Stratasys Blog

3D Printing the Impossible: A Ship in a Bottle (Video)

Today’s Objet vlog post features one of the nicest 3D printed models I’ve seen from an Objet Connex multi-material 3D printer!

The ‘Ship in a Bottle’ created here features a solid bottle, 3D printed in Objet’s Clear Transparent material. And suspended within it we have our traditional sailing ship printed in Objet Rubber-like Black material. Both the black and the transparent materials are inseperably bound together.  (The only way to 3D print a ship in a hollow bottle would be to include a wide enough opening to remove the support material from within – which would sort of defeat the point really. But that’s a challenge for another time. )

Printing on the Objet Connex system in 30 micron layers allows you to clearly see the incredible detail of the ship – including the minuscule spider-web-like rigging between deck and masts, the crow’s nests, railings and flag poles. Enjoy.

3D Printed Ship in a Bottle

Objet Connex 3D Printer Creates a Ship in a Bottle by Jetting Transparent and Black Materials within the Same Print Session.


3D Printed Ship in a Bottle - Detail

Detailed View of 3D Printed Ship Within Objet Clear Transparent 3D Printing Material.

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) French Japanese Korean Portuguese (Brazil) Spanish

Sam Green, Head of Marketing for Rapid Prototyping Solutions, Stratasys

Sam Green, Head of Marketing for Rapid Prototyping Solutions, Stratasys

Sam Green is Head of Marketing for Rapid Prototyping Solutions at Stratasys.


  • On the hollow bottle: the support material could be (water)soluable, so you could wash it out after the print was complete. Would only require a very narrow opening.

      • This is why you use a separate material that is not water soluble for the bottle and ship. Support material would be. With that kind of res, one could make a small armada. Floating on a liquid… in the bottle.

  • If the support material would convert to a gas if radiated by ultraviolet light or similar, only a small hole would be needed to get it out.

    This could be used for those snow thingies as well. Only add water.

    • If the material could.. be, like vaporized by BRAIN WAVES then, then you could… oh, I think I pulled a tendon in my head.

  • This is very old technology
    Back in the late 1980s it was called rapid prototyping.
    The injection moulding industry uses it to see design changes
    before committing to make expensive moulds

  • Given the bottle is not hollow this is NO WAY “impossible” – it would be dead easy to make it using any one of several other moulding technologies. Still, a nice sailing ship model.

  • It is as Marc says…here’s how to make a plastic ship in a solid ‘bottle’:

    1. Get a mold for a bottle shape, or make one with RTV silicone and a bottle
    2. Fill mold part way with clear resin, let cure
    3. Put little plastic boat in mold, on top of cured section
    4. Fill rest of mold, let cure

    Presto! Same process as any of the ‘cast in resin’ widgets you see at dollar stores, like coins and leaves. This is a nice demo of how their printers can use multiple materials in a print, though a demo that took less than a full day to print might be more tradeshow-friendly 🙂

    This is NOT the same technology as rapid prototypers of the 80’s (stereolithography). Those used a laser to cure a vat of resin and could not work with multiple materials. The Objet printers print out layers of resin like an inkjet printer, then cure them with a UV lamp before printing the next layer, which is why they can print with multiple materials in the same part.

    So far as I know, all the materials used in these printers are acrylates of some sort and so they all dissolve (or don’t) in the same things. It’s not like the FDM printers where all kinds of different things can be melted and extruded, the resins in these printers need to be UV curable and the good UV catalysts only work with a specific class of plastic resins.

  • Hollow bottle… print 8 or 9 tenths of the bottle leaving out the top layers, place ship in bottle, print rest of bottle.

  • Well why not have the printer do simultaneous activities? As long as it prints in one go? Why not have it print x2 with one laser actually cancelling out the other only partly? That would solve the water theory and would work well.

  • okay everyone here is obviously cleverer than me. Forgive me but to my childlike mind this (like laser routing and laser glass engraving) is quite fascinating. Technology and mans ingenuity can be remarkable Thanks

    • That itw as deisgned and printed by machine, 100%, and that there’s different matrials used in very intricate ways?

  • Impossible? This has been done for a century at least. Have you ever seen an acrylic paperweight with all kinds of stuff inside? Have you ever held a screwdriver with plastic or rubber injection molded around the metal (not fully enclosed to make it a useful tool, but can be)? Car tires with embedded steel wires? Even nature does it, trapping insects in ember.

    What would be mildly more interesting is to use a soluble (alcohol, water or other solvent) support material and wash it off from the hollow container through the small opening, but that has also been done for ages in manufacturing. Even with RP, people have been printing things like whistles with built in sphere thingies inside for ages. You either use a soluble support, or thin supports that break once you shake the thing violently once or twice.

    SMH at the gullibility of reporters…

  • To print the ship in a hollow bottle should be quite easy if you just change it’s orientation. Instead of printing it right side up, with a massive common surface between bottle and ship bottom, print it upside-down, with only two or three tiny points of contact at, for example the tops of three pennants, two flanking the main mast, one at the top of another mast. Print the entire thing, then slam it sideways onto a solid surface. Voila! The ship breaks free. (If necessary, the areas above the points of contact could be chilled to make the plastic more brittle before the slam.) it would take some experimentation to see how tiny you could make the break points without having it collapse during printing. The printer should be introducing zero pressure, other than the weight of the plastic itself, so you might have points of contact as small as a human hair.

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