We gotta love hacker Dads and Moms for being so awesome. Sooner or later, their kids get to play with some amazing toy that every other kid on the block is jealous of. [Meanwhile in the Garage aka MWiG] is one of those super hacker Dads who built a frickin’ Tank for his son (video, embedded below.). But it’s so much fun driving that beast around that we suspect Dad is going to be piloting it a lot more than the kid. The tank features metal tracks, differential steering, a rotating turret, periscopes and a functional paintball gun with camera targeting.
Building a tank, even if it’s a mini replica, needs an engine with a decent amount of torque. [MWiG] first tried reviving an old ATV engine, but it did nothing more than sputter and die. It went to the scrap heap after donating its rear transmission and axle. [MWiG] managed to get an old Piaggio scooter with a 250cc / 22 hp engine. The scooter gave up its engine, electricals and the instrument cluster before being scrapped. Looking at the final build, and the amount of metal used, we are left wondering how the puny 22 hp engine manages to drive the tank. We guess it’s the right amount of gearing for the win.
What’s more fun, driving RC cars around on rugged terrain, or having a paintball battle? How about doing both at the same time by making an RC controlled, paintball firing tank? [Nate] from the King of Random YouTube channel did just that by mounting a modified paintball gun to a stripped-down RC car, adding an RC trigger to remotely fire the gun, and covering it all in EVA foam armor in the shape of a tank. And then he did it again so that he’d have someone to battle against.
He walks through the full build in the first video below, but here are some things that stood out for us. It took some fiddling to get a servo to pull the gun trigger but how could he remotely control the servo? For that, he took over the car’s RC receiver signal for controlling audio and made it turn on and off the servo instead. We also like his use of aluminum bar. This stuff is available in the hardware section at stores like Home Depot and is easy to cut and bend. You can see it used here for mounting Wimshurst machine parts to a bicycle, and in this hack, [Nate] used it to mount the paintball gun rigidly to the car frame. He did surprise us when he used rivets instead of nuts and bolts to hold the frame together. That’s not something you see often, and it worked great.
As we said, he made two of them. In the second video below, watch the tanks in action as [Nate] and fellow YouTuber [Stuart Edge] have a tank battle in the desert.
It seems as though [Nathan] has taken some serious inspiration from the Warthog. The iconic armored buggy from Halo video games has a turret mounted to the roof. Although [Nathan]’s buggy only shoots paintballs from its turret.
Mounting paintball markers (guns) to various objects such as vehicles, robots, or other machines isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems. Vibrations from anything can transfer through a clamping system and cause paintballs to break. This, of course, inhibits the functionality of the marker and is a messy cleanup to boot. Then there has to be a way to fire the paintballs, which is usually handled by soldering to the electrical connections in the marker. And the entire rig has to stand up to the normal jostling and sudden turns from the buggy.
[Nathan] has solved these problems first by creating a custom fast-change mount that allows any malfunctioning markers to be changed rapidly. The electronic firing mechanism is handled by an ATtiny microcontroller and there is a custom electrical connection that is automatically made when the marker is bolted to the mount.
The new system allows markers to be changed in about 30 seconds, much better than any other system. Maybe in the future [Nathan] can upgrade the buggy’s turret to accommodate a paintball minigun.
We’ve seen quite a few automated paintball marker systems over the years. Generally it’s the same story – a motion detection system used to target and fire upon the opposing team, prowlers, spouses, etc. [Waterloo Labs] decided to take a slightly different approach, and create a system that intentionally misses its target. Paintball Picasso uses a pair of Tippmann A-5 paintball markers to draw an outline around the person in its sights. This is a rather safe project for [Waterloo Labs], considering their previous adventures in car surfing.
The Paintball Picasso system uses a webcam to capture an image of a willing test subject. Picasso then processes the image. The human outline is plotted on a 50×50 grid of paintball pixels. Then the real fun begins. Paintball Picasso uses a National Instruments myRIO to command two paintball markers to simultaneously fire. The markers are fitted with high torque R/C style servos for pan and tilt. At 10 rounds per second the markers quickly draw the human outline. The test subject walks away slightly splattered, but otherwise unscathed. With a matrix of 2500 points, [Waterloo Labs] has enough resolution to draw some basic logos.
We liked the mounting system [Waterloo Labs] created for the markers. Using a mix of 3D printed parts, Lego Tetrix, 80/20 aluminum extrusion, and ball bearings, they fashioned a mount that moved smoothly enough for R/C servos to actuate, yet was strong enough to withstand the kick of firing. We’d love to see the servos swapped for stepper motors and belt drives. While open loop, stepper motors would afford more accuracy and a longer life than PWM driven R/C servos.
He started with the classic Tippman 98 Custom pistol , which is a tried and true industry standard when it comes to reliable paintball guns. Using Sketchup he designed a side loading hopper adapter, a fixed stock, a magazine adapter, various brackets, and even a bipod fore-grip. He then printed the parts out at his local hackerspace; Innovatrix Labs, which is in Northeastern Pennsylvania. A Portabee 3D printer was used for some of the first prototypes but the final parts were all printed on a large MendleMax2 which has a build area large enough for the entire fixed stock!
The best part? He’s only been using SketchUp for a few months. Once the design and build is completely finalized he might release it under a CC license.
It just goes to show that 3D printers are really breaking down various markets of overpriced plastic components — 3D printers only print trinkets? Pfft.
[Spider!]’s contribution to the pantheon of paintball markers is the SMAC: a unique revision to one of Airgun Design’s ever-popular Automags. We needed our tipster, [Russell] to provide some context on the Automag’s evolution, because the brand has served as a popular hacking platform for nearly 20 years. The most frequent is a “Pneumag” modification, which converts the original, fully-mechanical trigger pull into a version where the trigger actuates a pneumatic cylinder to fire the gun.
According to [Russell], the Pneumag’s trigger must completely release between each shot to properly recharge the firing chamber. Without a full release, the gun can load extra balls into the barrel and lead to gloppy consequences. Electronic controls solve this problem, but [Spider!] favored an analog solution that captured a “less is more” mentality over a pre-fab microcontroller board. He built the circuit around a 556 timer used as a delayed re-trigger, but with a few modifications.
Swing by [Spider!]’s forum post for additional details, a cluster of pictures and a bill of materials. Microcontroller alternatives? We’ve got you covered.