Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3D Printed Screw-Propelled Toy Vehicle Makes a Splash on Instructables

ST Medical Devices

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There are many ingenious vehicles designed for civilian or military use over the past century that had a brief moment in the sun before fading into obscurity. From the US Air Force’s saucer shaped VTOL Avrocar and Russian ground-effect Ekranoplan, I find them to be fascinating and a source of inspiration. Jasen Wang, inventor of Makeblock, decided to bring one such vehicle back to light; a screw-propelled vehicle. Wang’s recent Instructable on building the screw-propelled vehicle has been viewed over 5,000 times.

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And what propelled Wang into designing his unique machine?

According to Wang, “Recently, surfing on the internet, I found the screw-propelled vehicle invented in the early 20th century very interesting.With strong off-road capability, this vehicle is designed to cope with almost all kinds of landforms, such as snow, swamp, water, desert and forest, except normal asphalt road. During the Space Race of U.S.-Soviet Cold War, such vehicles played a very important role in retrieving the returned space capsule from snowy Siberia.”

The frame of Wang’s motorized toy is built using Makeblocks, which are a reimagining of the classic Erector set and are billed as “Legos for adults.” The Makeblock line includes aluminum beams, various mechanical components, electronic modules and an Arduino-compatible controller and sensors, and was developed by Wang for hobbyist robotics.

For propulsion Wang turned to 3D printing. Two 3D printed screw wheels propel the vehicle through sand, mud and conceivably snow, too. The vehicle is unable to swim due to the size of the screws, which are a little short. Wang was limited by the size of his 3D printer, Makerblock’s mElephant 3D printer, which replaced their Constructor I 3D Printer Kit that we reported on in September 2014. Had he been able to print to longer screws his vehicle could conceivably float.

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If you want to create your own screw-propelled vehicle, you’re going to need quite a few parts. Most of the materials are available at Makeblock and .STL files for the screw wheels are posted in the Instructable. The tutorial is very concise but it’s pretty clear to make out the construction of the vehicle through the provided images. The powertrain consists of 2 DC motors, 4 timing pulleys, 6 timing belts and a battery holder for 6 AA batteries. It uses a Me Orion control board from Makeblock, which is Arduino Uno-based, and the vehicle is steered with a Gamepad controller.

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This looks to be a challenging but rewarding project for the DIYer. I’m tempted to make one myself. Below is a video showing the screw-propelled vehicle in action:

screw propelled

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