Dec 23, 2017 | By David

The hobbyist 3D printing scene has really come into its own in recent years, with increasingly ambitious and impressive projects. It seems likely that a lot of these makers first got interested in 3D design through playing detailed video game simulations of reality, such as the beloved virtual theme park creator Rollercoaster Tycoon. This process has now come full circle, as Matt Schmotzer, a graduate engineering student and rollercoaster enthusiast has succeeded in 3D printing a miniature rollercoaster. His creation is not only incredibly elaborate, but it’s also fully functional.

Matt Schmotzer is currently employed at the Ford Motor Company, where he works in engine systems on the 2.0L/2.3L GTDI engine programs. Outside of this job, he is also enrolled as a graduate student at Purdue University, where he is studying to earn a Masters in Engineering. He had always been passionate about rollercoasters and model making, but had previously lacked the equipment and resources to put together a major functional replica coaster.

This all changed with the increased accessibility of 3D printing, however. Around four years ago, Schmotzer first became interested in its potential, and it was only a matter of time before he set to work on this remarkable hobbyist creation. It’s based on the Invertigo rollercoaster, which he rode at the King’s Island theme park just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Schmotzer wanted to recreate something real, but it also had to be small enough to fit in his garage.

The first step of the process was to design a virtual replica of the Invertigo using NoLimits Coaster Simulator 2, a more advanced, technically-minded cousin to the Rollercoaster Tycoon series. After finishing his digital model in this powerful simulation software, he then exported the 3D co-ordinates to an Excel file. He used the spreadsheet program to scale down the design, to a size that would be possible to physically realize.

Once this was done, the co-ordinates were imported into popular 3D CAD system Solidworks. More tinkering was necessary in Solidworks, which he used to design the track profile and support structure as well as to add models for the trains, mechanisms, and station.

This finished 3D model was then sliced and sent to an array of different consumer FDM 3D printers for printing. Schmotzer used a Lulzbot Taz 5 and 6 for the track, and a Flashforge Finder and MendleMax 1.5 for the support structures and trains. After finishing the scale model, he decided to go back and redesign the tracks to make the coaster more functional. He altered the layout of the track, with the addition of some glued-on plastic tubing, which allowed it to run more smoothly.

An Arduino Mega circuit board was used to power the rollercoaster’s motion. The electrical system designed by Schmotzer includes 13 button inputs (control board), 9 servo motors (6 on track, 3 in station), 2 dc motors (lift hill) and 12 LED lights (control board). Getting the coaster to move around using motors was relatively straightforward, but the lift and chain system was a little more complicated. Engaging and disengaging at the right time required the use of a system of magnets, which differs from the real-world Invertigo rollercoaster’s lever arm setup. Arriving at this approach was a case of trial and error, but the finished version runs smoothly, and the whole system’s programming requires just 650 lines of code.

The next step for Schmotzer was going to be the construction of a replica of Valravn, at Cedar Point, but the attention his Invertigo project has attracted made him change his plans. Multiple different companies have been approaching him asking for help with building model rides, and this is what will now be occupying his time. He is optimistically hoping to build one new 3D printed functional rollercoaster every four months.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Leendert wrote at 2/16/2018 4:18:48 AM:

Such a shame the camera man couldn’t take a stable shot without motion blur etc so we could see it properly.

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