A 3D-Printed Tank Track System That You Can Use on Your Own Robots

James Bruton has designed a universal, modular tank track system that you can 3D print yourself to drive your own robots.

Cameron Coward
17 days agoRobotics / Vehicles / 3D Printing

The beautiful thing about the maker community, and open source designs in particular, is that you can take advantage of the hard work done by other people to speed up the development of your own projects. If, for example, you want to build an autonomous drone, you don’t have to go through the extremely complex process of programming the flight controller yourself, because you can take advantage of existing autopilot firmware like ArduPilot. The same is true for various kinds of electronic circuits and mechanical systems. If you want to build a robot with tracks, James Bruton has designed a universal, modular tank track system that you can 3D print yourself.

Tank-style robots are popular because they can cover all kinds of rough terrain using as little as two electric motors. The downside, when compared to a simple wheeled robot, is that you have to find tank tracks that work for your design. You end up having to adapt your design to fit those tracks instead of the other way around. And, of course, off-the-shelf tank tracks cost money that you’d probably rather not spend. Bruton’s tank tracks solve both problems. They are made up of individual links that can be 3D-printed using NinjaFlex or any other flexible filament. You can scale the links up or down as needed and then simply connect as many links together as you need to get the track length that you require. The links are designed so that they slot into the drive gears on one side and provide a grippy surface on the other side.

Bruton has also provided the CAD files for those drive gears, which are designed to spin on 8mm ID skateboard bearings. The other side of the gear is designed to mesh with a standard GT2 belt, so it’s easy to drive with electric motors. To demonstrate how these can be used, Bruton constructed a simple RC tank robot using the track system and some aluminum T-slot extrusion. It’s driven by a pair of (frankly overpowered) brushless DC motors through beefy ESCs (Electronic Speed Controllers). Those are controlled by an Arduino Nano board, which takes throttle and directional controls from the RC receiver. The Arduino is necessary to adjust the speed of each motor relative to the other when steering commands are sent. Bruton has posted his Arduino code alongside the CAD files. This gives you everything you need to start creating your own tracked robot. He will also be developing the robot further, so be sure to follow him on YouTube.

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