Jun 2, 2015 | By Alec

It’s no secret that 3D printing technology is a perfect option for designing and assembling your very own remote controlled racing car, but the 3D printing community wouldn’t be what it is if someone somewhere wasn’t trying to find the absolute limits of what is possible. And in 3D printed RC terms, the go to maker is Ryan from Minnesota, perhaps more better known under his screen name of TheGreatestMoo. A few months ago he entertained us with a remarkable 3D printed snowblower that can actually be used to clean your driveway without leaving the house, but he has gone on a warpath since then: he has 3D printed an 1/6th scale FV101 Scorpion tank.

As you may know, the FV101 Scorpion is a British-made armored reconnaissance vehicle known for its sleek design. It also has quite a bit of military history, being used by the British army between 1973 and 1994. But unlike the Brits, Ryan has mostly made it as a challenging 3D printing project that can be used to battle other RC tanks.

As he explains, the entire tank was designed from the ground up as a 3D printing project, with a bit of a commercial drive behind it. ‘I plan to sell it in some form but I'm not quite sure how yet. I sold a bunch of 3d printed snow blowers over last winter, but this tank is far more complex and many many many hours of printing time. I know for sure I will be selling the STL files for people to print their own,’ he writes. But the other purpose is more glorious: ‘Me and a couple others are trying to start up a 1/16th battle club using the IR battle system like Tamiya has. I have a 1/16th Heng Long Leopard 2A6 that has been converted to Clark's board. The others in the club use Tamiya tanks.’ And a 3D printed tank would obviously be perfect for this.

But as you might imagine, designing and building such a superbly detailed RC tank isn’t easy, as Ryan explains. The basis is a Tamiya double gearbox and 370-sized motors, making it a very powerful RC monster. ‘It has an insane amount of torque and speed with this setup. The final drive gears are 3d printed even. It is full featured including real torsion bar suspension (using piano wires), idler wheel tension with a spring to keep the tracks tight at all times, gun elevation, recoil and turret rotation, some hatches open, it even has 3d printed clips designed to quick release the top of the turret and the upper hull to get access to the insides.’ And for added effect, it includes a Clark TK22 board to enhance the experience.

The 3D printed Scorpion exterior, meanwhile, was surprisingly designed in 3DS Max, which is typically used for video game design. As Ryan explains, that is purely because he uses the same software for work and is thus very proficient with it. It can still output STL files and other 3D printable formats, so the results are quite similar. ‘This was almost 2 months of work in the CAD. I took measurements from a 1/35th scale model of the tank, most of the time that was not enough though I also used pretty much every image google has on the Scorpion,’ he explains. ‘All the CAD files are made from the ground up to be 3D printable with proper tolerances and the width of thin walled parts had to stay above 0.96mm (a 0.4mm nozzle actually comes out at 0.48mm due to thermal expansion). Lots and lots of work. At times I felt like I was losing my mind trying to replicate the details.’

What’s more, he used it for just about every visible part on the entire tank. ‘Almost all the details are printed directly onto the panels, it saves a lot of assembly time. They are printed 100% density also so you can grind off pieces you don't want to use very easily. I forgot to mention but the whole tanks made of normal ABS filament, even the final drive gears. There is lots and lots of pieces,’ he says.

But surely the 3D printed tracks must be the most impressive part of the whole tank. ‘They are 3D printed with all the holes drilled and ready to pin... one of the holes is smaller than the rest to grab onto the pin. it is amazing how good 3d printers are at doing things like that,’ he explains. ‘It was about 12 hours of print time for the whole track set of about ~130 links. I originally used oversized tracks because I didn't know how strong they would be, but then I went to nearly scale sized tracks,’ Ryan explains.

Once finished with 3D printing, these parts went almost straight from the 3D printer to the machine and the paint. ‘I did virtually no finishing work on this. Most parts I printed at 0.2mm layer height resolution with 0.4mm nozzle. A couple pieces I printed at 0.1mm height like the wheel details, front headlight mounts, and the turret mount piece,’ Ryan says. And while the results might look a bit grainy and you can see the layers a bit, just imagine what you could achieve. Nonetheless, this Scorpion tank is already a lot of fun to drive, as the videos below illustrate.

The only problem so far is that the track seems to fall off every now and then. ‘The pointy ends of the track seem to snag the ground when you try to turn which just causes the wheels to roll over the guide teeth and pop off the idler. Since the idler wheel has a spring to keep tension sometimes it can’t hold it tight enough but it also keeps stuff from breaking, you can easily slip the track back over the idler and keep going,’ Ryan says. While that is still something to work on, the results are no less cool. If you would like to get your hands on one of these machines, keep an eye on Ryan’s updates here.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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