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, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil)


  • Bo Keyes
    02.13.13 | 4:33PM

    how much would it codt to purchase ze ship in ze bottle?

  • Tom
    05.23.13 | 3:41AM

    You should have let the music finish.

  • Bart
    06.05.13 | 3:53PM

    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.

    • b
      08.22.13 | 7:38PM

      Except then any significant moisture would ruin the bottle…

      • yavi
        10.28.13 | 2:28AM

        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.

  • Tardigrade
    06.11.13 | 1:16PM

    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.

    • Moe
      08.08.13 | 6:47AM

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

  • Paul D
    07.14.13 | 12:43AM

    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

    • Al Gold
      08.06.13 | 5:31PM

      Not at 30um resolution and not with this strength of material(s). Rapid prototypes are generally plastic, wood or epoxy.

      • Darrell Breeden
        09.09.13 | 7:50PM

        Yes, 30um resolution and with that strength of material. Rapid Prototyping even applies to additive metal builds now.

  • greg dunn
    07.14.13 | 9:58PM

    It’s called a snow sphere. Duh.

  • Marc
    07.18.13 | 6:09PM

    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.

  • Alan Marshall
    07.27.13 | 2:04AM

    I just have to say it’s a bit of an ugly ship!

  • Bob Garrish
    07.28.13 | 12:36PM

    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.

  • Boromal
    07.28.13 | 6:39PM

    People are so hard to please, I love it

  • CursingLlama
    08.19.13 | 6:16AM

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

    • Tim Lewis
      09.10.13 | 10:22PM

      If its placed in with a robot arm, printed separate then yes your theory would work well. Well done son.

  • Adam
    08.21.13 | 1:35AM

    It’s just Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven).,..-.-

  • Brian
    08.21.13 | 10:46PM

    Couldn’t you use a water soluble support material to solve the structural support problem?

    • Tim Lewis
      09.10.13 | 10:20PM

      That would only be able to be added halfway through? Maybe? Does the printing have to be all in one go? Is this a rule?

  • Tim Lewis
    09.10.13 | 10:17PM

    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.

    • Tim Lewis
      09.10.13 | 10:19PM

      I mean one horizontal and one vertically printing? It would work, prob?

  • elizabeth
    09.28.13 | 1:05AM

    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

  • Ray Bosso
    10.19.13 | 11:24PM

    i dont understand what is so remarkable about this ?

    • b
      10.29.13 | 9:54AM

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

  • Jason McKay
    11.02.13 | 4:37PM

    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…

  • Nathan Sharp
    02.12.14 | 7:35AM

    sintered materials on a liquid bath would be a good way to do this properly

  • Tog
    03.29.14 | 7:06PM

    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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