Model 787 Dreamliner 3D Print


I recently got hold of a Snapmaker 2A350 3D printer, as I wanted to be able to print larger items than is possible with my Cocoon 3D printer from Aldi.

Although I had designed a number of 3D parts for the X-Class Loco model using Lightwave 3D, I haven’t designed any aeroplanes in 3D, so headed over to Thingiverse and downloaded 3D files for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, created by a member going by the name of Lukys. He also has a video of his model on YouTube. Unfortunately for me as an English-only speaker, the video and most of the comments are in Russian (?), but still worth a look to see his attention to detail. His finished 1/72 scale 3D print looks fantastic!

STL and Gcode Files

Once 3D models are created in a CAD/modellingprogram, the standard way of saving and distributing the file is in .stl format (Stereo LIthography).

As 3D printers print by building up layers of plastic filament (usually ABS or PLA), stl files have to be ‘sliced’ into layers in a program such as Ultimaker Cura. The plastic filament comes on a reel, usually specified by filament type, diameter and weight.

All the details of the 3D printer to be used are loaded into Cura, so the virtual layer slices correspond to the actual printed layers on the 3D printing machine. The result is saved as a Gcode file, which contains all the 3D geometry information for the model, specific to a particular printer.

Also included in a Gcode file is printer-specific information such as the diameter and flow rate of the extrusion nozzle, the dimensions of the print bed (H, W and D), the desired temperature of the extruded plastic and temperature of the print bed, print speed and so on.

Fuselage section 1 stl file loaded into Cura for slicing, to suit printing on the Snapmaker. Cura reports that at the current scale of 1/100, this piece will take 3 hours 17 minutes to print and use 28g of plastic filament. Scaling up to 1/72 would take 8 hours 13 minutes and use 80g of filament!
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In this Cura screen, pulling the sliders on the right and at the bottom shows how the stl file has been sliced and how it will print. This example shows slice 321
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Scale and Size

I decided to print the model at the provided scale of 1/100. As this is a 787-8, this scale would result in a model 570 mm long. Printing at 1/72 scale would mean the model would be 792 mm long, and would use heaps more plastic and take almost 4 times longer to print! (see comment on Cura screen grabs above).

Snapmaker2 A350 3D printer has a build volume of 320W x 330D x 350H, much larger than the Aldi Cocoon’s volume 200W x 200D x 180H. In the photo below, the Snapmaker (foreground) and the Cocoon are printing parts for the engines. The Snapmaker print was superior, so I decided not to use the Cocoon for the rest of the model.

Below: Printing part of the nose landing gear. As a small part, the print only took a few minutes. Some of the larger fuselage parts such as the section where the wings join took over 8 hours!


I am using PLA (PolyLactic Acid) plastic filament, as it’s relatively cheap and is easy to work with. The parts are reasonably smooth, but print layer lines are visible, so finishing will involve cycles of sanding and applying spray putty and primer before the final paint coats. Some people also sparingly apply acetone on a rag to smooth PLA surfaces… must experiment with that!

Below: Printed PLA parts, awaiting joining with Superglue.
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Glued with Superglue
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The stl files came with a basic stand, but I modified it in Lightwave 3D to include the Boeing logo and 787 as extruded parts. Click images for larger view

Below: Stand base in Lightwave 3D. Boeing logo and 787 added to the original stl file and base hollowed out a bit to save print time and plastic filament. Modified base exported as another .stl file for slicing into Gcode with Cura. Click image for larger view.