TL;DR - What needs to be done to the following model to ensure a successful print?

As part of a father-son project we're trying to make an enclosure for a digital clock. The idea is to make a 3D printed model of a rocket with a hollow body to hold the electronics. The main body consists of two halves that will press-fit together with some integrated mounting locations for the display, micro-controller, etc.

Since this is our first 3D printing project, I would like to know what can be done to the following model to help ensure a successful first print. We have not chosen a material or supplier yet, but I suspect we'll go with PLA since it seems to be quite common, inexpensive, available in lots of colours, etc.

Main Body Shell Front

The model is not yet complete - there are several details missing, like additional mounting locations - but I was hoping to make corrections to what we already have before too much further, just in case it requires a complete restart.

Here are some possibly relevant details and goals:

  • The shell thickness is currently 2.5 mm.
  • We would like the shell to be translucent to allow a glowing effect from some internal LEDs.
  • The nose cone and thruster (not shown) will probably have pins that press-fit into the top and bottom of both halves of the shell to hold them together.
  • There is a 0.5 mm clearance between the lip on the front shell and the detent on the rear shell.
  • The rectangular window will possibly be removed, or made into a flip-open door.

There aren't a lot of hard requirements as this is just a learning project, so we're willing to change almost anything about the design, as long as we can fit in the existing clock parts.

The Fusion 360 model is available to view online if it helps: Rocket Concept 3

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how good a fit the question is here, it might be rather opinion driven. Two ideas from me: Think about overhangs and orientation (support can be used, but results in a less accurate lower surface), and suggest using an M3 bolt to secure the parts (in addition to ridges for alignment) $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2017 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanHoulihane Thanks for the tips - I'll consider bolts and read about supports. How can I improve this question to be less opinion based? I am looking for 'facts' that will improve my chance of success - ex, what problems to look out for - but as a complete newbie to 3d printing I don't know the specific questions to ask yet. $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2017 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


With a couple of minor adjustments, that would print just fine standing up as it is.

Alternatively you could lay it down with the open side facing upwards and use a few supports (my least favourite method), or simply make a flat spot on the back to lay on the printer bed. Which is probably what I would do.

As far as shell thickness goes - 2.5 mm is pretty heavy duty. You also need to bear in mind that it's best to have a thickness as a factor of the thickness of your bead or your layer height (depends on printing orientation) - assuming you are going to print this yourself. So usually that would either be divisible by the bead width or by the layer height. If you want translucent - easy enough use translucent or clear filament. I'd probably go for 1.2 mm or 1.6 mm wall thickness.

I made an angel at Christmas with clear PLA and quite a thick wall (wasn't my model and I didn't bother measuring - but at least 2 mm) and an LED candle lit it up really well.

It's much easier doing this kind of thing after buying the printer. that way you learn much quicker what works and what doesn't.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, this is the kind of feedback I am looking for. I am planning to send this out to get printed, so I won't have an opportunity to experiment first, which is the main reason for posting the question here. I'll consider the bead thickness when sizing the features, and add some supports. Can you include any other rules-of-thumb that I should consider during the modeling process? $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2017 at 14:47

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