3D-Printed Screw Tank Doesn't Need Tracks or Wheels

Gokux designed this simple and affordable 3D-printed screw drive tank.

Cameron Coward
4 months ago3D Printing / Robotics

On completely flat, smooth surfaces, you can't get more efficient than a good ol' wheel. In a frictionless vacuum, a wheeled vehicle is as practical as they come. But the real world isn't a frictionless vacuum and wheels just don't cut it on many types of terrain. Tank tracks are ideal for hauling a lot of weight over varied rough terrain, but even they have their limits. If you need something that can concur just about any landscape, you want screws. That's why gokux's 3D-printed screw tank is so capable.

Early prototypes of screw-driven vehicles first appeared in the late-19th century, but didn't really hit their stride until the mid-20th century. Examples like the Armstead Snow Motor were built to traverse deep snow that was impenetrable to other vehicles. It and others like it work by riding on two massive cylinders with outer threads. The threads wind in opposite directions, so spinning the cylinders causes the vehicle to move like a screw being driven into a piece of wood. That provides a lot of torque, while the large cylinders have plenty of surface area to distribute the vehicle's weight and keep it from sinking into snow or loose sand.

The 3D-printed vehicle designed by gokux works in the same way, but on a small scale. Two inexpensive DC gear motors spin its cylinders. Aside from fasteners, all of the mechanical parts were designed in Autodesk Fusion 360 to be 3D-printable. That includes the cylinders themselves, as well as the body.

A Seeed Studio XIAO ESP32S3 Sense development board controls those two motors through DRV8833 drivers. That XIAO ESP32S3 Sense has a built-in camera for a first-person view (FPV) video feed. Once connected to WiFi, it will self-host a simple web interface with movement controls and that video. Power comes from a pair of 18650 lithium battery cells through a generic TP4056-based charging and distribution module. Finally, a pair of LEDs act as headlights to provide illumination in the dark.

While this won't set any speed records, it is an affordable way to build a remote robot that can move across just about any terrain with ease.

Cameron Coward
Writer for Hackster News. Proud husband and dog dad. Maker and serial hobbyist. Check out my YouTube channel: Serial Hobbyism
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