3D printing is well-suited to cranking out tank tread designs, because the numerous and identical segments required are a great fit for 3D printing’s strengths. The only hitch is the need for fasteners between each of those segments, but [AlwynxJones] has a clever solution that uses plentiful hard plastic spheres (in the form of 6 mm airsoft BBs) as both a fastener and a hinge between each of the 3D printed track segments.
Each segment has hollows made to snugly fit 6 mm BBs (shown as green in the image here) which serve both as fasteners and bearing surfaces. Assembly requires a bit of force to snap everything together, but [AlwynxJones] judges the result worth not having to bother with bolts, wires, or other makeshift fasteners.
Bolts or screws are one option for connecting segments, but those are heavy and can get expensive. Segments of printer filament have been successfully used in other tread designs, though that method requires added work in the form of either pins, or heat deforming the filament ends to form a kind of rivet. This design may be a work in progress, but it seems like a promising and clever approach.
Tracked drive systems are great, but implementation isn’t always easy. That’s what [nahueltaibo] found every time he tried to use open sourced track designs for his own rovers. The problem is that a tracked drive system is normally closely integrated with a vehicle’s chassis, mixing and matching between designs is impractical because the tracks and treads aren’t easily separated from the rest of the vehicle.
To solve this, [nahueltaibo] designed a modular, 3D printable rover track system. It contains both a motor driver and a common DC gearmotor in order to make a standalone unit that can be more easily integrated into other designs. These self-contained rover tracks don’t even have a particular “inside” or “outside”; they can be mounted on a vehicle’s left or right without any need to mirror the design. The original CAD design is shared from Fusion 360, but can also be downloaded from Thingiverse. A bit more detail is available from [nahueltaibo]’s blog, where he urges anyone who tries the design or finds it useful to share a photo or two.
3D printed tank tracks — including this one — often use a piece of filament as a hinge between track segments and sometimes slightly melted on the ends to act as a kind of rivet, which is itself a pretty good hack.
Tank projects are great because while every tank design is the same in a fundamental way, there’s nevertheless endless variety in the execution and results. [Hoo Jian Li]’s 3D Printed Tank is smartly laid out and has an unusual tank tread that shows off some slick curves.
The tank itself is remotely controlled over Bluetooth with a custom controller that uses the common HC-05 Bluetooth radio units. The treads are driven by four hobby gearmotors with custom designed wheels, and run over an idler wheel in the center of the body. There isn’t any method of taking up slack in the track and a ripple in the top surface of the track is visible as it drives, but the tank is small enough that it doesn’t seem to mind much. STL files and source code is available on GitHub; unfortunately the repository lacks a wiring diagram but between the low component count, photos, and source code that’s not a show-stopper.
Tank treads see a lot of variation, from 3D printed designs for tracks that use a piece of filament as hinges to an attempt to use a conveyor belt as a tank tread for a go-kart. Some tank projects even eschew treads altogether and go for a screw drive.