Friday, March 15, 2013

3D Printed Propane Tanks

Since I am new to 3D printing, I decided to design a few easy projects in order to get familiar with design software, the process of uploading files, ordering prints, and experimenting with different materials that Shapeways has to offer.  In order to get the fine detail for N scale models, it usually requires a material called frosted ultra detail, or FUD.  It is relatively expensive, and the final cost is determined by the volume of material used, plus a flat set-up fee.  My grain trailers are printed using FUD material.  For models that don't require fine detail, there are other materials that are less expensive, but may not produce a smooth surface for example.  I designed a 1000 gallon propane tank to use with switch heaters on my mainline.  Since I designed it to be a solid object as opposed to hollowing it out, FUD would have been unreasonably expensive.  I decided to try a cheaper material called white strong and flexible polished.  They turned out really nice, but do have a minor rough surface.  The "polished" part of the material is a process where Shapeways takes some of the roughness off the surface.  Otherwise they do offer a plain white strong and flexible without the polishing.

Anyway, here are some photos of the results.  I ordered a dozen just to see how they would turn out.  I am quite pleased with their shape.  I plan to paint them to seal the material and put them in my details bin until I need them for a future layout.

Here is a comparison of the new 3D printed propane tank and my original scratch built tank behind it, created from a 1/4" wooden dowel, rounded on the ends, with a piece of sprue added for the dome.


  1. Looks great. You are really creating a lot of nice products. Still love my lumber loads! I look forward to getting some of your other products too.

    My Best,

  2. Looks nice, what is the software you use to design these?

    1. I am using Sketchup which is a free download.