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Atlanta, GA
S-Scale Model Railroad Creations In 3D With CatzPaw Innovations

By TJ McCueWednesday, November 5, 2014
3D Design, Consumer

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If you want to see a serious 3D printing expert in action, you have to study what Sherri Johnson is doing with CatzPaw Innovations. She and her partner, Yolanda Hayes, are making tiny, miniscule creations for an oft-forgotten part of the model building world: S-Scale (1/64) reproductions for model railroads, slot cars (how they really got started), die cast scenes, and other small scale dioramas.

As you can see in these photos, their creations are small. Super small. Can you see that cat in the photo? That is smaller than a pinky fingernail. The toilet? Same thing.

What’s amazing is that Sherri gets her MakerBot Replicator to do things that few others attempt, by tweaking the G-Code. She often changes parameters to increase the temperature or the extrusion flow. I like to imagine that as she prints a model that doesn't fit her high quality standards; she is echoing the words of Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thus, it also helps that she has a large shed to store all of the pieces that didn't work out. The reason for storing 3D prints that didn't work? Someday, there will be a way to recycle those prints and Sherri and Yolanda want to be able to melt down all those experiments.

Not only are these items small, they are accurate to scale. For model builders, that is a big deal. Working diligently in 123D Design and in Tinkercad, Sherri meticulously makes sure her designs are exactly the right size for her customers, the right scale. She sources engineering drawings from time to time to make sure she gets it perfect. They design and print all items in-house in Locust Grove, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. Yolanda specializes in the marketing, sales, and biz dev keeping the operation at capacity. They were also wise enough to get the help of an accountant to set up a detailed spreadsheet that allows them to plug in costs and determine if a unit is priced properly and profitably. They are an ideal business for makers and inventors to study because if you can make a profit on a tiny cat or toilet, you are doing something right. 

I needed the memory jog and maybe you do, too: S-Scale is the perfect size for American Flyer model railroad layouts, HO slot car setups, Hotwheel/Matchbox/die-cast displays, toy farm layouts, school projects, and dioramas. Their product offerings, in addition to S-Scale at 1/64th, include:

  • HO-Scale (1/87)
  • O-Scale (1/48)
  • N-Scale (1/160)
  • G-Scale (1/22.5)
  • Plus, they do special requests, for TT-Scale (1/120), OO-Scale (1/76.5) or almost any other scale desired.

Due to the 3DRV schedule, Sherri and Yolanda agreed to meet just off the freeway as we made our way into Atlanta. We met in a Walmart parking lot and sat around in the RV as they pulled out creation after creation. The RV dining table (not very big, either) was covered with a mini-world only limited by the imagination. This dynamic duo might be creating small-scale models, but they are thinking big and inspiring the rest of us to think about our customers and to serve a niche market, however tiny!

The best place to see the CatzPaw product line is in their store. Or visit their Facebook page.  

Follow along at 3drv.com! #3DRV

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