Introduction: 3d Printed Mars Replica

Inspired by the 2016 space contest, and because my space weapon from Destiny (Touch of Malice) was rejected, I leaned back and thought about what doing else. After a while I got an Idea – a 3d printed Version of Mars.

20 hours later, I am sitting next to my 3d printer and wait for the first half of the red planet. This tutorial, might not even help to create Mars, rather it should help to create any planet you want, existing or not.

Sit down and have a look how I did it.

Step 1: List – Thing’s You’ll Need

1) Creating the 3d Model & 3d Print

  • Unwrapped Bitmap of the Planet you want to create
  • 3d Program (3ds Max, C4d, Maya etc…)
  • 3d Printer Software (Cura, Meshmixer etc.)
  • 3d Printer (Makerbot, Ultimaker etc.)

2) Coloring the Planet

  • Airbrush stuff
    • Airbrush gun
    • 2; 5; 8 mm
    • Stand
    • Cleaning pot
    • Cleaning brushes
    • Compressor
    • and so on
  • Vallejo Primer German Dark Yellow RAL 7028
  • Airbrush color
    • Vallejo 818 (Vallejo Braun-Ocker)
    • Vallejo Model Air 027 (Hellbraun)
    • Vallejo Model Air 028 (Sandgelb)
    • Vallejo Model Air 032 (Goldbraun)
    • Vallejo Model Air 034 (Sandbraun)
    • Vallejo Model Air 076 (Hautfarbe)
    • Vallejo Model Air 079 (Erde)
  • clear lacquer
    • Vallejo Acrylic Saint Varnish 26.519 (Klarlack, Seidenmatt)
  • Pipettes
  • Thinner
    • Vallejo Thinner 71.161 (Vallejo Verdünnungsmittel)
  • Cleaner
    • Vallejo 71.199 Cleaner (Airbrush Reiniger)
  • White color
  • Black or dark warm grey

3) Stand


  • 2x Acrylic Glass / Plexiglass ® Black
    • Strength: 5 mm
    • Length: 200 mm
    • Width: 200 mm
  • 1x Acrylic Glass / Plexiglass ® Black( Alternately 4x 5x25x200 mm)
    • Strength: 5 mm
    • Length: 100 mm
    • Witdh: 200 mm
  • Special Glue
  • Acrifix glue, transparent
  • Flip Switch (ca. 220V)
  • Synchronous motor with 210 – 260 v & 4 – 5 rpm
  • G4 Socket
  • LED Lamp (for G4)
  • Converter (220 - 12 V)
  • Wire, Little Screws etc.


  • Drill for Glass/Plexiglas
  • saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Cutting knive
  • Soldering iron
  • Soldering paste
  • Clamps

Step 2: Creating the Model (in 3ds Max)

The first thing you’ll need is a high quality hightmap. I used a websearch to find a usable result and – in case of mars – it was not so hard.

Here I found the “Mars Elevation Map”, an colored hightmap, that matches perfectly my needs.

The bluish colored areas are subsidence and the reddish areas are elevations. The resolution with 5760 * 2880 px is quite detailed and should work very well.

Now, after you saved the file on your computer, move to your favorite the 3d program (or download my OBJ-Files and skip this part of creation) and start with creating a sphere.

Here’s my way in 3dsMax:

Primary settings:

Unit Setup

Display Unit Scale

Metric , Centimeter

System Unit Setup

1 Unit = Centimeter

In 3ds Max, move to creation panel, standard primitives and choose sphere.

I used a 45 cm diameter, respectively a radius of 22.5 cm and the maximum of possible segments: 200. (This is useful, to get a detailed surface at the end)

The next step is very easy. Just convert the object to an editable poly switch to the modify panel and add a TurboSmooth modifier with 2 Iterations in the modifier stack.

To get an idea, of what I’m doing, I created a simple (Vray)Material with the heightmap inside of the Bump-Channel.

For any rendering, I never would try to put so much iteration on an object, I did before, but we need many subdivisions, to bring our geometry out – in a physical way. Even, if the bump map makes our sphere looking more interesting right now, at the corner of our object, you can see, that the surface of our object is still smooth. Again, for just a rendering, it’s enough to work with fewer subdivisions and at this point – use a displacement map.

That is nearly what we’ll do next. Select the Sphere Object in the scene, move back to the modifier panel and apply a displace modifier.

The following settings should work fine:

  • Strength: 3
  • Decay: 1
  • Image: Map (choose that one, we already used for the bump-channel)
  • Map: Use Existing Mapping

In the viewport and of course any rendering, you see, that our smooth sphere is transferred into a rough one – well… like a planet ^^

Next – convert it to a editable Poly again.

Then, create a new sphere with a radius of about 21 to 21,5 centimeter.

Now select the Planet-Object, take “Boolean” out of the object panel – compound objects, activate “Pick Operand B” and click on our new sphere.

That’s it – easy, isn’ it?

Last steps are easy to. Just convert it to an editable poly again and export it to an OBJ file.

For those, who are really crazy, go ahead and again; put a TurboSmooth Modifier on top.

I used the zbrush export obj preferences and waited a couple of minutes for the exportation. Depending on your PC it is possible, that max will crash now – same with Meshmixer in the next step. If you’ve got any problems just take my files.

Step 3: Edditing the 3d Model (in Meshmixer)

Click on Import and select the OBJ-File of our created planet. It might need some time, to load it completely.

For a simple half cut just activate edit-mode and choose the Plane Cut Tool.

The orientation of the cutting plane should fit your needs, so you only have to change cutting mode now. Select Slice “Keep Both”, from dropdown menu and accept the operation.

After a little while, the toll window should appear again, and we can select “Separate Shells” got get two objects.

Now, you only have to export one by one – maybe as OBJ again, and move to your 3d Printer Software.

Step 4: 3d Printing

I will continue with Cura, the Software for my Ultimake².

Load the model (or half) into the scene; you want to print out first. In my case, I scaled the model up from 1.0 to 3.0, that are about 13 cm in diameter. (If you are irritated about the differences between our original measure in 3ds max and the output of meshmixer - i think it's about the internal automatic dimensioning but it will not interfere you, if you keep an eye on the scale inside of your 3d printer software.)

Let’s come to the settings for the printer.


  • Layer height (mm) : 0.13
  • Shell thickness (mm): 0.8
  • Enable retraction (mm): activated


  • Bottom/Top thickness (mm): 0.6
  • Fill Density (%): 15

Speed and Temperature:

  • Print speed (mm/s): 75


  • Support type: Touching buildplate
  • Plattform adhesion type: Brim

For advanced parameter, please have a look for the matching screenshot.

Well – when we’re done with this part, it's now time to save the file to an SD Card and start the print process.

As you can see on the screenshots, it took nearly 18 hours per half, to finish the printing. Let’s do some housework ;)

Mars Part 1 (OBJ FILE)

Mars Part 2 (OBJ FILE)

Step 5: Assembly & Varnishing the Planet

When both hemispheres are printed, we first have to cut off the brim with a sharp knife/scalpel/cutter.

Now you have to decide, if you want to work with both hemispheres separately, or put them together first.

I used Power Glue, to stick both sides together and a screw clamp for fixation and waited a couple of hours till the glue was set.

Like any sphere, our little Mars would run out of way, if we start painting without any kind of stand. I suggest using an old glass, cup or anything like this, to locate the Model at one place.


If you put a light color on the model, the printing lines will appear stronger, then they’ll do in darker areas. So, if you want to get a nearly smooth model, use putty or spray-putty, sandpaper and so on, to optimize the model first. This could be very important at our cutting plane, where we glued both hemispheres to one sphere.


I used an acrylic paint for airbrush, made by Vallejo. The one I took first is Primer German Dark Yellow (RAL 7028).

When it is set, we can go further and start with different tones of yellow, red and brown. Some parts might need a little warm grey and, if you want, a thin layer of white on top.

Step 6: Creating the Stand

The stand, I created, is just a simple box, made out of some black Plexiglas. It's about 20 cm x 20 cm x 3,35 cm (LWH) and includes the electric parts like the motor, switch and the power supply.

Let’s start with the cuttings we need. Because of sawing of Plexiglas is a little bit difficult, we won’t use 45° angles at the corners.

Our plates for the bottom and top measures right and we only have to cut the sides out to length.

We need 2 pieces with 200 mm length and about 25 mm width, and again 2 pieces, this time with a length of 190 mm and again, 25 mm width.


If you use a chop saw, like me, you will loose about 1 - 2 mm at each cutting line. Be prepared and factor this into your measuring and the placement of the crop markers. If you start with a 10 x 20 cm piece and cut it into four, the parts couldn't measure 2,5 cm each. They will be about 2.35 - 2.4 cm, depending on your saw.

When you use a buzz or chop saw, and never tried sawing plastic, make sure, that you follow the instructions:

  1. Fasten workpiece with clamps
  2. Use a table track
  3. Take a small sawblade
  4. Use the highest speed
  5. Start the saw before you touch the workpiece and run through it in a smooth movement

When you’ve got your plates, you should spend some time to smooth the slices. First step is sanding down the irregularities at the edges, before you can start polishing the edges, maybe with a Dremel or something like that.

Next step is drilling out the holes we need.

You can use my drawings, if your building parts are about the same measures, or you have to create them by your own.

The first bore will be in the center of the top, to get the pin of the motor through it. In my case, the pin is out of the middle, but that doesn’t influence on the drilling.

Next bore, is inside one of shorter plates for the side. It is a cutout for the switch and you’re free to place it where you want.

I used the right side, out of view, in the last third.

For the outcoming cable, we again need a bore, this time on a longer plate, in the back of our stand.

It’s about 5 – 6 mm in diameter and depends on the cable you’re working with.

The last one, again is a drill, located ad the backside and this time, it could be a bit tricky. I tried to make it angular, to bring it a little bit out of the center.

As you can see in the photos, I used a transparent pipe for the cables of my lamp. It was heated and bended.

I suggest to fix the parts you want to bend on your workplace (it should be low flammable) and the usage of a heat gun.

Keep a distance of about 10 cm and move the heat gun along the plastic you want to bend. After a couple of minutes, you might see, that the material is going to get chewy and that is the moment, you should stop heating it and start to bend.

After a little while of cooling down, the Material will become hard again and hold it’s new form.

Tip: to avoid troubles with bending of the pipe, cross the cable of the lamp first.

Then, we glue the side parts together and fix it with glue on the bottom plate.

While the glue is hardening, we can make a inner edge on the upper plate. Just use some hot glue and plastic rests, or little wooden blocks. I used some of my Plexi again, with a size of about 1,5 cm for each corner.

When all parts are finished, let’s move to the assembly of the electric parts. Use little screws, or a very strong glue, to fix the motor first.


When I ordered my components, I've been a little bit lazy and didn't watch the voltage of each part. I ordered a 220V motor, a switch, a 220 V socket and another with 12 V. In my first attempt, I used the 220 V socket, which worked fine but it was to clumpsy and the light to strong. Even the 3d printed lampshade was very big and really ugly. I changed the socket into the 12 V part and build in a 220 V to 12 V AC-converter, as you can see in the images.An AC-converter is very important as you intend to use a LED lamp. If you use a DC-converter you later may have to turn the lamp in the correct polarity.

Let's have a look for the wiring.

The main power cable goes into the switch and from the switch, into a distributor. One cable will be connect directly with the motor an the other with the converter. From the converter, the connection goes to the cable of the lamp and finally from there to the socket of our lamp.

Before we fix the switch, we make the cable system.

As we do not have + or - in AC-Power it is not important which cable is connected to each part of the system, as log as you don't connect both phases directly to each other.

  1. Connect both phases of the power cable with our switch on side A.
  2. Connect both phases with separated distribution clamps to our switch side B
  3. Connect the motor to the distribution clamps
  4. Connect the 220 V side of the converter to the distribution clamps
  5. Connect the 12 V side of the converter to the lamp cable
  6. Connect the lamp cable to the lamp socket

Hands up and try out, if your work works fine.

If there is any Problem. Plug out the power cable and check out the wiring.

If there is now problem start the final fixation of the electric parts.

Solder the electric components together (switch), fix the switch at the box with some hot glue. Take a shrinking hose or anything else, to optimize the junction of box and power-cable.

Step 7: Finalize It

Here we are.

The box is ready and we only have to bring our mars on top of the Stand. I again used a part of the transparent tube, with about 3 cm at length.

• At the top and the bottom, I used 2 types of adapters, I created and printed.
• At the bottom, a transition from the pin of our motor to the tube. At the top a transition from the tube to a pin.

To bring the pin into the mars model, I drilled a small hole inside of the red planet.

And that’s all.

No Magic, no ultra painful effort and not to much costs.

Pleas let me know, if you did this, or another, a own planet and if you liked this tutorial.

Thanks a lot and best wishes


Space Contest 2016

Participated in the
Space Contest 2016