Michael Jack founded boutique engineering company Stanier Engineering to realise his childhood passion for steam locomotives.
Rediscovering a picture of the B.R. Standard Class 3 2-6-2T in an old book (his favourite as a boy, but long since relegated to the scrap heaps of history) sparked Michael to build a replica.
Fully functional, this was to be a miniature tribute to the Golden Age of Steam.
To do it justice, Michael needed to think outside the box. Model steam locomotive engineering calls on the skills of the maker to produce quality over quantity. Traditional pattern making and sandcasting techniques require thousands of hours to hand make the thousands of individual parts needed, in uncompromising detail.
Michael knew about lost wax casting, but the complexity of his tiny designs made the moulding process too costly. If only he could print the wax directly, several steps of manufacture could be removed, and still achieve the complex pieces he truly desired. Unfortunately, his enquires told him it would take 140 hours to print one single cylinder for his train.
Turning to 3D printing technology leaders, 3D Systems, he discovered its 3510 CPX printer produces the same cylinder in just over 12 hours. Furthermore, it prints three cylinders at the same time, for only a small increase in production time.
With fast, high capacity printing, Michael’s plan suddenly gained traction. What’s more, local supplier Fuji Xerox New Zealand could provide on-the-ground support and supply materials. With a 3D Systems trained service engineer just a phone call away, and an in-house finance package customised to suit his needs, Michael was ready to call, “Full steam ahead!”
The ProJet 3510 CPX MultiJet Wax Series – based on Xerox thermal technology – offers four build styles: from 32micron layers for rapid print of large pieces, down to 16micron layers with extreme high resolution. With smooth surface finish and ultra-fine detailing, Michael now creates parts en masse with detail he never thought practicable: complex undercuts, tiny valves, and even miniature 0.15mm lettering. With Fuji Xerox’s solution, he fully controls the quality he desires. This saves time and money, while still achieving unparalleled results.
Originally, Michael planned to build a model for himself, and another for the UK-based 82045 Steam Locomotive Trust as a fundraising piece to support their construction of a full size replica. But worldwide interest in his project grew, and Michael decided to build 10 units, turning his hobby into a business.
Adding the ProJet 3510 to his comprehensive collection of precision engineering tools in his purpose built workshop, he now offers bespoke engineering solutions to the public to offset the costs of his hobby work.
As awareness grows, so does the demand for his high quality castings and engineering services. Fully utilising the high capacity build chamber of the 3510 CPX Plus means he now offers a full casting and machining service to clients in Australia, the UK and even as far away as the Netherlands.
With the simple, unattended operation of the printer, and easy post processing of his waxes and castings, Michael carries on with his day job as an engineer with Fisher & Paykel while the machine prints. With no intention of making Stanier a full time business, he continues to build his trains in the evenings and weekends. As a result, his relationship with Fuji Xerox is critical. He’s been especially impressed with the company’s flexibility outside of normal business hours, even late into the night if need be.
“Their support is really good,” says Michael. “There’s been the odd problem over time with the ProJet, but they do everything they can to sort it out at times which suit me.”
Co-hosting a stand at the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition in the UK later in 2015, Michael plans to show off his fine work to the model engineering community.
“While others have bought low-end desktop 3D printers, there’s no other model engineer that I know of who’s bought anything like my ProJet,” he says.
And he’s aware he’s making waves in the model engineering world. “We may have taken the smallest stand at the exhibition,” he adds, “but I suspect it will have the largest crowds outside it.”