Dec 15, 2014 | By Alec

If December is going by as quickly for you as it is for us, your mind might have started to think (like ours) about your next 3D printing project for those snowed-in evenings. If you're one of those lucky few with plenty of time on their hands over the holidays, then we've stumbled on a printing project that will doubtlessly inspire you: a highly-detailed Russian T80 Tank. It might not entirely be in the spirit of Christmas, but it certainly is very cool.

Now it might be a bit too extensive to recreate yourself, as the designer known only by his username 8bitwood spent nine months on this project and didn't share any STL files. As he lamented, 'Here's the thing about this took about 9 months of daily work...there were so many individual decisions/steps that it would be impossible to detail everything I did. This Instructable is going to be more of a guided tour of the process from start to finish rather than a step by step.' But it certainly illustrates the power of 3D printing technology and is already encouraging my mind to print a few tank creations myself.

8bitwood's impressive project recreates one of the most important tanks in the Soviet Arsenal: the T80 Main Battle Tank, an integral part of the Russian military since the 1970s. And as 8bitwood is a massive tank enthusiast, he decided to make one from scratch. The result: a replica that is 36 inches long and 10 inches tall, weighing in at an impressive 15 pounds. Imagine all of those rolls of filament!

But perhaps the most impressive thing is the designer's process; he simply took the web and studied photos upon photos of the original tank and started designing and printing separate pieces through a trial-and-error system. It's hardly surprising it took as long as it did. As he casually remarked, ' Each colored piece is a separate part I modelled and printed. I would then glue the simple pieces together to form the more complex part. In this way I made all of the detail you see on the tank. Simple shapes, glued together to look more complex. That's about it. It really was not complex; merely time consuming. The number one resource I used for this project was PATIENCE.'

He found most of his inspiration on, a scale model website for military equipment featuring very detailed photographs of everything you're looking for. 'Once I had a ton of pictures to look at I dug around the internet and found some orthographic views of the tank. Side, Front, Back and Top. I printed these out to be the exact size I wanted the final model to be. This is super important...these are the closest things to blueprints you will get (unless of course you can somehow find blueprints!).' Relying on a number of plastic sheets for the basic shape, he then designed and modeled all parts in 3DS Max software before printing them on his Makerbot Replicator 2.

Now as you can imagine, there are a lot of pieces on this tank, but no area was as time consuming as the wheels and treads of the vehicle. Remarkably, 8bitwood started on these first, as these are also the most complex part of the whole tank. If you get those right, the rest should be easy, right? 'This can be the most complex part of the build...lots of interlocking parts that need to work together and form the base of scaling/sizing for the rest of the tank.' After designing printable files for 3 different parts, these were each printed about 300 times and assembled using stiff wire. Just imagine the scale of that assignment; assembly alone took a good eight hours, and the printer must've been making some overtime too.

After successfully completing that time-consuming phase, the creator spent weeks upon weeks crafting the hull, the turret and the vast number of detailed plates and extras that complete this very cool tank. He also heavily relied on bondo to achieve the smooth surfaces that a Replicator 2 can't always deliver.

This also cost hours upon hours, and his dedication alone is admirable. As he commented, it was mostly a trail-and-error process: 'People always ask me if I modeled the tank....I do and I don't. When I get to this fun detail phase I model bits and pieces in separate files. Inevitably I end up modeling a bit, print it, put it on the tank and then realize it is slightly too large or too scrap that piece and size it up/down and reprint.'

Finally, the finished tank was painted in a camo color scheme using a simple airbrush, completing a gigantic and very inspiring project. The results are truly amazing; it's one of the most impressive scratch-built projects I've seen in a long time and 8bitwood's patience and diligence is very inspiring. Doesn't it just make your fingers itch to start 3D printing something yourself? For more on this tank, check out the designer's Instructables page here.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Arquit3D wrote at 12/16/2014 9:22:32 AM:

A very impressing and inspiring project! Thanks for sharing

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