What do a 3-D printer and Vietnam-era military tanks have in common?

Possibly more than you’d think
Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 7:47 PM CST
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FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -

Vietnam era tank parts in great shape are hard to come by, that’s why the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois and Makerspace 307 partnered to make custom tank parts for their vast display. In regard to the missing tank parts, Makerspace 307 Executive Director David Maulik stated, “They were missing some, they needed replacement parts. It’s a rare vehicle, most of the people that have them are missing parts, so the only way to get more is basically to buy another one and tear it apart.” Rather than buying a brand new tank to take parts off of, Makerspace 307 is able to use their 3-D printer to make certain parts that cost only a dollar a piece.

It’s going to be in a static display in the museum, but the goal is to restore the vehicles to show how they would have looked and been used in their prime. These particular tanks that Makerspace is working with were designed with aluminum, to be sturdy and lightweight so they could be easily transported and dropped out of planes into combat areas. The artists are going off of a picture of the tank as well as the relics for reference. “This is one of the pieces they brought us, and it is actually off of a model kit for one of the vehicles they are currently restoring, so this is actually the telescopic site. We’re slowly in the process of recreating this in full size.”

The scale jump from the model kit to the original size is massive, and that’s exactly where the technology comes in, as you can use the computers to adjust sizing of the part so it will be 3-D printed to scale. However, the Makerspace isn’t only using new technology for the restoration, some are prehistoric, like mold making for original tank mud flaps.

Developer for Makerspace 307, Lorre Hoffman, referred to the original tank mud flaps and stated, “These are not made anymore, so they can’t buy any new ones to replace it.” Since the people working in restoration for the military museum are mechanics, creating rubber mud flaps was outside their area of expertise. They brought the flaps to Makerspace 307 and wanted to know if anything could be done, and Lorre decided she could make a mold out of the original with wax.

“We poured up our wax, and now I’ve been working on the wax to make it perfect. There was distortions on the corners so now I’m cutting the corners and putting it back together so it’s the right way,” added Hoffman. The makerspace took their newly created pieces to Dubois and compared them next to the tanks to see if they were on the right track.

“Knowing that it’s helping them tell the story that they’re trying to tell and honor the veterans that have served the country, it’s pretty fantastic,” emphasized Maulik. The National Museum of Military Vehicles is continuing to use the Makerspace for the restoration and recreation of more tank parts, as needed.

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