Engineer Builds Self-Launching Miniature Roller Coaster With 3,000 Parts
Sometimes you come across a project so exciting, you want to share it with the world. That's the case with Dan Fritsche's miniature 3D-printed rollercoaster. The project took almost 3,000 parts and 900 hours to create and Fritsche shared with us exactly how he did it.
He set off by prototyping the train, the aim was to make it functional from the get-go, but this strategy had its drawbacks as he will explain later on. It took him three iterations and slight redesigns, but in the end, "I was able to figure out the best way to scale down a full-sized train’s construction and maintain all the degrees of freedom and clearances that were needed," Fritsche told IE.
The next step for him was coming up with a short and simple layout. He had to keep it short and simple as this was yet a proof-of-concept at this stage, a proof-of-concept that he could transform into something complete.
He explains, "Once I designed and settled on a layout in NL2, I exported the spline coordinates and imported them into Fusion 360 where I hand-modeled everything. This was all relatively straightforward, but extremely time-consuming — around 600 hours for the train, track, columns, station, launch, brake run, etc."
Fritsche added that he had already prototyped the launch mechanism about a year before starting his project and that throughout the whole process of 3D modeling, he was printing parts as he went, so he could verify the design within a few minutes to hours.
"The last thing was to automate it all, so I put micro servo motors in wherever motion was needed. Then, with the help of one of my friends, wrote a simple code to run the launch mechanism, brakes, station gates, and drive tires," Fritsche said. He added that writing the code was the most challenging part of his entire ordeal.
Fritsche now has some good advice for future 3D printed roller coaster designers: "Definitely recommend taking it slow and not immediately tackling a functional model. Start small and work your way up with a static train and track design after having a solid base of 3D modeling knowledge."
Fritsche is a Mechanical Engineering grad from Iowa State University and is currently working on a Weebly website where he'll feature a more in-depth look at the process behind his project, he also has an Instagram account and a YouTube channel.