A 3D printed Death Star in its original size and glory – that’s a 3D printing project of galactic proportions. Franklin Houser has crunched the numbers.
So, what does it take to 3D print a 1:1 scale Death Star? The question I have asked myself depends on several variables. For simplicity, I will only be focusing on material costs, and the time needed to complete the task as well as a few different scenarios. One crucial factor is the ratio between the solid material and open space within the battle station as we would only 3D print the solid components.
A good comparison would be a skyscraper. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is currently the tallest man-made structure in the world. A large front lobby and 57 elevator shafts make for a good representation of hangar bays and reactor shafts in the Death Star. I did some quick research and found out that the Burj Khalifa has a volume of roughly 2,600,000 m3 based on the total accumulative surface area per individual storey and its height. Considering that the skyscraper was constructed using reinforced concrete at 2400 kg/m3 on average, and has a total empty weight of 440000 metric tons, the building consists of roughly 10% solid building materials and 90% air-filled space. Surprisingly enough, if you were to 3D print a solid 1:1 scale replica of the Burj Khalifa out of classic ABS filament, it would be heavier than the real thing.
Now let’s assume that 10% of the 3d printed Death Star’s volume was also comprised of solid building material.
According to Wookieepedia, the first Death Star was a spheroid with length, width, and height measuring 120 km making it as good as completely spherical. Excluding the fact that there is a conical indent on its surface for the super laser, capable of destroying entire planets, the volume of the first Death Star came to roughly 905,000 km3. That’s a lot more than the Burj Khalifa. That means that the total solid volume of the Death Star was 90,500 km3.
Using ABS filament, which has a density of 1.08 g/cm3 on average, we would need 97,740,000,000,000,000 kg of it. That’s ninety-seven quadrillion, seven hundred forty trillion kilograms.
Most 3D printers can print at a speed of 24 mm/s at least. At that rate, it would take a little more than 119,572,000,000,000 years to complete the 3D printed Death Star. We might as well watch the universe grow cold while we’re waiting for our Death Star to become fully armed and operational. The amount of filament needed would currently cost 3,323,000,000,000,000,000 Euros if bought in 0.75 kg spools with no discount.
Those numbers are extremely huge, and realistically, the task would never be possible using a desktop 3D printer, unless it could print at a speed of 143487 m3/s at which rate our 3d printed Death Star would be finished in 20 years. That’s how long it took the Galactic Empire to build the first one.
There are however a few more factors to consider when planning to 3D print a Death Star. For one, we would have to construct a mechanism to move the printer along the surface of what has already been printed, since the entire Death Star would not fit inside the tiny box of a desktop 3D printer. And, the entire construction would have to take place in space, since it would be extremely difficult to blast the finished Death Star into earth’s orbit.
Secondly, we would need some power supply; probably solar power. Lastly, ABS filament starts to get soft around 105°C and melts at under 300°C. If the Death Star got anywhere near a star during its lifetime, it would simply turn into a giant ball of molten ABS or burn up. There are many more factors that would restrict the construction of such a Death Star with today’s technology.
If you had the time and the money, then definitely; because who wouldn’t want to cruise around the galaxy in their very own Death Star? I can think of one advantage that would come of the extremely long print time. If kept in complete secrecy, the duration of the build might just outlast the existence of the Rebel Alliance or The Resistance, thereby greatly increasing the chances of it ever aging or even being completed.
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