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Scratch Built 3D Printed Ship WIP

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  • Member since
    January, 2015
Scratch Built 3D Printed Ship WIP
Posted by PFJN on Thursday, August 31, 2017 11:29 PM

[I've tried to update these posts to make them a little easier to read]



Although I've got a couple other ongoing projects right now, a comment on another part of these forums about 3D Printing got me thinking about starting a thread on a 3D printed scratch building project that I have started, since it’s given me a chance to experiment around a bit with my 3D printer and has given me some lessons learned that might be worth sharing.

One main thing that I have found is that (for me at least) in many/most cases it seems best to try and approach doing a complex 3D print more as a "scratch building" project than trying to "push a button and print out a complete 3D scaled prototype".

In general my 3D printer is kind of a baseline/inexpensive model and as such there are some limits to what you can do, though with care I have found that it does have 'some' abilities to make detailed parts.

Its a Da Vinci XYZ 1.0, which I bought slightly used off eBay a few years ago for about $400 or so, though I've seen it a bit cheaper recently and they also seem to have a "Jr" version that appears to have a slightly smaller print capacity but lower price (if I am understanding correctly).

Scratchbuild Project

Below is a 3D CAD view of a ship that I drew up in a low cost 3D CAD program called ViaCAD by Punch!, though the hull shape was originally made in a free hull design program called DelftShip and converted into a 3D CAD solid.

CAD File


I decided to try and do a 3D print of the ship, at about 1mm = 1ft scale (about 1/304.8 scale).  I decided on this scale to make it easy to size things especially for where I use stock styrene shapes for some parts.  Overall I also figured that 1/304.8 scale is only 1.6% off from 1/300 scale which is probably close enough to being the same, especially considering the tolerances of the print mchine, plus any sanding filling and painting etc).

This results in an overall model about 10.5 x 2 x 3.5 or so inches (assuming a "waterline" model instead of a full hull).  

Printer Issues & Potential Limitations

While in theory I could try and print everything out in two pieces (since the 10.5in length is too long to fit on my printer's print platform as a single piece - which can in theory print objects up to a size of 7.9 x 7.9 x 7.9 ").  However, I've found that when doing prints it’s sometimes best not to try and print everything together, for a number of reasons;

  • Specifically, printing a hull with various superstructure parts already attached can sometimes make it hard to do "clean up" where items are located closely together.
  • Secondly, the type of printer that I have (which as I understand it is typical of most home use printers) prints a model by slicing it into many layers.  It then starts by printing out the shape of the lowest slice, and then it lowers the print platform a small amount, and then prints the next layer atop the previous one.  As such for shapes where you have a lot of overhang, a printer may need to add external "supports" to assist in printing the higher parts of the model where there isn't any other part of the "model" beneath it.  For a ship in way of the bow and stern then, the printer may end up adding these external "supports" that you will later need to remove and clean up.  And these supports consume the plastic filament that you are using to print your model and increase print time required. The image below shows some of these external temporary “supports” for the mast and funnel pieces of the model that I am printing.


  • Additionally, if you want your model to include an open, but covered space, if you were to try and build the model in only a few "complete" pieces, you may end up with "supports" within the covered areas that can be difficult to remove, making it difficult to clean up that part of the model.  The image below shows two locations on the stern of the ship that I am printing which are open but covered spaces.

Stern Openings

  • Also, for my printer, and perhaps other similar printers, I have found that I will sometimes experience print errors that can either stop printing completely, or which can results in small defects or offsets in certain layers.  The image below shows two such “offsets” in the midhull piece of the ship that I am printing.  In general, I have found that I typically end up having to do some degree of clean up and repair to most anything that I print.  And since the printer prints in layers, even if everything else has gone OK, I often still need to do a bit of filing and sanding, and sometimes "filling" with either putty or other materials to make a shape reasonably smooth so that the "layers" no longer show.


  • And finally, because the printer uses melted plastic, and a heated surface plate to print on, there is often just a bit of "squashing down" of the lowest layers of a model that may also need to be addressed after a part is printed.  I haven't done any thorough checks of this, but it is my belief that the larger a model is, and hence the longer it is on the heated platform during a print, I would suspect that the potential for distortion of the lower layers of a model may be greater, which may also favor printing models in small pieces and assembling them afterwards rather than trying to print everything more or less all at once (or in just a few large all-encompassing pieces). 
  • A big advantage of the heated plate though is that the lowest layer will typically be nice flat and smooth.  As such, if you print some objects upside down or on their sides you can use this to make flat decks or flat surfaces for joining adjacent parts.  The image below shows how the flat upper focsle deck surface was printed in this manner.


As such, for my model, since I'm going to have to print it in several parts anyway, I decided to try and experiment around a little with how I broke it up, to try and best use the capabilities and limitations of the printer to my advantage.


  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Thursday, August 31, 2017 11:57 PM

[Continued from above - I also made a couple changes to hopefully make things clearer] 

Printing The Hull

As shown below, I printed the main hull, below the knuckle line at its focsle deck) in 6 or 7 parts.  In particular, for the bow, where there was a fair bit of overhang, I broke the model into Port and starboard pieces and printed them turned on their sides, so then I ended up with a nice flat surface along the centerline for each piece which made it easy to glue them together.  In addition, by printing them on their sides, there were no overhanging pieces, and hence no need for any additional temporary printer "supports".   


  1. Port Bow Piece
  2. Starboard Bow Piece
  3. Midhull "Eggcrate" Section
  4. Lower Stern Piece
  5. Mid Height Stern Piece
  6. Upper Stern Shell Plating Piece
  7. Internal Deckhouse - (Not Shown)


Part of the reason that the bow looks a little "red" is that for glue I use a mix of Acetone with scrap plastic from failed prints etc, which I applied with a paint brush, and here apparently the brush that I used was not completely clean leaving a bit of red paint in with the glue.

Also, for the starboard side bow you can see a little bit of a printer glitch near its aft outboard edge, which I will have to try and fill in a cleanup with putty. 

For the middle section of the ship I decided to make the hull "open" inside (like an egg-crate) to help me hopefully save some print "filament".  The first print that I did, I made the hull way to thin, without any cross support structure and as such it warped alot.  As such, I reprinted it as shown above with a fairly thick shell, a centerline bulkhead and a couple transverse supports to help it keep its shape.  For this part I experienced an issue that I mentioned above where there was a bit of a shift in several of the layers.  I think it may have been due to some debris on the print platform (a printed "support" that came loose) that resulted in the print head getting bumped a slight bit to the side for several layers.  As such, I ended up having to do a bit of "filing" and sanding to this part to bring everything in line with the other parts.  In addition for this middle piece I ended up printing it upside down so that any print "supports" would be hidden inside the hull instead of outside it, since the shapes of the waterlines "faired in" at the bottom of the hull, which would now be at the top of the printed part.

For the aft section, since I wanted a covered but open quarter deck, with inclined ladders to a stern platform, I ended up breaking this into four parts.  The lowest part was printed right side up and went up to a level just a little below the "quarterdeck".  The 2nd part went from the level up to the quarterdeck, and other parts then consisted of the shell plating around the open space and a deckhouse within the space.  I wanted to print these parts separate from the quarter deck itself so that I could clean and sand the "clear" quarterdeck smooth itself, prior to fitting the other parts, so that I would be constrained to having to try and sand in relatively narrow spaces around that deck house and the shell plating.

In the images, although the internal deckhouse is not yet fitted, hopefully you can see how building the stern this way has allowed me to model a covered opening at the bottom of the inclined stairs, without having to deal with any printer "supports" in way of it, as well as having a relatively nice clean covered quarterdeck as well.  Here once again, my first attempt at the shell plating was too thin and it tore easily, but by thickening it up just a bit I was able to get a fairly rigid shape with the broad cut-out in the back.  For the shell plating I printed it upside down as well so that any removable printer supports would be printed on the inside of the part, and thus any impacts that they would have on the final model would be somewhat hidden.

For the Focsle Deck I ended up printing it in about 3 sections overall, though I also used some strip styrene that I overlapped with the focsle deck to continue up as bulwarks for the deck above, as shown in the images below.




In the 1st picture above you can see the Focsle deck from above, actually showing a few parts of the next deck up.  In the 2nd image you can see this structure from the side, and in the 3rd image from below.  Here, I printed the forward part of the deck upside down, to give me a nice flat deck surface when I turn the part over.  I printed the upper part of the back section similarly, but for the third section, which will eventually have a lot of different colored plastic representing large "glass windows" I printed right side up, in part to give me a flat deck to serve as the top of the quarterdeck below, and also since I wanted to "step" this section in a little to allow me to try and print out separate pieces to represent the large glass windows that will be on the ship here, and glue them on separately.

In printing the upper focsle deck section, I tried to inset the upper edge about 0.5m or so to allow me to overlap the white styrene strips that you see, which form the bulwarks for the spaces on the deck above.  At the fore and aft ends of the bulwark I actually 3D printed shaped parts, but I eventually covered the aft one with a styrene strip to make it match the side pieces, and for the forward one I will probably touch it up with putty to better tie it into the side pieces.

In these pictures you can see where I have worked large window openings into the side shell where I eventually hope to print out some black plastic "plugs" that I will punch through from the inside to be flush with the rest of the hull, which will be white.  And you can also see some of the additional deckhouses for the next level up that I am also working on.

In addition, in the 3rd image above you can see where I have used a couple strips of sheet styrene to reinforce the joint between the two upper focsle deck pieces.

Finally, for now, below is an additional image of some "detail" parts that I have also printed out.  The item furthest to the left is a bulwark for one of the upper deck houses.  The next item is the funnel, and to the right of that is the main mast, the enclosed life boats, and the deckhouse that will go into the covered quarterdeck.  Here you can see the “cleaned up” Mast and Funnel, as compared to the print set up view from earlier showing the external “supports” required to print the overhanging parts.


In general I was very happy with the detail I got for the funnel and mast, and I suspect that with care other similar sized parts can be made with a printer like this.  For the lifeboats I used a model that I found on the internet, and when I printed it, the side shell did not fully print, leaving me with a honeycomb like surface.  I suspect that this may have had something to do with how the object was modeled, and the fact that I was scaling down a fairly detailed original model to a very small size.  For my purposes this isn't a big deal since I have just filled the gaps with putty and done a little sanding.  However, it does suggests that care should probably be taken for printing small parts, and (I suspect) that for small parts a simpler model may likely be better than an overly detailed one.

Anyway, that's all I have for now.  I've ordered some fairly generic looking 1/350 scale Japanese Aircraft Carrier deck planking off the internet that I'm hoping to maybe be able to use to represent the deck planking for this ship.  As such for the upper levels of the ship I intend to try and print the deck houses mostly separate from the deck that they are on, so that I will have a relatively clear space to work with while experimenting with how to best try and apply the "planking" to the decks.

Hope to post more soon.


  • Member since
    June, 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Friday, September 01, 2017 10:58 AM


 Verry Inetrresting !

 That's the first try that I find reasonable . Thank you Pat ! T.B.

  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Friday, September 01, 2017 6:11 PM

Tanker - Builder


 Verry Inetrresting !

 That's the first try that I find reasonable . Thank you Pat ! T.B.




  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Wednesday, September 06, 2017 11:08 AM

[Edited to add some images]


I'm continueing to make slow, but steady progress for now.

My Deck Planking came in the mail over the weekend, so I have started making templates to see how best to try and cut out the pieces for the specific areas where I went to apply the covering.  For the most part, I won't have to apply these pieces for a while, except for in way of the upper covered stern opening, where I'd like to apply the wood covering before attaching that part to the rest of the hull.  In general it looks like the planking that I bought should be big enough to cover everything that I need, as shown below.


Next, I have also started sanding, filling and filing the main hull to try and make sure that it is nice and smooth for painting.  This is taking a little while, due in part to the printer glitches I noted in a previous post and I still have to add on the stern piece (and make sure the hull is symmetrical) plus I also have to figure out how best to handle the portholes in the hull.  For now, I have ordered some 2mm diameter clear rod that I am going to give a try.  I am hoping to be able to drill out the openings and see if I can use the rod to give the appearance of a porthole covering there.

In addition to the above I have also started sanding, filling and filing the focsle deck as well.  Here it is taking a little time to "cover" the joint between the overlapping bulwark piece and the deckhouse, as well as doing the clean up of some of the "layering" noticeable in this piece.  In the end it also looks like I will have to maybe do a little "puttying" forward in way of the break water and deck edges to cover up a few dings and dents.  And finally I am also looking to "cut down" a sanding stick to the size of the "windows" in this structure so that I can that those openings are clean and uniform in size.

The image below shows a side view of the hull and foscsle deck.  Here you can see that the surfaces are begining to look relatively smooth, but that some clean up is needed in way of the portholes and windows, as well as the joint where the hull and focsle deck will come together.

Side View

The only other main things that I am working on other than that are adding the large windows at the stern of the ship, and on the aft part of the focsle deck.  Currently I have been trying to glue some "angle bar" in place to serve a the structure (Mullions"?) between the windows, with the intent of printing out thin strips of black plastic to be glued in between them.  However, it's kind of a laborious process and I'm not sure that everything is coming out as clean and uniform as I would hope.  So I may end up having to try a couple different approaches to see what works best.

In the next two images you can see a top view of the focsle deck, showing how the covered bow has been sanded and smoothed, as well as some of the work that I have done regarding the windows for the deckhouses aft.  The 2nd image shows additional detail of the angle bars that I have been glusing in place for those structures.




  • Member since
    July, 2014
Posted by Nino on Thursday, September 07, 2017 8:06 AM

Hi Pat,

     This is a great Primer on 3D printing. For the cost of a 1/200 Yamato w/AM 18" turrets, anyone can aford a 3D printer! 

     I've purchased some 3D stuff from Shapeways (ModelMonkey)but have not used it yet. I did make sure it got some sunlight to ensure Curing.


  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Thursday, September 07, 2017 3:30 PM


Thanks. It's been a fun, learning experience for me.


  • Member since
    June, 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Saturday, September 09, 2017 9:32 AM

Hi Pat !

 You need to keep this coming . I am totally fascinated now . T.B.

  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Monday, September 11, 2017 10:14 AM


Sorry for the slow progress, I came down with Poison Ivy last week, but hope to get back into working more on this now.

Anyway, here is a small update for now.  Most of the effort that I've been doing lately has involved trying to fill in and smooth out the pieces that I have printed so far, which has been taking a little bit of time.  It probably didn't help that the tube of Squadrom White Putty that I had was getting old and was going on kind of thick.

As such, I was able to get a new tube the other day, and I emptied the remains of the old tube into a small glass jar and mixed it with some thinner, and a little filler to thicken the mix up.  Now I am able to use the new tube of putty on more major areas that need help, while using the putty/thinner/filler mix as an "overcoat" to try and fill out minor areas.  Once I let the overcoat dry it looks like a little light sanding should help me get a final smooth surface.

Below are some pictures of the main hull, with this overcoat, prior to final sanding.  I have also finallyb attached the stern to the rest of the hull and am working to try and fair it in to the rest of the hull prior to trying to finish the hull off.  I am also in the process of redrilling the portholes in the hull and making a few touch ups to the bow, and the stern section.







PS.  Sorry for some of the images being a little fuzzy.  I have mispalced my camera and had to use my cell phone for now.  I will try and update them tonight.

  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Monday, September 11, 2017 9:47 PM


I don't know if these are any clearer but here area couple additional images.



One additional thing that I also wanted to note is that alot of times when trying to do things like "fairing" the stern into the rest of the hull I will try and use either Squadron Putty or Perfect Putty to fill the gaps and smooth the transition between the two pieces.  However, sometimes those type putties go on a bit thick and lumpy and end up needed a lot of sanding, and sometimes rework, to make a "smooth" transition between the parts.  To help with this, I have found that applying some of the "dissolved putty" that I mentioned in my last post with a thick paintbrush can help smooth out "shape" the rest of the putty before t dries, making the whole task of fairing the two parts together a little easier.

In  the 1st images below you can see a close up of the initial joint for port and starboard sides of the ship where I connected the sgtern to the rest of the hull.  There you can see some initial rough spots and discontinuities.


In these next images you can see the revised joint after having giving it an additional application of Squadron White Putty, which I "faired" in with the dissolved putty mixture and a paint brush.

Stbd Stern

Port Stern

Hopefully once this dries overnight I should be able to sand it fairly smooth.



  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Friday, September 15, 2017 7:59 PM


I was able to find my camera finally.  It was still in my suitcase from my last trip Surprise.

Anyway here are a couple better pictures of my build.  It may not look like I've done much lately, but I am making progress.  Unfortunately I only get a chance to work on it about an hour each nite, during weekdays, and for the most part a lot of what I have been doing lately is "sand", then "touch up rough spots", and maybe "add a coat of sealer" and let it dry over nite.

In the 1st image below you can see that I still have a little sanding to do in the bow.  (I think if you click on the image you can get a bigger view)


In the next couple images you can see an overview of the port and stbd sides.  Overall the hull is looking alot smoother, but you can still see a couple spots requiring a little extra work.



And finally, these last couple shots show some closes ups of the bow and stern.




My camera is a Canon PowerShot SX150IS that I bought used off eBay.  Although it doesn't reaaly have a close up/macro lens some reviews that I read indicated that it was a pretty good choice for taking reasonably close up pictures with a digital camera.  And, so far I have been very happy with it. 

Overall I have found that using a camera can be very handy when trying to smooth out the surface of things that I am working on.  Specifically, in the pictures above (especially if you click on them to enlarge them) you can see "shadows" in a couple spots where the surface has a relatively small depression, that I should try and smooth out, but which I hadn't even noticed when just looking at the hull by "eye".

Anyway, I hope to try and more or less finish off this part of the ship soon, though final painting will have to wait until I get the clear round rod for the portholes.

Hopefully I will be able to post more progress soon.


  • Member since
    June, 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 10:53 AM

Hi Pat !

 That is an excellent idea . Many folks don't know the truism . "The Camera Never Lies ! " I use mine to make sure obviously hi visibility stuff is done right ! A ship's hull is one thing that will stand out like a very sore thumb if it isn't right and properly contoured !

Looking Good ! T.B.       P.S. I looked back at the drawings . Isn't she a little tall for her length ? Just asking .

  • Member since
    January, 2015
Posted by PFJN on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 2:37 PM


Thanks for the feedback.  You are quite possibly right about the dimensions.  In general I have assumed 3m (~10ft) decks throughout the ship, though it may be possible thatthese can be decreased, especially for the upper decks.  In general though, in looking at other similar sized vessels many appear to be of roughly similar proportions.

Specifically here is some information on a ship called the "Silver Galapagos" which is very similar in size 80m x 15.2m) and capacity (~100 passengers) to my ship.

Silver Galapagos

Looking at the images below, which I tried to scale to the same scale, you can see a a side by side view of my ship and the Silver Galapagos.


Below, I've overlaid the aft end of my ship ontop of the other ship, and tried to align the porthole/windows for the lower two most visible decks.  In this view it looks like those two decks line up well, but that my upper two decks may be a little taller.  In addition the other ship also appears to have a partial deck above its bridge, where as I only have a bulwark around an open deck area.  In addition my hull may be a little deeper as well.

Overlay A

As such, I'm guessing that it might maybe be a little tall, but hopefully not too bad. Smile


PS.   I've also added in the rough location of my decks in blue for reference.  Because of the bulwarks in the design, the actual location of the decks can sometimes look a little off.

I've also been working on trying to get the hull ready for painting, but its taking me a bit of time to clean up some spots Sad


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