Foton Pharming from FRO


This project started when I had a visit from my friends, Steve and Pam Chapman in mid 2017. After showing them my 1/72 scale Saturn V model, Pam asked me on the quite, could I make one for Steve's 60th next year. Sure I said, if you can get a kit, I'd be happy to. Well after a couple of months of searching, no kits were available, not in Australia or anywhere else, though a couple of overseas websites had them advertised, it soon became apparent they were out of stock. The nice folks at Frontline Hobbies in Newcastle made inquiries and found that the company only makes production runs every several years and the importers could not say when the next one would be... possibly years away. So the next step, I offered to make one from scratch.

I set about making a model of the Saturn V at 1/60th scale. I had crafted pieces from plastic caps, wooden dowel and polycarbon and other plastic sheet. John Vetter, helped greatly by turning with his lathe, several precise discs to support the main structures and locate on a central rod, it was all looking good. The first sign of trouble was after I had painted everything white and masked the model for the black quarter panels. As the black paint went on, within a minute or so, it crazed. Expletives followed.


Several attempts to fix it failed, so I decided to scrape the black and underlying coat back to bare.

Okay, that worked, so I painted the black again over an undercoat layer and it was fine.


Then removing the supposed low-tack masking tape, it left all its glue on the white paint. Another round of choice expletives. A couple of attempts to clean it failed. I took a small part into the local paint specialist but their suggestions were equally unsuccessful. So after tests on a small section, I used paint stripper to get all the paint off, then after several hours the whole model started cracking and loosing structural integrity.
After many more wild and rather creative expletives, I thought that was 3 weeks well wasted... it was ruined.

The culprit being the common element with both problems was a spray can of Dulux Supermax vivid white. Later I realised it had the feature of "10x drying speed". There must have been some odd chemical reaction with how ever it produces quick drying that clashed with the black paint and the masking tape glue to cause these effects. So I went back to the tried and tested but more expensive Dupli-Color Automotive spray I successfully painted three other Saturn V model kits with. That worked without a problem.

The 3D Printer

So, in the meantime, Rob McNaught and I, were aware that some chap in the US had created a 1/60 scale rocket and gantry tower from 3D printed parts. That initially prompted me to go to the bigger scale for the scratch build... why not. At some point, Rob suggested he buy a 3D printer and I could make the whole kit and kabootal. Yeah, jokingly I says, why don't we make the VAB as well (that's the Vehicle Assembly building to those not up with NASA lingo) just to take it one step further, thinking that it would be a nightmare to build. Anyway, Rob turns up several weeks later with fellow Coonabarabran resident Jeff Nott and a new 3D printer. Jeff has had the same model printer for 6 months or so and gave me some very valuable tuition on the basics of the CAD and printing software and the printer operation. So, off I went...

Flashforge Creator Pro 3D printer.

The first thing was to redo some of the parts I scratch built and some extra locator guides, they turned out quite nicely.
I built most of version 2 of the rocket using PVC pipes which in the end, turned out to be much more solid than the original build plus a few of the original scratch parts.

F1 Engines

I'm getting the hang of the printer, so onto the main engines. I soon tired of printing one part at a time, so I put several pieces together for each print run. Even though they were taking a number of hours to print, I could do other things like painting and assembly or sleeping while the printer worked away. Most nights I would wake in the wee hours and set another print job in motion. The printer ran nonstop for over 2 months.


The Tower

Now the big job of the gantry tower.

The first level had 137 parts. Some of the longer bits needed to be cut in half or thirds to fit on the printer platen, then glued back together. It soon turned into a logistical nightmare trying to keep track of every part.


The printer came with a variety of filament rolls in different colours. So the plan was to paint the pieces rather than buy more filament in the correct colour. It is quite expensive, anywhere from $50-80 per kilo roll. I started running out of white filament and had to use other colours. When painted, it all looked fine but it adding another complexity to the build.

As the parts list increased, I had to make a chart of the parts printed and pending, it was starting to do my head in keeping track of it all. Each of the 15 standard levels had 53 or 55 parts and the whole thing topped out at 1,780 pieces!

The Transport and Launch Platform

I started on the big platform and made it from plywood rather than printing it. It would have used a lot of filament and cost ten times what the wood version cost. Several printed parts finished it off nicely.

A special order from Mitre10 of the 6mm square ribbing adds nice detail. It all turned out very nice when painted.

1st Tower test

The rocket mark II was finished.

Our friendly local sign shop in Mudgee (Image Signs in Gladstone St.) made a sheet of stickers to my design, they really looked great on the rocket.

With the first few levels of the tower done, I needed to test that it was going to marry up on the platform.

Spot on was the answer, Woo Hoo!

And the tower was climbing higher...

Done to spec

After nearly 3 months, it was almost there...

Then finally topped it off with the crane.

But the tower looked a bit bare... lets do the pipes on the side and the back, yep I'm as mad as.

I also made a mock crawler look to the base stand but don't look too hard at that :-)

And more piping on the platform with service boxes.

Close up of the top end. I printed a couple of people to scale and put one on the platform and one at the tip of the crane.

All the pipe joins, brackets and end pieces, I created in the CAD program. The pipes are 6 and 8 mm dowel.

So the 3 astronauts are on the crew gantry heading into the white room, getting close to lift off now.

As the time approached, I partly disassembled the model, carefully packed it into my old truck
and got it to Chappy's place without any major damage... and finally the main engines went into place.

Another couple of hours to put it all back together and the result... a very happy Chappy.

The model looks right at home with the other space memorabilia.

Jeff, Pam and Steve Chapman with Rob McNaught.

Chappy and I at "the Dish" near Parkes, Steve kindly showed his model for the 50th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing.

Many thanks go to:

Rob McNaught for the loan of his new 3D printer.

Jeff Nott for initial setting up and tuition on the printer and software.

John Vetter for turning the precise support/locator discs for the rocket.

FarScape1 (Paul Fischer) for creating the 3D printer files for the whole project and making them freely available to the world.

This and other creations can be found on the thingiverse website.

A few more of my 3D printing efforts:

1/60 scale Space Shuttle on platform

Sci-fi models, other Rockets and Telescope model series