Tardis Transformer V2

by Ellindsey, published

Tardis Transformer V2 by Ellindsey Jul 6, 2013

Featured Thing!


I designed the original version of this as a challenge to see if I even could. While successful (and vastly more popular and attention-getting than I expected by far) it had a lot of design issues. It was huge, took over a pound of plastic to create. It was fragile and wobbly, wouldn't stand up unsupported, and tended to fall apart if you picked it up wrong. Since then I've been completely redesigning it, to be simpler to make and more rugged, something that can actually be used as a toy, that doesn't cost a fortune to print.

This design is scaled to two-thirds the size of the original. It takes about one-third the plastic to print. It has about half as many parts, and is easier to assemble. The transformation sequence is simpler. Thanks to some interlocking tabs, the toy holds together very firmly both in robot mode and in Tardis mode. Due to the reduced weight and the redesigned joints, the robot easily stands on its own unsupported.

On the downside, it's can't be posed as freely as the original - there are a lot fewer axis of freedom in the joints, especially in the legs. That's the price you pay for something made completely of plastic.

This was actually a much harder design than the original - it's a lot harder to design a durable toy than something that just has to look right.

The toy stands about eight and a half inches tall in robot mode. In Tardis mode, it's four and a half inches tall, and two and a half inches wide. At 25% infill it takes 6 ounces of plastic to print, most of it blue.

As with the original, this toy can be built with entirely printed parts, doesn't need to be painted, and holds together without screws or metal pins. You can still optionally insert scraps of white construction paper in the windows to make them white, and print labels for the various decals. While it can be assembled without glue, I do recommend using a few dabs of glue on the locking tabs if you are actually going to play with it.

Original was printed on my custom Rostock derivative printer. Printed in PLA, using a 0.5mm nozzle and 0.3mm layer height, 2 shells and 25% infill. Autocad source files are included.

Transformation sequence, more pictures, and other details at drewsrobots.blogspot.com/2013/07/tardis-prime-version-2.html

I have uploaded plates of all blue, black, and grey parts. These should be able to easily print on a machine with a 200mm bed. In addition, you will also need to print the abdomen in white and the bowtie in red.

Major update on 7/11/2013: Slightly redesgined nearly every part for better printability and durability. Redesigned the elbow joint to keep the forearms from falling apart as easily and to make it easier to get it into Tardis mode. Got rid of the sliding black bar mechanism in the back, that idea didn't work out well, replaced it with two smaller fixed bars instead.

Added two thinner versions of the fist inserts in case you have trouble getting the standard ones in.

9/18/2013 update: I have modified nearly every part on the model to improve printability, ease of assembly, durability, and show-accuracy. Cleared up some issues with the leg and hip parts interfering and redesigned the fist sliders. It should be easier to assemble and look better now. I also rearranged the blue parts onto two trays that should be possible for any machine to print.

12/11/2013 update: Major tweaks for printability and easier transformation. I've added in a linkage between the abdomen and the head pivot so that the abdomen automatically slides up into the torso when the head pivots forward, and selective interference between the shoulder bars and abdomen mechanism to make the transformation process easier and more obvious. I eliminated all the fragile vertical tabs in the torso and shoulder blocks and made the shoulder ball-in-socket joint more robust. I have also completely redesigned the hips to make them easier to print and add a little bit of waist rotation. The legs and knees have been tweaked to stand more reliably and fit better together in Tardis mode. Also many other minor changes for durability and ease of priting and assembly.

The footleft, footright, hips, midback, torsobar, and bowtie pieces have optional versions with added support for more reliable printing if your printer has trouble with overhangs.

I have also now finally added parts for a Sonic Screwdriver gun. The parts for that are fairly fragile and difficult to print, so it's only recommended if you're confident in your printer's ability to print thin vertical pieces. It also has nowhere to go when the toy is in Tardis mode, but that's true of most transforming toys anyway.

Recent Comments

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Dark Blue PLA from Inventibles.

I'm having a hard time finding a good navy colored filament for this. What did you use?

Awesome job made one for my lab and one for my cousin now everybody wants one lol. Making myself a glow in the dark blue one now

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If you print this Thing and display it in public proudly give attribution by printing and displaying this tag. Print Thing Tag


Head and lamp:

In blue print:

1 headpivot_blue
1 headantennaleft_blue
1 headantennaright_blue
1 headshell_blue

In grey print:

1 headcore_grey

In red print:

1 bowtie_red

Optionally dot the eyes of the head core with a black Sharpie marker.

Press the head core into the blue head shell. Press the left and right head antenna pieces into the core through the holes in the shell. Depending on how tight your printer made it, you may have to glue these in, or it may be enough just to press them in.

Press the red bowtie into the slot on the head pivot. You will probably have to glue this in.

Do not plug the head into the pivot at this time.

Torso and shoulders:

In black print:

1 backbarleft_black
1 backbarright_black
1 shoulderbarleft_black
1 shoulderbarright_black
1 chestbar_black

In blue print:

1 torsoblock_blue
1 torsocap_blue
1 shoulderblockleft_blue
1 shoulderblockright_blue
1 shouldercapleft_blue
1 shouldercapright_blue
1 headpivotlink_blue

In grey print: (actually this can be any color, it's nearly impossible to see when everything's all assembled)

1 torsolink_grey

In white print:

1 torsobar_white (Note this piece is strength critical, use high infill when printing)
1 abdomen_white

Identify the right and left back bars and shoulder bars. Note that the right and left versions of these are not identical, though they are mirror images of each other.

Carefully press the ball on the shoulder bars into the socket on the back bars. They should be snug but able to rotate and move in the sockets.

Press the head pivot piece into the groove on the torso cap block. You may have to pry the torso cap block open slightly while doing this to get it in. Be careful not to break it. Make sure you get the orientation on the head pivot correct, it can go in two different ways but only one is correct.

Optionally, cut eight pieces of white construction paper, 0.9" X 0.5", and slip them into the slots behind the window bars on the torso block and shoulder blocks.

Press the torso link into the socket inside the torso block as shown. The flat side of the torso link should face forward in the torso block, and it should be able to rotate smoothly downward.

Press the clack chest bar into the torso block as shown. Pres the right and left shoulder bars into the torso block as well. Make sure you put them in correctly, there are small interference tabs on the shoulder bars that must face downward when they are installed or you won't be able to assemble the torso further.

Line up the holes on the bottom side of the torso cap with the tabs on the chest bar and shoulder bars and press it down. It should snap firmly into place. You should be able to easily rotate the shoulder bars forward and back.

Press the round cylindrical section of the torso bar into the C-groove on the head pivot link. This takes some care to get in without breaking.

Carefully pry apart the snap tabs on the torso bar and work it over the abdomen such that it locks into place. This is very tricky and best done in several stages, working the snaps into place one at a time. It should be able to rotate freely over a limited angle when in place.

Pry open the torso bar again and then press the open loop on the grey torso link into the opening on the abdomen. The snaps on the torso bar should lock into this loop and hold the three pieces together.

Finally, the base of the head pivot link snaps into the socket at the rear of the head pivot. When these are all together they should form a four-bar mechanism that links the rotation of the head pivot to the movement of the torso link, so the abdomen will rotate up into place as the head rotates forward. There is also deliberate interference between the torso bar and tabs on the shoulder bars so that swiveling the shoulders outward forces the head to pivot partially forward.

You can now insert the head into the head pivot. Note that it only turns about 45 degrees to either side. Make sure the torso transformation mechanism moves freely through its full range of travel at this point.

Press the shoulder blocks and shoulder caps onto the black snap tabs on the black back bar pieces.

Arms and abdomen:

In grey print:

2 elbow_grey
1 fistleft_grey or
1 fistlefthole_grey
1 fistright_grey or
1 fistrighthole_grey
1 abdomenpin_grey

In blue print:

1 forearmleft_blue
1 forearmright_blue
1 midback_blue or
1 midback-supported_blue

Choose either the fists with holes or without depending on whether you want your transformer to be able to hold a gun. I usually print the right fist with a hole and the left fist without, but both versions are provided for both side. You should in theory be able to put any 5mm socket compatible gun or other accessory in these holes as well.

Two different versions of the midback part are provided. I find the version without support difficult to print cleanly, so I made a version with support manually added.

Press one elbow part into the lower side of each forearm. The elbow presses in flat from the bottom without rotating. Once in place it should easily rotate through 90 degrees.

Work the fists into the holes carefully. I use a set of needle-nose pliers to do this, working the piece in a little at a time on each side carefully. Note that once you get it in, the fist will be impossible to remove without breaking the forearm, so make sure you have the version of it you want.

Plug both arms into the shoulder blocks.

Finally line up the hole on the midback piece with the hole on the white abdomen part and push the abdomen pin through both pieces to hold them together.


In blue print:

1 footleft_blue
1 footright_blue
1 lowerlegleft_blue
1 lowerlegright_blue

1 hips_blue or
1 hips-supported_blue

In grey print:

2 footpin_grey
1 upperlegleft_grey
1 upperlegright_grey

Two versions of the hips are provided. I find this piece looks better and prints more reliably with support, at the expense of a little extra plastic and cleanup time.

Line up the holes on each lower leg and foot piece. Drive a foot pin through to link them together.

Press one upper leg piece into the upper hole on each lower leg piece as shown. Note that the upper leg pieces are actually identical to each other, just mirrored for convenience, so don't worry about which is which.

Press the other end of each upper leg piece into the holes on the hips. You should be able to fold the feet, legs and hips together into a compact base of the Tardis as shown. This is a good point to check to make sure nothing is interfering.

Finally press the snap on the abdomen into the hole on the top of the hips.


The gun is a trickier piece to build than the rest of the model, as it has a lot of fine details and thin vertical pieces. You will want to make sure your printer is very good at printing finely detailed parts for this. You will also need to glue all these parts together, as nothing on the gun snaps together.

In black print:

1 gun_barrel_black
1 gun_stock_half_left_black
1 gun_stock_half_right_black

In silver print:

1 gun_barrel_silver

In blue print: (I like to use a light translucent blue for these parts)

1 gun_core_blue
1 gun_tip_blue

The blue tip and black barrel have extensive support material that needs to be very carefully cut away. After cleaning them up you can glue the tip into the end of the black barrel piece.

Push the blue core through the silver barrel, such that the skinnier part of the core protrudes from the tapered part of the blue barrel. The step between the smaller and the larger parts of the core should just line up with the end of the silver barrel piece. Dab a bit of glue around this point to hold them together.

Now dab a bit of glue around the indented flat parts of the silver barrel, and then carefully press the black barrel over the silver barrel as shown. The four black prongs on the black barrel should go over and catch on the flats of the silver barrel and lock the two pieces together.

Finally glue the left and right sides of the black stock together over the blue core. Once all the glue sets you have an assembled sonic-screwdriver gun.

File Name




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thatjefguy on Apr 6, 2014 said:

I'm having a hard time finding a good navy colored filament for this. What did you use?

Ellindsey on Apr 6, 2014 said:

Dark Blue PLA from Inventibles.

forgott3n800 on Mar 31, 2014 said:

Awesome job made one for my lab and one for my cousin now everybody wants one lol. Making myself a glow in the dark blue one now

gio12 on Mar 5, 2014 said:

how long does this take to print on average?

Ellindsey on Mar 5, 2014 said:

I can make one of these in about 14 hours of total print time. It could probably be done faster, but I'm running with settings tuned more for detail quality and print reliability than speed.

kietcallies on Dec 21, 2013 said:

I am having issues printing the feet. The connection joint starts printing separate from the rest of the foot. About 20% into the print, before the two parts are joined, the connection joint separates from the print bed. I have tried printing with a raft, but that doesn't help. Any suggestions?

Ellindsey on Dec 21, 2013 said:

The feet can be tricky to print, they're made from two parts with a harsh overhang between and the small bit breaks free easily. I usually deal with this by making sure I have really good adhesion to the bed. I have added a version of the left and right foot that has supporting material added under that part. You'll have to cut the added material away after printing, but it should help you get a successful print.

Tony3D on Oct 21, 2013 said:

Clever design! I had a go at printing myself. Lots of failed prints of left/right foot and hipplate - the outer edge of hole collapsed. I was going to try adding a thin 1 or 2 wall support inside the drill hole so that it keeps shape. Hopefully will easily drill it out while cleaning the parts.

Austin on Sep 19, 2013 said:

Hmm, everything is assembled, although the locking tabs on one shoulder broke (firing up the printer now to reprint replacements for the entire shoulder).

Trying it out in total, nearly all the joints are extremely loose for me, making it a challenge to get the figure to stand, let alone pose. Does anyone have tips for adjusting the joints after the fact, rather than printing out new pins? (tape? glue? sanding?)

Also, for silly reasons, I'm waiting a few days before posting pictures and other goodies.

Thanks again for the awesome design!

Austin on Sep 16, 2013 said:

Great design!

The only recommend I have for helping people get started (as I'm doing right now), is to create an "all_white_parts.stl" and "all_red_parts,stl", even though best I can tell, they'd just be copies of the abdomen and bowtie. :)

ewindisch on Aug 29, 2013 said:

This thing is awesome. It would be great, however, if the parts were marked by color. The all_$color_parts.stl files are great, but the all_blue_parts.stl is a bit too big for the Replicator platform. Relatively, though, these are just nitpicks -- thanks.

Ellindsey on Sep 18, 2013 said:

Done, since I was re-uploading all the parts anyway I renamed them. Also split the blue parts into two trays.

DalekJast on Aug 24, 2013 said:

Why is this not called Optimus Time?!

Ellindsey on Aug 25, 2013 said:

Because the T-shirt artwork that inspired it was labeled Tardis Prime. If I ever get around to doing the time-travelling Delorean transformer I'll call that one Optimus Time.

MacGyver on Aug 21, 2013 said:

I'm printing 2 more copies and have noticed that when the model is in Tardis form the leg pins make it so it doesn't quite stay together at the bottom. I think I'm going to pull out my heat gun and slightly twist the upper leg pins so it will look a little better closed.

Here's a photo of the problem I'm talking about http://thingiverse-production....

Austin on Sep 18, 2013 said:

I'm partway through printing/assembly, and I'm seeing the same problem. However, I'm quite certain that it's because "midback" is colliding with the feet, pushing them sideways and thus creating the gap. I'm going to try tacking some chunks out of the feet with a flush-cutter to see if it fixes the problem.

Ellindsey on Aug 25, 2013 said:

I've seen that on a few of the earlier ones I printed out, but it seemed to go away when I moved to a 0.35mm nozzle and tightened up the mechanics of my printer. I'm not completely sure what causes it or why it only appears sometimes. I am working on a set of minor changes and tweaks to the design and will try a slight adjustment to the angle of the socket in the leg piece to see if that helps.

henryjenk on Aug 15, 2013 said:

i dont have a 3d printer nor have i made this but it looks amazing (hopefully getting my printer soon :D) and have you considered ball joints for connecting the arms and legs like they do on lego bionicals if you know what i mean it may give a smoother movement and be allot more flexible in the way it moves. thanks for uploading this it will be the first thing i print :D

Ellindsey on Aug 19, 2013 said:

Ball joints are tricky. I haven't yet managed to make ball joints that allow easy movement yet hold their position against gravity. The shoulder joints on this are already ball joints, but if I used ball joints for the hips I'd just end up with a model that wouldn't be able to stand upright on its own. I decided it was better to have a model that could stand even if it meant the legs were less flexible.

raydean7 on Aug 10, 2013 said:

you should make megatron + dalek= dalektron the dalekcons

Ellindsey on Aug 10, 2013 said:

I've considered a Dalek transformer. Maybe if I get some time and inspiration at some point I will.

pleppik on Jul 19, 2013 said:

Just finished printing and assembling this, and it's 50 shades of awesome! I scaled it up by 50%, and there's very little friction in the joints.

Pancakes on Jul 16, 2013 said:

I printed arms and the fist and it's not an easy slide in like you mentioned. I didn't change the sizes either but it cracked when i tried to forcefully slide it in. i printed the all the white series and individually printing each blue piece because the blue set wouldn't fit. Could that be the reason?

Austin on Sep 18, 2013 said:

I'm seeing something very similar, but I'm now downloading the thinner hands to see if they work out.

Hmm, would it be too wasteful to include the thinner hands in the all_grey_parts model?

Ellindsey on Jul 16, 2013 said:

I don't know if printing the pieces individually versus in batches is going to make a difference. I did make a minor change to the arm insert geometry to make the pieces not slide quite as easily, they still fit in on my printed parts but depending on your printer it might be too tight. I can upload the slightly looser version again if the current one isn't working.

Robbob on Jul 10, 2013 said:

great work in deed but being a Doctor Who fan I feel i should be offended by this sacrilegious depiction of the Tardis! LOL just kidding ;)

bschwaz on Jul 10, 2013 said:

I thought I should tell you that you forgot to put the mid back on the list of parts for the torso

Ellindsey on Jul 10, 2013 said:

You're right. Sorry about that, it's corrected now.

bschwaz on Jul 9, 2013 said:

a tight fit huh? if only it could be bigger on the inside...

eipi10 on Jul 9, 2013 said:

ur a genius! hands down the coolest thing I've seen on thingiverse so far

Ellindsey on Jul 9, 2013 said:

Thanks! Glad you like it.

Charles_Xavier on Jul 8, 2013 said:

Loved your original, love your revised version. You are an inspiration! I'm thinking this is THE coolest Thing of 2013!

Ellindsey on Jul 9, 2013 said:

Thanks! Starting to wish my coolest thing ever didn't belong to a well-guarded intellectual property though.

alexgibson on Jul 8, 2013 said:

This is off the scale. Everything about this is awesome.

Ellindsey on Jul 9, 2013 said:

Thank you. Again, I can't take complete credit as the idea did come from Jason Casteel's original artwork.

donstratton on Jul 8, 2013 said:

"This was actually a much harder design than the original - it's a lot harder to design a durable toy than something that just has to look right."

YOU SAID A MOUTHFUL! It astounds me how many people upload files to Thingiverse that cannot possibly be printed. This is GREAT work!

Ellindsey on Jul 9, 2013 said:

Thanks. Easy printing and assembly and being robust enough to be a toy were main goals for the redesign. I've got it down to where I can make one of these a day, if I set the printer up running a full plate before I leave for work. Got a backlog of people who want them already.

cymon on Jul 8, 2013 said:

SO glad I didn't tackle the old one over this long weekend.
How many of the same colored pieces could be plated together?

Ellindsey on Jul 8, 2013 said:

In theory, you can fit all of the blue parts on a single 200x200mm plate if you arrange them carefully. That's an all-day print on most machines. You can easily plate all the black parts together, and all of the grey parts together. There's only one white part in this version (the abdomen) and one tiny red part (the bowtie), so that's five plates, one in each color. I haven't tried printing all the blue parts at once, but I have run plates of the grey and black.

Creative_Hacker on Jul 8, 2013 said:

featured again! Well done!!!

Andychn on Jul 7, 2013 said:

Just did the head parts... I already see this is an excellent design. I would hope you consider doing more work like this and SELLING the plans and files! I WOULD BUY!

Ellindsey on Jul 7, 2013 said:

Thanks! I'm going to continue with designs like this, already got a few more ideas, purely as a way to get more practice with 3D design and to establish a portfolio. I don't intend to sell plans as such, but I may be setting up a Shapeways shop soon.

andrewar on Jul 7, 2013 said:

Awesome, this is the first commercial quality toy I have seen on thingiverse! Congrats this has raised the bar on thingiverse.

Ellindsey on Jul 7, 2013 said:

Thanks! I'm not sure I'd call it commercial quality, it's still pretty crude compared to actual commercial Transformers. Designing toys is hard, a lot harder than I expected. But I think it came out pretty well.

MacGyver on Jul 6, 2013 said:

I told my son that I would print this when you redesigned it. He asked me everyday last week during his visit if you'd redesigned it. Now I'm going to print it out and surprise the heck out of him on his next visit!

Ellindsey on Jul 7, 2013 said:

Cool, let me know how it comes out.

Tannius on Jul 6, 2013 said:

As awesome as this is, I wish I had better modelling skills, this demands a Matt Smith looking robot head. I wonder if I could come up with something in sculptris.

Ellindsey on Jul 7, 2013 said:

Heh, I wish my own modeling skills were better too. Creating a recognizable human face is still beyond me.

Austin on Jul 6, 2013 said:

Okay, this goes on the list of amazing things that I _have_ to print out once I'm able to get access to my printer again! (currently waylayed by injury)

Creative_Hacker on Jul 6, 2013 said:

Been looking forward to this :D!!!!!

and just in time for my 3D printer to arrive :D should be getting it next week and this will be one of my first prints :D
one of my all time favorite designs on Thingiverse!

I like the redesign well done :D!

fma on Jul 6, 2013 said:

Amazing work!!!