Modular Snap-Fit Saturn V

by RealAbsurdity, published

Modular Snap-Fit Saturn V by RealAbsurdity Jan 29, 2013

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This is a highly detailed snap-fit (no glue required) model of a Saturn V rocket. Its modular design and included conversion ring makes it fully compatible with my Modular Snap-Fit Airship and Trireme Upgrade:

Uploaded an optimized version on 1/21/2013. Version 3 has improved wall thicknesses on the shells for two loop printing on almost every layer. The resulting build is more sturdy and efficent. The individual pieces are now avilable as well.


The Modular Snap-Fit Saturn V has been prototyped on a Replicator 2. It is designed for support free printing and has been prototyped as such.

UPDATE: 1/31/2013
Version 3 is now online and it includes some improvements and optimizations. If you are a Replicator or Replicator2 user try slicing in MakerWare's Slice engine with .15mm layers and zero infill (not skeinforge). The latest prototype was sliced in this way and it took less than five minutes and the quality is comporable to a much slower Skinforge slice! I will post a more detailed MakerWare slice profile later.

Sliced in skeinforge it works best with the following settings in print-o-matic:

no support/raft
layer thickness: .15mm (or less)
Number of shells: 2 or 3 (This setting is very important to make the vertical prongs on the two middle sections strong enough to survive repeated snap-fitting)
feed speed: 80mm/s
travel speed: 150mm/s
fill rate: 0 (for shell version)

My actual slice profile is a little more complex but with print-o-matic those are the settings that will get you started.

WARNING! Due to the high detail of the original solid model (B-rep made in autodesk Inventor) the resulting .stl surface mesh is very complex. Slicing can take a while even on high-spec machines.

This shell version was designed to keep the material use to a minimum and works quite well but I am working on a solid version anyway. It might actually print faster at low rates of infill because there is less shell and perimeter to print even though they have been minimized in the shell version.

If you Saturn V comes out a little loose on the top and tail (like my last one did) I uploaded a quick fix so you can print a pair of shims that should tighten it up. They almost must be printed at .15 layers with the bottom layer at 100% thickness to work.

This model also replaces the tail and nose or hull sections of my Modular Snap-Fit Airship converting it into an Saturn V Airship! The included adaptder ring makes for a smooth transition between the airship and the S-IVb (top) section of the Saturn V. The same is true for the Trireme Hull!

Airship: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:45295
Trireme: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:45305

This is a work in progress for an art series I am working on so for the moment I licensed it as no-derivatives but I will open it up soon after I finish a few more parts.

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em - since everyone else seems to have printed this OK I'm a bit stumped.
My Ver3 Stage2 will not fit into Ver3 Stage3 :(

The tabs just don't line up

Is it me or have the models been changed??????
[edit]Bear with me - I'm printing top parts first so I'd already printed and assemsbled CM and stage 4 and stage 3
I can now see that due to having to print stage 1 upside down, stage 2 is also upside down and slots into stage 1 - all good

But what's the plan in connecting stage 2 to stage 3 - they both just have slots - I can't see any way of connecting these togehter apart from using super glue - is there some connectors missing?

Nothing changed, nothing missing. You need the H-clips to connect the sections.

Here's a note to those who have trouble making the tower. I successfully printed the last stage and the Command Module. I had no luck printing the Command Module tower on a Printrbot Play with PLA using a vertical orientation. I was able to do so horizontally with external (touching buildplate) support only. However, it definitely doesn't have the same quality that a vertical print has. In general building thin tall structures is hard and I wish I knew how to get this right.

I still haven't gotten to state 1, 2 and 3 yet.

Fantastic model!! I am trying to figure out how to snap-lock parts together, rather than glue them, but I'm having trouble designing a locking mechanism. What tolerances did you use for the slots and snapping pegs? How did you remove the support material inside the slot?

Very very cool. Printed perfectly on a Makerbot 5th gen replicatior.

How about a gantry now?

Pretty cool project. As a kids' toy, this would be a lot more fun if, instead of the snap-fit connectors, it had a small dimple on each piece for gluing a square of velcro. (The dimple would be so that the pieces sat flush when the velcro was connected.) Then you could mix-and-match all the Saturn V and airship, etc pieces. (And my son would be able to re-enact the staging of the rocket, which he's currently obsessed with.)

All parts of this model printed out great on our Rep2, except for the tower on the top stage. For some reason, it doesn't extrude properly when it gets to that point and we don't get much of anything. Followed the instructions with 0 infill, no support or rafts, 2 shells, feed speed 80mm/s, travel speed 150mm/s, except for layer thickness at .10. Any idea what might be wrong?

Would it be possible to get a solid version of the model? My uPrint will fill the hollow voids with soluble support which I'd like to avoid if possible. Thanks!

I would like to let you know this model is being featured in the current /r/3dprinting contest.


Nice work! But...
Is it me or don't the parts fit together?
I printed the adapter and its hooks and holes spacing are the same as the hooks on the rocket. But on the rocket, the holes are wider apart from each other (at least 2mm).
Could you please check this?



Sorry my bad! That what happens when you don't have all the pieces, you can't see the big picture!
Sorry again for the trouble. Now that I have printed everything (I always fear trays, because when you have a problem, you have nothing), I understood how it is assembled and it fits!

Well done and thanks again for your work,

PS.: Does anyone know what colors go on this (I'm thinking on using scale models paint), but haven't found any painting instructions, just pictures of the rocket...

I have not had the problem you are having. There are two different holes with different spacing. The longer holes are for H clips and the shorter set are for the printed in place snap prongs. My guess is you might have a piece reversed.

It worked perfectly for me at both 100% and 200% scale...

So...this can't be built on a Thing-O-Matic at 100% - max fit is about 86%, but I scaled it to 75%. Turns out with the thin walls it doesn't print all that well scaled down - OK, but not quite right. I'd really love to see this as a solid model instead of hollow, it would then print really well scaled down.
This is a GREAT model however, and I really appreciate the level of detail in it!!

I managed to cut it in two with nettfab. It didn't create a solid base at the cut - just a hole (despite the model looking solid after cutting), but it was probably better that way and has made a nicer join like that than it did as a flat surface.
Thanks. It looks amazing at 200%!
Will get around to doing a photo soon.

Could you PLEASE supply a file with the top stage cut in two.
I have tried multiple ways to cut the top stage myself, but cant get a good result.
I have printed the bottom 3 stages at 200%, and it is looking amazing, but I cant finish it.
Would be so much appreciated as I just love this model :)

Sorry folks, I have been very busy with work lately and have not had time to do this.

I have printed it once at 100% and am wishing to double the scale also. The only way I could think of doing it without changing the model is to lay it on its side and generate support. The only problem is it would kill the surface finish on the bottom side, and you could have to remove all of it from the inside. But if you do not mind this, I bet it would work.

I thought the top stage was too large for my TOM but it isn't. The other response was my original one and I tried to delete but the system just changed it to "guest". I'm not sure why it did that.

That's the only thing stopping me from printing it. That one piece is just too tall for my machine. I guess I could import it into Netfabb basic and cut it in half myself.

Printed it at 1:1 and thought this is great, so I'll do a 2.5:1 on my Rostock - fantastic - all the detail came out and it's the best thing I've printed.

Thanks. I printed stages 1-3, however stage 4 is much taller than the other sections and I can't print that high on my printer. Is there any chance you could chop stage 4 into 4a, or 4b? Or point me to the software so I can do this myself? :)

Oh NO! I have printed the first 3 stages at 200% size, but the 4th stage doesnt fit at this scale!!
How do I halve the top section??? I dont mind gluing it - it doesnt need to snap fit...

Any reason I couldn't scale this right up? I love it!

AMazing model!

Works really well mechanically too, the joints snap together beautifully.

ONe thing: if you scale it up to 2x (like I'm doing) the bottom of Stage 1 (with the nozzles) is quite a large unsupported bridge. Would it be possible to add angled buttresses (like the ones at the top of Stage 2 to make this easier?

Has anyone had luck getting Slic3r to process this properly?


Sorry I missed this post, you might have to disable COMB in order to get the full plated version so slice in Skeinforge. It does not affect the print quality.

Hey, awesome model. I am very excited to print this thing. Have you had any trouble with makerware? I've just downloaded the 2.0 after being unimpressed with the first beta. It seems its still not ready for prime time as my slices always fail or get stalled at 33%. I should probably just stop dicking around with makerware and go slice it with RepG :)

I've had the same exact problem trying to slice this in Makerware, stalls at 33%.

Are you using skeinforge in makerware or the makerbot slicer (medium or fine setting in the basic dialog)? It will slice in both with the right settings but takes over an hour in skeinforge. Also make sure you have 2.0 installed and slice it at .15 layer thickness using the makerbot slicer (medium). if you want skeinforge to work you will need a custom profile with comb disabled and a lot of patience. hope that helps

Thanks, that did the trick. Printing as we speak! Will post when I'm done.

I have had pretty good luck with the slice in makerware, using the Makerbot Slicer. It works best with 2 shells, .1 infill, and .15 layer thickness. It is quite fast and shouldn't stall or anything. The only problem I have had with it is that I do not like the surface quality of the smooth cylindrical sections when compared to a skeinforge slice in repG (which takes like 10 times longer).

Lovely, takes me back to kits as a kid! Tell you what though - it cries out for a snap-together bicolour version! The original was mostly recogniseable black/white, and the arse end could be done all silver as a cherry on top.

Any chance for a dualstrusion? White and Black would be very nice.

This is awesome and will become my next print!

But to take it to next level... command module (with service) is separable...

Hi very nice model but cant pint stage 4, its because i have 0.4 mm nozzle and slicer wont slice 0.54, can you check it and thicken.. sorry to ask but cant scale as hight of that section is limit of huxley fold

What slicer are you using? I also have .4mm nozzle and have not had issues with objects that narrow.

Hi sorry found the problem ... after running model through netfab and healing have managed to print..
BTW wheres the launch pad
Will post picky but my £500 Huxley not as tuned as the pro's so still working up currage
Thanks for the reply

I could not print the SaturnV_ver3_print.stl file as I posted before, it crashes both ReplicatorG and MW during the "comb" process.

However, I finally did print the individual components. I cannot fathom how you created this model. Even the command module thrusters, in all their tiny glory, are visible.

A superb model. Well worth the effort to print. Excellent work.

I had the same problem with ReplicatorG and MW, but didn't think to print the individual components (kid at Christmas, I want my Saturn V). I will have to try each of the components again.

Do you know what the scale of the model is? Sorry if I missed it somewhere.

This is a candidate for scaling up on my Rostock.

The rocket model stands about 11.5" tall when it is assembled. So the scale from the original is about 26/10000.

This is gorgeous! Incredible models, all of them.

This is a beautifully crafted, extremely well designed model. It worked perfectly using the simple MW spec provided. Perfect fit. Printed in ABS at 150 microns it was a six hour build on a Rep2. It has the added benefit of the build cooling fan making a nice baritone whistle as it passes over som of the tubes in progress.

Bravo RA

Thanks Bschuler, your copy looks great in white abs. Did you mod your rep 2 for a heated build plate or do you have another method to counteract the curling and shrinking everyone talks about?

Duh - sorry - too many darn printers. It was stock MB White PLA. Actually I just did a maintenance teardown on the Rep2 - it was one of the earliest ones and been used heavily and between a bit of refurb and with the new firmware update it is really running very nicely.

I really appreciated the surface details, insulating foam etc. Did you model completely from scratch?

I am an investor in SpaceX and want to do the new Falcon Heavy but have not had time. When it flies later this year (ish) it will be the largest launch platform in the world and just shy of the SaturnV. Epic rocket - 27 Merlin engines.

oh man, you had me excited with the rep2 abs thing. Oh well someday right? Yes I did model this from scratch and my original inventor file is pretty complex and messy due to the details and intermittent editing between test prints. The falcon would be awesome! I can upload the snap prongs and sockets as separate files if they would be of use to you in putting it together. Eventually I want to revisit this one and model the stages more true to the original with their additional rocket engines, fuel tanks and the like but I have another new one brewing for this series that is taking precedence right now.

I will print it in ABS next week. My guess is it will be just fine. Perhaps maybe the Command Module and escape tower might need to be a separate component. It would be great if you could post the prongs and sockets - many would find them useful for a variety of models. Keep up the great work.

I should probably also mention that version of this with all of the pieces together can push ReplicatorG to its limits and sometimes it does wonky things so double check your Gcode before you print it! I just had it fail to put the default Start/End code in and it made my Rep2 freak out.

This is just plain awesome. All of the sudden you've reminded me of the modular snap together toys of my childhood, and I really want to make this.

You, sir, are magic!

Thanks! Let me know how it goes. I'm working on a few tweaks right now that might make for an easier print if you can wait a day or two.

Updated the adapter ring to attach the Saturn V to the Zeppelin after a dodgy print. New version works better.

One other note that was not in the original description: If you print the Saturn V the vertical snap clips attached to the two middle sections can become fragile if your temperature settings are not high enough to get a good bond between layers. It is not an ideal orientation for these features and higher temps help ( at least in the PLA I have tried) as well as upping the loops so the small prong features are virtually solid.

It looks like a few people already downloaded the .stl file. If you did please delete it and download the one posted now. There was a cascade update error in my original inventor files that I didn't notice before I published and once I noticed it was too late and took a few minutes to fix. The old version will print some zeppelin fins in places they don't belong on the Saturn V. My apologies if anybody prints the original, it is a work in progress.

It looks like some folks already downloaded this and if you did you should delete the file you fetched and download the new one. There was a little cascade update in my original inventor models that caused parts of the original airship to show up where they do not belong. My apologies if you print one that comes out weird, I noticed the problem right after I published and it took a few minutes to fix.

I love the saturn V/airship combined!

Thanks Tbuser, check my comment above. I uploaded a wonky stl the first time and it already got downloaded. I don't want people to have to print two if the first one they got is screwed up.