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One of the great benefits of having ready access to 3D design software and desktop fabrication hardware is the ability to repair and replace things that get broken, or to create new things that you wish a product had offered initially. The latter was the case for Instructables co-founder Eric Wilhelm and a toy train set he’d gotten for his young son. Eric explains:

Our wood train set from Ikea, the Lillabo, doesn’t come with any x-crossing pieces. Other sets with x-crossing pieces are probably compatible, but I choose to make an x-crossing piece myself. I did this both to familiarize myself with the workflow of design in Fusion to making on the Othermill, and also as a first step of a project to make a custom wooden train set that spells out my kids’ names.

Eric took measurements of an existing piece of Lillabo and used Autodesk’s Fusion 360 to create a cross-section model. He then used the CAM workspace in Fusion to generate toolpaths for cutting the x-crossing on his Othermill. Eric was lucky enough to find a piece of plywood that was approximately the same thickness as the train tracks. This saved him the task of having to face the board. Three toolpaths were created for use with an 1/8” flat end mill: two pockets and one contour.

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From there, it was just a question of feeding it to his mill, cutting it out, and adding it to the train set. Then, he invited the family’s youngest train engineer in for field testing. Eric says the whole designing and milling operation took about an hour.

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I love the idea of seeing a need/desire like this, creating a solution, learning more about your hardware and software tools in the process, and then planning a more ambitious follow up project as a result. The idea of designing a train set with tracks that spell out your kids’ names sounds like a fantastic project. I hope he follows through on it.

You can see the complete Instructable and download the Fusion model and .NC files here.