Oct 15, 2015 | By Tess

Playhouses were always a favorite of mine as a child, and I’m sure many people can say the same. It was always exciting to play with small toys within the context of a miniature house and pretend to be a part of it. For one lucky two year old boy, this playful experience was recently taken to a whole new level, as his grandfather built him a nearly two foot tall 3D printed spaceship!

Chris Knowlton, the grandfather of the lucky two year old, Benjamin, was inspired and committed to making his grandson the ultimate toy and succeeded in doing so by designing and additively manufacturing a rocket ship playhouse, with astronauts and moon rover vehicle included. Knowlton was initially inspired by another toy rocket he had seen from MakerBot, and decided to design his very own rocket ship and moon rover to gift his grandson.

Knowlton explains of the concept behind the design, “My plan was to make an open-sided rocket, a moon rover vehicle with trailers, and enough supply items so that my little two-year old ‘astronaut’ can stock the spaceship for a pretend flight into space and then explore new worlds in the moon rover.” That he had a child’s imagination in mind is evident, as the rocket ship could certainly make any kid’s day.

The rocket’s interior layout consists of three floors, each with a circular opening in the middle of them, which can be optionally filled with a small circular floor plate. As an added detail, each of the floor plates is engraved with a space exploration themed phrase, such as “Rocket Benjamin,” “3-2-1 Blastoff”or “We are go!” Knowlton also designed and made the astronaut’s accessories in the ship using Autodesk Inventor. The accessories include two space beds for when the astronauts need to rest after their expeditions, a computer cabinet, a radar screen cabinet, a flight control panel, and a moonscape viewer. Additionally, there are several oxygen tanks, food and water containers, and repair parts. While Knowlton did not design the actual astronauts himself (he downloaded the files and printed them himself, however), he did design all the rocket-ship’s fittings to match their size. The collection of parts arranged within the rocket-ship itself is incredibly charming, and quite convincing!

An unforgettable feature as well, Benjamin’s grandfather took special care to design a moon rover for the astronauts to conduct their landing expeditions on which has a six wheels and a cab that fits both the astronauts, as well as their much needed oxygen tanks. Additionally, trailers can be added to the rover, just in case the astronauts need any extra provisions!

“My grandson has a real interest in vehicle tires and trains so I designed the vehicles to hook together and to have lots of wide tires.” Knowlton explains, “Each tire is made up of five plastic pieces and four square rubber O-rings. The O-rings give the tires a more authentic look and protect the playing surface. They are also much less noisy than plastic tire treads.” Knowlton has also taken the care to put felt coverings on the bottom of the rocket-ship to protect the floors below it from wear and tear.

Knowlton made the rocket ship and accessories using his Printrbot Simple Metal 3D printer and various colors of ABS filament. In order to get a better result in terms of build platform adhesion, Knowlton also opted to use a heated print-bed, Kapton tape and a thin mixture of ABS and acetone. Impressively, the rocket and accessories are made up of over 195 individual parts, which took almost 300 hours of printing time to make. As mentioned, the rocket itself is nearly two feet tall in height (about the size of little Benjamin!) and was printed in 6 x 6 inch sections.

Significantly, Knowlton also opted to use 3D printing software Simplify3D to help get high-quality, accurate prints of his designs. The Ohio based company has been committed to simplifying the 3D printing experience while also giving users the tools to achieve the highest 3D printing results on their own 3D printers. Knowlton explains that he started printing parts for the rocket ship using free slicer and host softwares but once he finally purchased Simplify3D the difference in quality was so drastic he restarted the whole project. In the end, most of the rocket ship’s parts were printed with a three-layer shell, five bottom solid layers, and seven top solid layers, with an average infull of about 20%. The outer pieces of the rocket’s design were 3D printed at a layer height of .20mm, while the other items as well as the floors were printed at 0.15mm.

Though you like me may be envious of little Benjamin and his out of this world rocket-ship playhouse, I cannot help but marvel at the ingenuity and creativity that Charles Knowlton put into the project for his grandson. His rocket-ship certainly goes to show the fun that can be achieved through 3D printing design and making, and we hope his work goes on to inspire other makers!



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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