I have no official data to back this up, but it is probably a safe bet that Star Wars space ships account for a very large percentage of available 3D printable models available on Thingiverse. Star Wars is, after all, probably the most recognizable intellectual property in the world, and most certainly among the most lucrative. It makes sense that such a globally shared experience like Star Wars would be popular enough for designers and creators from all walks of life to want to put their mark on it, especially considering what must be a massive overlap between 3D printing enthusiasts, makers, and science fiction fans.
As with any model on Thingiverse however, the quality will vary from designer to designer, as well as the difficulty in actually printing the final object that was designed. The need to 3D print in multiple parts or with excessive rafting and support structures can make what should be a fun print into a project as equally frustrating as it is time consuming. Thankfully 3D printers have been slowly growing up, and many of them print in resolutions that won’t require as much post processing as they used to. Additionally slicers and 3D printing software are providing better options for object placement, reducing, or often entirely eliminating, the need for supports. And after almost ten years, long-time 3D model designers are also becoming more cognizant of how to create a 3D model that will run into fewer difficulties while printing.
An ideal example of all of those factors coming together would be this really cool Star Wars Imperial Shuttle model designed by long-time Thingiverse user, and MakerBot’s Creative Director of Digital Products, Andrew Askedall. His Imperial Shuttle 3D prints in a single piece, including the movable joints on the shuttle wings. The model is also fully scalable and will print on any size 3D printer bed with virtually the same results. Askedall initially 3D printed his shuttle on his MakerBot Replicator 5th Gen, but recently made a larger version that he printed out on MakerBot’s large-scale 3D printer, the Replicator Z18. As you can see from the pictures, the model scaled up perfectly.
It took Askedall about three weeks to design, prototype, and finally publish his Imperial Shuttle model on Thingiverse, although he said that he worked on the model off and on over that period. He does have a job, after all. The version that he printed on his Replicator 5th Gen took about 19 hours to print and at 6″ x 4.6″ x 5.5″ it took up most of the already generous build envelope. The massive version that he printed on the Z18 took well over 40 hours to fully print, again with zero supports or rafting. Askedall said that he was very happy with his final result, especially since designing the model was a spur of the moment idea.
“There is a copy of Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels that I’ve had since I was a kid which is proudly displayed on my desk. I’ve been getting my feet wet in 3d modeling and was looking for a new project to start. I’m always looking for new things to print or create so I figured I’d try my hand at something a bit more challenging. I basically scanned the page of the book with the schematics and traced some rough outlines in Adobe Illustrator, I then imported them to Tinkercad and extruded the shapes to create many of the parts of the ship. For more organic shapes like the cockpit I used blender since you can directly manipulate the vertices,” Askedall told us.
He said that he did have to take a few liberties with the ship’s design in order for it to be printable in a single piece without supports. He had to simplify the official design a bit, and remove some of the fine details that FDM printers simply don’t have the resolution to print. But Askedall said that copying every detail exactly wasn’t really his goal, he was more interested in his model being scalable and easy to print.
And he isn’t done yet–Askedall ominously warned us that there are a lot more ship designs in his book. Head on over to Thingiverse to print your own shuttle!