ for your model railway. With so many different combinations available we looked to create some basic scenes, limiting ourselves to the outlined sections included in the instruction manual. Each section in the video is a layering of two to three sounds that can be separately operated from a DCC controller.
It is definitely true that the only real limit here is your imagination and we hope our brief sample of the sounds demonstrates just that.
The ‘soundscapes’ are almost limitless as you can combine any of the sounds together (with three channels available at one time). This is then further expanded by any other sound or TTS locomotives you may already have at your disposal. Combining these together will create a cacophony of sounds, really filling that extra dimension for your layout.
The Vent Van is another step forward for our TTS range and work is already beginning on other developments of this extra dimension in model railways.
It was mentioned in last month’s Engine Shed that the Development team were expecting a further two J36 Decoration Samples and we are very pleased to say they have now arrived. Much like the R3622 J36 Class ‘Haig’ that we looked at last time, the overall impression with the samples is excellent however, as always, there are smaller detail changes that the team have already spotted and passed back through to the vendor.
With the standard ‘Engine Shed caveat’ in place (what you see here is not the finished version), we hope you enjoy the exclusive first look at both the R3600TTS NBR J36 ‘Maude’ and R3621 LNER J36 ‘722’.
Alongside these samples we also welcomed the (R4781B-E) GWR Mk3 coaches in to the office recently. Offering another exclusive first look, these coaches are generally looking excellent and as with the other samples, there is nothing major to report.
You will notice the Mk3 coaches have been upgraded to use NEM couplings (as we have shown in these images) and the team are continuing to look at potential further upgrades as time progresses. However, to address some of the comments we have seen online, there are no further upgrades due this year but as and when changes do come through we will be sure to mention them here.
Life in Glorious Stereo
The Engine Shed is primarily a place to not only show you what we have been working on recently but to also help you understand what we do and why. Although we have covered these basics early on, it is always useful to take a more detailed approach which is why we have taken time out to explain the technical side of stereolithography.
In the beginning it was down to the skills of the modelmaker but now it is advanced 3D printing that Hornby’s designers turn to when they need to validate their Computer Aided Design. Now taken for granted, the move towards using rapid prototypes for model proving by Hornby went hand-in-hand with moving production out to China but there is still a hint of alchemy that surrounds the creation of detailed parts from a liquid resin solution.
Greatly simplified, there are two different ways a 3D model can be produced; by fused filament fabrication, or by laser fusion. Fused filament fabrication takes place when a filament of plastic material is fed through a heated moving head, melting and extruding it, layer after layer, into a final finished object and this method occupies the lower end of additive manufacturing technology. At the higher end of the technological scale, a laser is used to fuse materials together; either small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powder (selective laser sintering, or SLS), or liquid photo-polymerising resin (stereolithography apparatus, or SLA).
It is the latter method of SLA that Hornby’s design engineers have opted for to produce rapid prototypes. The high resolution of the Viper SLA prototyping system used by our long-term suppliers enables very fine detail to be replicated, building up layers of just 0.05mm, in sections that can be rendered down to as small as 0.3mm. It may seem strange to some that with CAD being as advanced as it now is, there is still a need for a ‘Stereo’ (as the build is referred to) sample to be produced but it does serve several purposes.
For the designer, it is a tactile proving model, confirmation that all the parts fit, without clashes. With on-screen CAD images being magnified greatly, sometimes it can prove difficult to keep a realistic perspective on model construction. What may be technically correct to supplied drawings, or even 3D scans, may not look ‘correct’ when viewed on a 1:76 scale model. There are also occasions when, as was the case with the Class 87, an enlarged ‘Stereo’ might be produced to ensure that all curves and surfaces transition smoothly and faithfully.
For Marketing, the ‘Stereo’ model can also be of value as a presentation aid. They can be used at Sales Previews that take place prior to the new catalogue’s release, to the trade at the various new year Toy Fairs and also to our customers, as the Hornby team attend the various exhibitions during the year. The ‘Stereo’ is really the first indication to the market that something tangible has been produced, as opposed to ‘wish list’ type announcements. The use of this technology has also been taken up by our Social Media team to accompany new product announcements on The Engine Shed, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with samples also appearing in the railway modelling press.
With a design project being completed, and having gone through the internal project review, the first step towards producing the ‘Stereo’ that the designer has to take, is that of converting the CAD’s native .prt format to an .stl file that the SLA system will recognise. For our purposes, some fine details may be suppressed, and smaller parts combined for simplicity’s sake before the data is transmitted through to the SLA suppliers.
Once the data is received by the stereo producers, transmitted over a secure link, the .stl files are checked and material usage calculated, based on the part volume and a rather clever logarithm which calculates the machine build time. Costs are calculated, quoted and, once confirmed, the data is loaded onto a high resolution platform, where each part is re-orientated for the optimum build and part wall quality. Once orientated, the software produces a support structure (the scale equivalent of a scaffold support structure) which holds the part in place to the platform while the Viper builds it up. Once the build is prepared, the software slices each component into a fifty micrometre (µm) layer and the Viper SLA prints these 50µm layers, one on top of the other, with the platform dropping down after each layer and the re-coater blade passing another fine layer of liquid resin over the build.
The first project to use Stereo samples, covered by Model Rail back in September 2000
It is this actual process of creating the SLA that is, to most of us, bewildering at first. How can a laser fire into a solution and form a solid, while still being suspended in a solution? An SLA engineer provides the answer.
“The photo sensitive epoxy is basically cured 50µm layer by 50µm layer. The laser beam emitted by the Viper SLA initially draws the “slice” outline and then fills in the shape. Each time the laser touches the surface it cures the liquid resin, forming a solid. Successive layers build up to produce the finished part. As an example, a part 100mm tall is made up of 2000 layers!”
Once finished, the build lifts out of the bath, drains and is then chemically washed before final UV curing. The SLA operators painstakingly check each part against the CAD supplied ensuring that all the features have printed correctly. The finished item needs very little in the way of cleaning up, which is achieved by removing the supports from the finished model by hand, with any support scarring being gently sanded away by using very fine grade wet and dry paper before being boxed and returned to us here at Hornby for finishing.
The final stage in producing the ‘Stereo’ is the assembly stage, where the 3D printed parts are built up by our modelmaker. With locomotives, a suitable motor, gears and wheelsets are added so that gauging can be checked on the test layout, while coaches and wagons usually just need wheels added for the same purposes. With many coaches, wagons and locomotive tenders, we can use an existing chassis to check clearances, which is why sometimes (such as with the ‘Duchess’ 3D print) attention has been drawn to components that are ‘wrong’ in appearance.
There can be no doubt that, in the future, additive manufacturing will play an even greater part in model production, although not necessarily in the production of a finished model. The possibilities of producing small, detailing parts could be possible in time, as could the production of moulds capable of being used many times. As technology evolves, the possibilities for manufacturing are a tantalising thought.
The Great Electric Train Show 2018
The Great Electric Train Show, hosted by Hornby Magazine, is a month away, with the event due to take place at the ArenaMK in Milton Keynes on the 13th-14th October. With a brand new venue this year, the show will have more than 80 stands consisting of 32 layouts, 44 traders and eight demonstrations.
The full line-up for the 2018 show, which is the biggest yet, includes railways from compact micro layouts right through to giant 45ft long railways, covering all major scales.
If you are attending this year, the new venue offers easy access from the M1 as well as the West Coast Main Line by rail at Milton Keynes Central. There is also free parking and a free bus operating between the station and the venue throughout the day.
In preparation of GETS, which we’ll be attending, Hornby Magazine have kindly provided us with five pairs of tickets to giveaway. If you are able to attend and would like a chance to win a pair of tickets, please head on over to our Competitions page and answer the question there for your chance to win.
Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from the correct answers, with their details included in the next edition of The Engine Shed.
For more information on the event please visit the Great Electric Train Show website or call 01780 480404 for advance ticket sales. We will be seeing you there!
The Great Model Railway Challenge
Before closing, we were recently informed that the TV show ‘The Great Model Railway Challenge’ is only a few weeks away from airing. On Friday 5th October, the first episode will be shown on Channel 5 with the first of the teams creating their layouts.
Like us, we hope you will be tuning in and enjoying this fantastic look into our hobby, which is quite unlike anything that has been produced before.
As you can see, there has been a tremendous amount going on here at Hornby HQ and, as always, we hope you have enjoyed this snapshot of just some of what we have been working on recently.
We do hope we will make contact with you either on Facebook, Twitter or our Official Forum to discuss anything you have seen here today, especially as the TTS Vent Van is likely to receive some conversational attention.
The Engine Shed team
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