Jun 30, 2017 | By David

While access to 3D printing technology continues to get easier, the technical expertise required to make good use of it can still seem like something that is out of reach for beginners. This isn’t necessarily the case, though, and one animator from Germany recently proved just how much a first-time user is able to achieve. He successfully 3D printed a detailed scale model of a Space X rocket, which was so impressive that he now runs a small workshop producing them, and several Space X employees are requesting their own.

Known affectionately as ‘Oli’, Oliver Braun runs an animation studio and film production company in Bad Salgau, Germany. His background is in design and his work does require him to regularly create virtual CAD models, but before this 3D printing project he’d never tried making any kind of physical model. He was motivated by his passion for space (when he’s not working, he runs a small rocket laboratory in his studio), and the lack of affordable aerospace models on the market. One of Braun’s main obsessions was the Space X Falcon 9 rocket, which made history as the world’s first reusable rocket, so he decided to try his hand at 3D printing and hopefully create a serviceable replica of the Falcon 9 for himself.

The virtual 3D models that Braun had made previously were polygonal models put together in 3D Max, software that is useful for visual applications such as games or animation. Creating a physical 3D model required an entirely different approach, however, as every part of the model would be visible and would form part of the overall structure. ‘' (A) physical model has to have structural integrity, and it has to be designed keeping assembly in mind.'’ says Braun. ‘'For example, you cannot have parts intersecting. This was new to me, and I didn't expect it to work this well. I’ve had maybe five or six parts that I had to re-engineer and reconstruct, but other than that, it worked out fine.’'

After extensive research into the available FDM solutions, Braun opted instead for Formlabs’ Form 2 SLA 3D printer. He used Formlabs’ Standard Grey Resin material, and the finished one meter-tall Falcon 9 was eventually assembled from 44 different 3D printed parts. 3D Printing took around 30 hours, with 20 hours of post- processing.

He admits that he was shocked at how straightforward the whole process turned out to be:  ‘’After I got the Form 2, I was genuinely surprised how easy it was. I didn't expect it to work like “Printing for Dummies.” I thought maybe I would need to go through three or four liters of resin and messed up prints until the printer was finally in a useful state, but most parts turned out extremely well right from the start.’’ After his initial success Braun went on to try out 3D printing models of other Space X rockets, and nine months later he now runs a small workshop that produces these impressive replicas for sale.

The Form 2 is able to print all kinds of intricate details, contributing to the accuracy and professional build quality. For example, a couple of struts for a 50 cm version of the Falcon 9 rocket were so small that they wouldn’t have been sturdy enough to provide support. This meant that they had to be printed with a hollow center, so they could be reinforced with carbon fiber rods. The Form 2’s stereolithography process handled this and other parts with ease.

After enthusiastically posting the results of his initial successful experiments on Reddit and the Space X Facebook group, Braun got overwhelmingly positive feedback. His work was featured on Reddit’s home page as one of the top trending posts, and the exposure eventually led to several Space X employees getting in touch. They were amazed at the quality of his 3D printed models, which surpassed even the officially produced replicas made by Space X’s professional model supplier. Braun is now working on 2 special replicas, one for the Space X employees and one model rocket for head honcho Elon Musk to personally have all to himself.

'‘Overall, I'm very thankful’', says Braun. ‘'At first, I started this as a personal project for my home. I just wanted to give it a try and I didn’t mind if I messed up. I’m super happy, this project has exceeded all my expectations.'’



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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