Building a scale model tank with 3D printing

Creating precision parts for a 1:6 scale model tank

Somewhere, in an unspecified location there lives and engineer known as  Robbontherock.  In his spare time this mysterious man enjoys tinkering – something that we’ve found to be a very common ailment in the Ponoko community.

Currently Robbontherock is building a 1:6 scale model of the British Army Challenger 2 recovery vehicle, aka CRARRV, which is probably a pretty convincing onomatopoeic abbreviation.  The build has been an ongoing project for the engineer, with a multi-annual timeline you’d expect for the real thing.

So why a tank?

I have an interest in tanks since I was a little boy, I’ve always hated the violence aspect but loved the recovery vehicle variants, always felt they had more interesting features cranes, winches etc. this particular model started life as a challenger 2 which was made by Mark-1 tanks in the uk, it has since been heavily modified and now only shares the running gear as a common aspect between models.

The whole process is certainly about the thrill of the chase and not the final kill, excuse the war pun.  The fun part is the building process and all the necessary working out of details that’s an inherent part of model making.  Digital fabrication via CAD drawings can be time consuming, but it ensures precise fit of the components.  Then there are the moving parts to resolve, such as the winch and the crane.  The tank model is designed to be radio controlled, so the potential to mechanise the design adds a layer of complexity as well as interest.  Once completed, the tank will, no doubt, be a popular show and tell piece for the progeny.

Check out the 3D printed parts after the jump:

In his early model building days, Robbontherock worked mostly with styrene, making parts by hand.  The more precise 3D elements were usually milled.  Now he 3D prints components instead.

All my components that will take a load are designed in aluminium, anything that is cosmetic on the model such as the detail parts, needs to be built using a durable plastic generally I can trade material against price versus effort on cleaning the component prior to use!

Since the tank involves prescribed model building rather than designing from scratch, the process is based around detail documentation.  Dimensions of parts come from photos of actual vehicles, as well as a commercial scale model, and much accuracy is required to work out how a particular component should be drawn.

Once the CAD files are 3D printed, they are cleaned and painted with model making paint (apparently Tamiya is still the #1 choice for model makers).  Then, of course, the building fun begins.

Couple of words from the Tank Man himself:

Have you been surprised by anything in the Personal Factory process? I like the way that I can line up jobs in advance, then order the run on the components I want at any time during the day or week. I feel the interface here for part pricing and ordering is very strong feature.

Do you have any tips for other makers? Buy sample parts of the materials you plan on using, nothing quite like having a sample to give you confidence on material selection.

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