Customisable Modular Model Rocket

by axford, published

Customisable Modular Model Rocket by axford Jun 6, 2015
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This is a simple, cheap and flexible modular model rocket design in OpenSCAD.

Using Customizer you can:

  • Select a rocket size (e.g. mini, standard, C)
  • Choose how many fins and what size
  • Vary the height of the various sections (finCan, body, nose cone, etc)
  • Alter the type of nose cone
  • Add an optional, payload section
  • Set your guide rod size
  • Tweak the tolerances for your printer

Make sure to customize and export the various parts, then get printing.

The rockets are fairly durable, even without a recovery system, but the heat from the rocket engines mean the finCan will only last a few flights (if using PLA). Nonetheless, this is a very fast/cheap way to play with different model rocket designs and great fun with kids - especially as they can design their own rockets.

I'd recommend tweaking the Perimeter value to generate 2 perimeters in your slicer (probably around 1mm) - one perimeter just melts too quickly.

Here's a video of some of these flying - we were running late to the field, so didn't have time to add drogues/parachutes, but they are highly recommended:


The OpenSCAD should be a good starting point if you want to design your own sections for the rocket, or add different nose cones, fin types, etc.


  • Support for swept back fins and automatic print support for rocket body
  • Improved coupling joints (lighter, sprung fit)
  • Fins can now be twisted to rotate the rocket in flight (for stability)
  • Option of a shockcord fixing at the base of the payload coupling
  • Added Haack nose cone type (constant be varied for LV, LD or anything in between)
  • Fins tips can now be offset vertically
  • Added support for guide rails (rail buttons) as well as guide rods
  • Added payload bulkhead option
  • Fixed STL generation bug for nose cone
  • Added additional fin and nose cone shapes
  • Added option to generate complete rocket as single STL (without internal couplers, etc)


1) Customise, download and print the various parts for your model - 0.3mm layers is fine. Try to avoid using a brim - it's a pain to remove without cracking the thin-walled parts.
2) Fit a recovery chute/drogue (if desired) and associated wadding
3) Install a suitable rocket engine - start with something low powered (Estes A or B) - you may need a bit of tape around the engine to get a snug fit.
4) Install igniter, place on launch stand, countdown, FIRE!

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Somehow I'm not getting the tubes for the launch guide wire?
Using the base code as provided and scad 2015-3

some suggestions. make the body tube larger than motor tube and have supports between the two.

then don't make the motor tube the size of the motor. make it the size of the carboard motor tube.

glue carboard motor tube into tube in rocket. now the rocket (plastic) is insulated from the motor (hot)

also use a taller launch rod and stand off. deflection of exhaust gases off a deflector plate is what will really melt these things. avoid that and you avoid the melting problem.

also a little shot of high temp paint inside and around the bottom will help a lot.

this is single use right?

Comments deleted.

is this thing still supported? I cant get the customizer to work right....

seems to be a bug in customizer - nothing wrong with the source as far as I can see, and it still matches the documentation. guess we need for Makerbot to fix it :(

I had this same problem on many of my older files. Just drop the / [Global]/ .

yes... what's the problem? Customizer does seem to be a bit flakey at the moment - reload sometimes required to get it to display anything!

I only get the options for 'part' and 'section view' no matter which tab i am in. i cannot find any place to select any other options at all.

ah - yes... looks like Customizer app has been changed/broken. Will dig around and see if it's fixable in my source code

As i mentioned Just comment out the / /[Global] and you be golden.
Customizer app has changed menu system

still seems broken ?

This is a truly awesome tool! I'm using it to convert a large cardboard tube into a 24mm mid-power model rocket!

thanks :) would be great to see a picture of the finished rocket!

Absolutely brilliant and exactly what I was looking for. I found that my OpenScad version (2014.01) was inadequate - updating to 2015.03-1 was well worth it as it offers quite a few new features.

The only problem I've had is that printing the fins from a relatively small tip doesn't work - there is just not enough adhesion to keep the very small segment of layer 1 plastic in contact with the printing bed, and inevitably one of them lifts off before I've built up enough fin to connect to the can. I'm experimenting with a flat trailing edge which I don't think makes much difference in subsonic flight profiles - see https://www.apogeerockets.com/technical_publication_16

So I set fin_tip_flat_base to 36 (fin_width - a very small amount) and this should print much more easily and should fly just as well...

I appreciate how much time it makes to properly do a parametric modeller and share it rather than just sharing some stl files, and this is truly impressive! Thank you for sharing!

hey - thanks for the feedback, and agreed on the fin tips - the swept back arrangement certainly seems to fly the best

The bottom is filled so that I can't insert an engine. Is that right?

Hi Bairnt
No, that's definitely not right. I just had a look at your "rocket 3" - looks like you might have generated the STL with the "Show Engine" option set to Yes - this causes the engine to appear in each part. Bit of a limitation of Customizer that I can't automatically disable this from within the script.

Very nice rocket, I love being able to make any rocket i want. Thank you very much for making this available, you have instantly made all the other rockets obsolete.

but i have a couple of issues:

  1. why are there tabs on the top of the fin can? i have to trim them off to make the body section fit.
  2. i end up with gaps between each part, maybe its a limitation of my printer (Printrbot metal simple). The parts do not fit together properly, and leave a noticeable gap, or maybe it is because of 3, below.
  3. my printer prints a 0.4 mm wide layer, when i set it to 0.4 in your set up, the fins are only 0.8 mm wide, and are incredibly fragile. I ended up setting 0.8 mm as my width, which makes stronger fins, but then the rest of the model ends up heavier (double walls).

These are pretty minor issues really, and i might just make a 'throw away' print using the 0.4 single wall for maximum height.

HI Spirosand
thanks and to try and answer your issues:

1) they are a bug - will fix shortly and upload a new script! they appear when the height of the finCan is very close to the height of the rocket motor
2) hmm... it could be a printer limitation, my parts have all fitted together tightly. However, I've not tried printing an E-class design, so perhaps it's a scaling issue. I'll investigate further.
3) I experience the same - a single wall print is fragile, but light. A twin-wall print is a little heavier, but robust for multiple flights. I was pondering adding two thickness values - one for the body and one for the fins - so at least you can tweak each to suit. do you think that's a good idea?

Have an issue with the .scad file

u1 = i/(bez_steps-1);

This line is giving an error but can not work out why?

Any ideas. (pretty new to scad)

Probably need to upgrade to latest version of OpenScad.. That kind of variable reassignment is a very new feature.

Amazing! Sooooo glad you published this a week before rocstock!