Rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing are about more than just creating prototypes for testing and mocking up parts. The process can be used as a fun and efficient way to design and build your own usable creations. With this as my inspiration, I decided to build my own radio control rock crawler so I could configure it exactly to my liking.
First, here’s a little information on radio controlled rock crawlers. These are a specific category of radio control car that are designed to travel slowly through trails featuring the most extreme terrain, where it is often required to climb over rocks and other such obstacles. Because it is so expensive and involved to build a full-size rock crawler, 1:10 scale R/C versions have become very popular and offer most of the fun in a much more manageable package.
The basis for any vehicle is the frame and for this build I quickly decided on what is called a ladder style chassis. This uses two vertical plates tied together with crossmembers. This design allowed me to pack all the components in more tightly. I used a laser cutter to make the side plates from 1/8” multi-density fiberboard (MDF) to quickly and inexpensively produce multiple pieces to find the design that performed the best.
For most of the structural pieces of the chassis I turned to the rapid prototyping technology called Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM as it is more commonly referred. This builds with layers of ABS plastic to produce a durable, accurate, and affordable part – perfect attributes for my rock crawler project.
One of the biggest advantages to using rapid prototyping for a project like this is the ability to create and test different variations of parts to find the best design. Using the Polyjet technology from Objet, it is even possible to create tires with different tread patterns and shore values to find the best combination for performance.
Overall, the challenge of designing this project with rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing really paid off and as a result I have a very capable, functional, and good looking rock crawler to play with and enjoy.