Jun 23, 2016 | By Alec

It’s hardly a secret that 3D printers are great model-making tools, but we never dreamed of applying it on a scale as large as BernCo has done. A small manufacturer of large scale model ship kits, its founder Bernie is working a truly gargantuan replica of the titanic. The titanic itself was gigantic, so even at a 1/72nd scale, this truly inspiring model is 4 meters long and is expected to feature over 2000 separate 3D printed parts (fine details included). What’s more, it’s going to be sinkable. While Bernie is still working hard to complete the ship, it is already one of the most amazing 3D printed models we’ve ever seen.

Bernie himself is an ex-navy marine technician, qualified in hyperbaric engineering. Like so many others, he became absolutely mesmerized by the tragic tale of the Titanic. The largest ship in the world at the time of its making, it sunk on its maiden voyage in 1912 after hitting an iceberg. As Bernie recalls, he has been fascinated with the ship since he was a young kid. “I was in my first week of Kindergarten in 1991 when we had our first excursion to the school library. I remember pulling a book out of the shelf and seeing this giant ship helplessly suspending its propellers high into the night sky. Unlike most people, it wasn't the sinking of the ship that captivated me. It was the size!” he remembers.

That remarkable image stuck with him for the rest of his life, and influenced him to start a career in marine engineering. But as model ships continued to fascinate him, he decided to apply his skills in computer graphics design, electronics, and marine engineering to build a model himself. At this point, BernCo did not even exist yet, but Bernie heard about 3D printing and decided to buy the largest desktop 3D printer he could find anyway – which ended up being a 12" Prusa kit form Makerfarm.

Bernie was ambitious – wanting to build a 1/72nd scale model – but needed to proof a method for compounding a large design into smaller sections to make them 3D printable. These efforts eventually turned into the Armidale ship model visible above, which took a of time and effort. But its success is what convinced him to start his own business in 2015. “So I purchased another 12" Prusa and started BernCo Models as a small business in selling large RC ship kits in an attempt to revive a dying tradition of model ships,” Bernie explains. “I used Sketchup to make the 3D designs, as it had the most realistic price for a commercial license that a new small business could afford. After exporting to STL, I use Slic3r to get a G-code.”

The business quickly started making large scale model ship kits that are RC ready and open to all lovers of ships. “Unfortunately I found it hard to balance new product production time with marketing, so BernCo didn't last long. Now I will focus my attention towards selling my STL designs of my ships, rather than printing to order.” Bernie told us. The 3D printable files for the Armidale, for instance, can be found here for an excellent price. The model itself is of an amazing quality.

But the good thing is that Bernie once again found the time and attention to focus on the original goal: the Titanic. And that was a gargantuan design challenge all by itself. “To get the shape and dimensions, I used the line drawings for the actual ship and scaled them down to produce a skeletal like structure. Then I simply put a skin on it and gave it an internal thickness to make the model a solid,” he explains. “The hard part was the internal structural and functional designs. Not only did the model have to be "seaworthy", but it also had to sink and split with automated recovery built in. It was a challenge that I was very excited to take on!”

Firing up his 3D printers, Bernie got to work. Everything in the photos above and below has been 3D printed, aside from two structural rails for the cradle. Though still a work-in-progress, Bernie already 3D printed over 150 different pieces, and will soon move on to the fine detail parts. In total, he expects to 3D print about 2000 different components. His two 3D printers worked over 1500 hours between them already, and 43 spools of 1kg 1.5 mm white PLA filament have already been used – of which about 15 were wasted to compensate for design changes.

So far, the model thus contains up to 30 kg of PLA, and Bernie was fortunate enough to find help from his suppliers 3dprintingshop.com.au. They were so impressed with this gargantuan undertaking, that they donated 25 spools of filament to the cause. “Since using their high purity PLA, I have not had a single print failure due to plastic temperatures or warping through the whole build of this model and several others. When printing so many very large builds, a single print failure can mean an entire spool of waste,” he says of the filament.

So far, assembly itself has been quite easy thanks to several built-in snapping functions. “I designed the Fwd and Aft sections to be individually floating hulls, joined at the bottom of the keel by two hidden door hinges. Then a simple winch system at the top of the join to drop/raise the aft section appropriately,” he says.

But perhaps the most difficult part of the whole design was making the model sinkable. This is the Titanic after all, and its story would not be complete without its tragic demise. “I needed to design in a series of overflow ballast tanks with an inlet/outlet pumping system that worked. It sounds simple enough, and it was!” he says, proving the concept with a 1 meter long prototype model (visible in the clip below).

This only brought one additional problem to the table: weighing the model down enough to make it sinkable. “The ballast weights needed to be a permanent fixture along the bottom inside of the hull, because the ballast tanks had to be permanently closed to work. So I couldn't simply remove the weights to transport the model,” he recalls. As no conventional ballasting techniques would work for a boat this size, Bernie settled for an unusual solution: to line the bottom of the ship with 140kg of concrete.

So far, 91kg of concrete is already in place, and is already making transportation a big issue. “She needed a very robust cradle, and will have her own road registered boat trailer once she is done,” Bernie says. As a result of all these challenges, the project won’t be sinkable until 2017. “After which, I will upload the complete designs on CG trader in STL form for anyone who wishes to print their own unconventionally huge Titanic model,” he says. We can’t wait to see the final results.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Bernie wrote at 12/29/2017 8:23:05 AM:

Hi Daniel Yes you can find the files to download on charades Thanks for the compliments.

daniel wrote at 11/16/2017 1:54:17 AM:

wow that's pretty awesome model of the Titanic very good job I'll give it 100 out of 100 for well done are the files available to buy from anywhere could you please let me know regards Daniel

ozmods wrote at 11/25/2016 7:14:10 AM:

that is completely insanely gorgeous, well done.

Leon wrote at 8/4/2016 4:45:08 AM:

It needs an MP3 player and speaker mounted in a waterproof enclosure in there. It could play "I'll never let go Jack" over and over.

Mark McCoy wrote at 6/24/2016 3:09:00 AM:

Very cool. Particularly loved the fact that you used Sketchup (my favorite) to do all the modeling. Proof that a high end 3d model program is not needed for such an undertaking.

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