Tardis Transformer toy

by Ellindsey, published

Tardis Transformer toy by Ellindsey Jun 21, 2013

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Inspired by Jason Casteel's TARDIS Prime artwork:


I saw the shirt, and had to work out how to make it actually physically work. I did end up having to completely design the transformation sequence from scratch.

This print can be assembled without glue or any screws or other non-printed hardware, although you may want to glue some of the parts together anyway if you intend to actually play with it. The only challenging part about this print is the large number of parts (over 70 individual parts needed) and the size of some of the parts (although you should be able to handle everything with a 100mm cube print space).

It's a big toy once printed. Tardis mode is about 6 3/4" tall and 3 3/4" wide. Robot mode stands 13" tall - it's folded up pretty tightly when it's a Tardis, unpacks into a much larger toy in robot mode.

Honestly I'm not completely happy with the way this turned out. It's large, took a lot of plastic to develop, and the robot mode is incapable of standing on its own. It's too large and top-heavy for the friction in the joints to keep it standing, even though the feet are huge. I may attempt to redesign the entire toy at a smaller scale, to be easier to print and more functional as a display figure.

This was printed in PLA on my scratch-built Delta style printer. The original files were drawn by hand in AutoCAD. I have uploaded a zip file containing all the AutoCAD source files.

My blog, with information on this and other things I've made, is at http://drewsrobots.blogspot.com/


Head and neck assembly:

Print the following parts:

1 headcore (grey or silver)
1 headshell (blue)
1 headantenna_left (blue)
1 headantenna_right (blue)
1 collar (grey, but color of this part doesn't matter much)
1 neck_link (black)

Trim the head core and shell if needed until they fit snugly together with the holes in the sides lined up. Press the right and left antenna pieces into the holes to lock the core into the shell.

Optionally, use a black Sharpie marker to fill in the eyes on the faceplate.

Push the neck_link part through the hole in the collar as shown in the picture. Note that it can go in two different ways, but only one is correct, and you can't rotate it after pushing it in. Press the ball on the end of the neck link into the cup at the base of the head.


For each leg, print the following parts:

1 heel (left or right) (blue)
1 foot (left or right) (blue)
1 ankle (left or right) (white)
1 legblock (left or right) (blue)
1 upperleg (no left or right, both sides use the same) (white)
2 pin_foot (color doesn't matter, I use grey)
2 pin_short (color doesn't matter, I use grey)
1 elbow_link (color doesn't matter, I use grey)

Press the pin on the heel part into the hole on the foot as shown in the photo. The heel should be able to freely swing through about 135 degrees.

Line up one of the holes on the ankle piece with the other hole on the foot as shown and then press one of the foot pins through to lock it in place. Make sure you get the hole on the ankle, the pin is hard to get out once you press it in. When assembled properly the hook on the heel should lock with the hook on the ankle when in robot mode.

The main leg block attaches to the ankle piece as shown in the picture. Line up the thru hole on the ankle piece with the two holes on the bottom end of the leg block, and press a single foot pin through to hold them together.

The white upper leg segments are the same on the right and left legs, and attach to the lower leg assembly with one of the short pins. Each upper leg has a flat on one end. When the leg is assembled this flat should be upwards and facing forwards as shown in the picture. The rounded end of the leg with no notch attaches to the lower leg assembly. Make sure you get this right as the connecting pins are hard to get out once you're pressed them in.

Put the elbow link into the slot in the top of the upper leg segment, line up the holes, and use the remaining short pin to lock them together.


For each arm, print the following parts:

1 fist (left or right) (grey)
1 pin_short (color doesn't matter, I used grey)
1 arminsert (grey)
1 forearm (left or right) (blue)
1 elbow_link (color doesn't matter, I use grey)
1 shoulderblock (left or right) (blue)
1 shoulderlink (left or right) (black)

Press the fist onto the pin sticking of of the arm insert. The fist should be able to rotate freely once attached.

The arm insert block needs to go into the opening on the forearm. The raised nub on the side of the insert lines up and slots into the slot on the side of the forearm. Press the raised part down carefully as you push the insert into the forearm as shown in the photo. Once it snaps into place it should slide freely, allowing you to extend or retract the fists.

Press the round part of the elbow link into the back of the arm, lining up the hole, and press a short pin through to lock it in place. Press the pin on the elbow link into the shoulder block.

The round knob on the shoulder link should press into the socket shoulder block as shown. It should be able to wiggle back and forth with a little effort once inserted.

The windows bars on the shoulder block have a narrow slot behind them into which you can insert a piece of white construction paper to make it actually look like a window if you wish. You can also optionally stick a police box decal onto the flat bar part of the shoulder link here as shown.

Lower torso:

Print the following parts:

1 hip_left (blue)
1 hip_right (blue)
1 abdomen (white)
2 pin_hip (color doesn't matter, I used grey)
1 elbow_link (color doesn't matter, I used grey)
1 pin_short (color doesn't matter, I used grey)

Press the pin_hip parts into the two round holes on the abdomen part. Press the left and right hip parts onto these pins as shown in the picture.

Put the round end of the elbow link into the slot on the abdomen part. Line up the holes, and push a short pin through to lock it in place.

Take the leg assemblies you made earlier and press the connecting pin on the elbow link part on each into the remaining hole on the left and right hips.

Upper torso:

Print the following parts:

1 backflap (blue)
1 bowtie (red)
1 chest_link (black)
1 lampcap (blue)
1 lampshell (white)
2 pin_shoulder (color doesn't matter, I used grey)
1 torsobodybottom (blue)
1 torsobodymid (blue)
1 torsobodytop (blue)
1 torsotopslider_left (blue)
1 torsotopslider_right (blue)
1 windowflap_left (blue)
1 windowflap_right (blue)

The torso bottom part and the two window flap parts also have slots behinds the window bars where you can insert white construction paper slips to give the appearance of windows.

Press the two long grey shoulder pins into the holes in the bottom torso part. You can glue these in if you want, but it's not required.

Slide the two window flaps onto the shoulder pins as shown in the picture. If you glued the pins in, be sure you don't get any glue on the window flaps as these parts need to swing freely.

Press the torso mid plate over the shoulder pins aligned with the lower torso block as shown.

Press the chest_link part into the front two holes on the torso mid plate as shown. If you want you can apply a 'police box' decal over the front of the chest link. This part can also be glued in place if you want to make the toy more robust.

Put the holes on the shoulder links attached to the arm assemblies you made earlier over the ends of the shoulder pins. They should rotate freely through about a 120 degree range of travel.

Take the torso upper piece and press the left and right torso top slider blocks onto the tabs on top as shown. They should snap in securely, yet let the torso sliders slide to the side to open the hole int the top center of the torso, or together to close it.

Turn the torso upper piece over. Fit the bowtie into the small slot on the front of the torso piece as shown. Put the two conical nubs on the sides of the collar piece of the head assembly from before into the two indentations on the bottom of the top plate.

Line up the four holes on the torso upper piece with the four pins sticking up from the torso lower assembly and press them together. You can optionally use glue, but make sure not to stick the shoulder links or the head assembly in place if you do.

Press the backflap piece onto the tab on the collar of the head assembly. The narrow part of the back flap should be behind the head. Take the lamp cap and put the snap on it though the lamp shell and into the hole on the top of the backflap. Optionally, use glue to make the lamp more robust if the toy needs to be able to be played with.

Press the linking pin coming out of the abdomen block into the center hole on the torso upper piece. Your toy is now assembled.

The file "decals.odg" contains the images for the labels scaled to the model. This is an OpenOffice Draw file.

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I love the blue you used for it. I've been trying to find a blue that is close enough to the tardis blue without painting it. Do you mind sharing what brand and color of filament you used? anyone have any suggestions? I use PLA.

I used the Dark Blue filament from Inventibles. Unfortunately, Inventibles stopped selling printer filament a while back, and I don't know where you can get this exact color now.

WOW, this is so awesome!! I'm almost fainting :-)
I also saw a more complex Dalek Transformer on your site. Do you wanna post it? ^^

Comments deleted.

I'm almost finished printing this guy, but I'm having trouble on one piece... Upperleg. It gets about 25% complete and then messes up. Has anyone else had trouble with this piece?

What do you mean by messes up? Prints fine here...
Using Cura and an Ultimaker 2 Extended +.

I'm almost finished printing this guy, but I'm having trouble on one piece... Upperleg. It gets about 25% complete and then messes up. Has anyone else had trouble with this piece?

Awesome build. i seem to be having some problems getting some of the files to import into one of the 3D print shops for a build quote . Would you consider building some and making a few bucks rather than the print shop? thanks

This version is outdated and kind of a bad design, and I wouldn't recommend making it. Version 2 (thing 113117) is a huge improvement. I have printed about a dozen of those, and am selling them. Message me if you want to buy one.

Um don't have a printer, but I totally would pay you to make me one

This is probably a stupid question, but where can I go to print this? I was just mozying about online and saw this and thought it would be a perfect gift for my boyfriend. If I could maybe buy it from someone who has already printed it, or have someone point me in the direction of a place than can do 3D printing so I can build it myself, that would be really awesome!

Sorry this is old now, but I just finished assembling this model, and I have a question. The Chest Link doesn't seem to correctly fit the Torso Body Bottom correctly. The "oval" shaped holes in the Torso Body Bottom that the Chest Link is supposed to snap into are both turned 90 degrees, so the link doesn't snap in. I fixed this by grinding the holes to the correct shape with my dremel, but if you could fix the file for the Torso Body Bottom, that might be really appreciated by future Thingiverse downloaders of this awesome design. I ended up printing the entire thing in the same color material, then painting the parts. I'll try to share pictures of the results soon. :)

Sorry about that. Just uploaded a fixed version of that part.

Excellent. I just uploaded my build. :)

this is really thankful for you. i am happy to get it in my home. be honor of your skillful hands

Awesome design! I started printing earlier today and so far it's looking great, though I decided to do it all at 0.10 mm so it's taking a while.

Just a quick request. Could you also upload the files you used to print the decals? Thanks!

No problem, I've uploaded the file. It's in OpenOffice Draw format.

Perfect, thanks!

Hi again, do you have a recommended layer height and infill % for these parts in general? I'm guessing the head in particular would benefit from smaller layer heights, but are there any other parts? Thanks!

I've been printing every part with 25% hexagon infill and the same default layer height (0.35mm I think? Need to check my slic3r settings) for everything. The head parts would benefit from a smaller layer height, but I haven't experimented with that yet.

Thanks for the info! I'll probably try to print this in the next few weeks. Based on your info about it being too top-heavy, maybe I'll try to print the upper pieces with next to no infill and try to print the bottom pieces nearly solid. I know that won't completely solve the standing problem, but it should help. Thank you again!

This is amazing! I was looking for a transformer to make and this one beats all!

There goes the toy industry haha...impressive! Andrew (http://3dhacker.com3dhacker.com)

Cool implementation - my kids will love this.
Regarding, um, copyright etc., you could always just call it a transforming police box. Someone on the KISSlicer forums posted photos of a Tardis refrigerator skin to make your 'fridge look like a tardis. BBC would not license because the potential market was too small. Last time I looked, you can now get the skin by ordering a police box skin.

This thing is fantastic. I too recently designed a transforming tardis, roughly based off Jason Casteel's t-shirt. I love what you did with the shoulder to body joint, rotating the police box signs, that's genius. Mines much more complicated than yours, but requires screws & a hellova lot more parts. Seeing yours makes me wonder if I over-complicated it. Check it out at http://crisrowlands.com/transforming-police-boxcrisrowlands.com/transforming-... :) I'd love to know what you think.

I'd have had an easier time if I'd allowed myself to use screws and pins, but I did this as a design challenge to myself and some of the rules I set were that it be all printed, no glue or screws, and as little support material or post-printing cleanup as possible. I tried to work with the natural contours and breaks already present in the Tardis, which is why I did things like using the police box signs as slots for the arm links to rotate through. I'm not happy with how the hips and legs came out, they're too weak. Your design looks sturdier in that area.

The BBC lawyers scare me too, and it's useful to know that they weren't willing to work with you on licensing. I made this toy purely as a design challenge to myself, didn't start with any intention of mass-producing them and selling them, but I have had a lot of people saying "Shut up and take my money" after seeing it.

I've been getting similar responses, which is a great feeling. My plan is to (first wait for my 3d printer to turn up next month) then make my tardis transformer & if it works alright, put it up on here.

I'll definitely be making one of yours too, so I can have them on my shelf, side by side :)

I'm not a Doctor Who fan but this Thing is badass! Very well done Andrew. :)

As many have said before, this is an AWESOME piece. I also want to say that it is pretty clear that YOU are also AWESOME. Not many modelers would make accessible their source work for derivations on something so big and popular as freely as you have, and that rocks! Thanks for rocking, and I look forward to following your stuff!

Thank you. I figured that I didn't really have any legal cause or right to keep the files private, since it's based on copyrighted franchises and the original idea isn't mine in the first place. Doesn't hurt me any to share the source files. If someone else wants to make their own derivative of this, it's cool with me.

Hey, you should totally put this on shapeways, you know, for the poor chaps without 3D printers. You can make money on it too! :D

I'm pretty sure I'd get at least two sets of copyright lawyers after me if I did that.

I agree. With my tardis transformer design, I decided to get in touch with the BBC to see what they said. After lots of back & forth between myself & the head of Dr Who's licensing department, it ultimately seemed like a bad idea. I was gonna try & get a kickstarter together to mass produce the thing :(

Hmm... Yeah, I guess I didn't think about that. Without getting paid then? Maybe? I don't really know Shapeways' guidelines or anything, but I've seen copyrighted type things on there, so Idk.

Way too impressive! Well done! Looking forward to your future designs!

Thanks! I'm already working on a better redesign of this and have ideas for more toys in a similar vein after that.

Thats is awesome looking forward to it! but I will be printing this out :D I am a huge Dr who fan :D

Keep kicking ass dude!

SO COOL. This will be my next printed robot for sure.

Let me know how it works out! As I stated above the hip joints are a little weak and wobbly, but other than that it's a fairly straightforward print.

Joints are the bane of all of my designs that have moving parts. I've been playing with various designs trying to make a joint that is strong, easy to assemble and will hold its position. All of which can be done, but not consistently and due to wear the purely plastic joints seem to loosen up over time. I think non-printed parts may be required (o-rings?). I'd like to see what you come up with.

Yeah, I've considered rubber rings or friction washers in the hip joints. Kind of goes against the whole no non-printed parts idea however, but if it makes it stand up properly might we worth it.

If you can get the pins to act like springs so they apply friction pressure it can work (I experimented with a "C" shaped pin). Every time I've tried it the joint comes out too weak or too easy to pull apart so I gave up. There has to be a way to do this with printed parts...

Congrats - A great design and an inspiration to the community!

Give this a grumpy cat face and it shall henceforth be known as a Tardformer.

utterly remarkable!

Thank you. As I've said the original idea was not mine, but the actual execution was.

Amazing work. Incredible to see this caliber of work from one person! So much complexity!

Thanks. This is what happens when I have a week off work and nothing to do. I'm still tweaking the design, the hip joints aren't as robust as I'd like.

You never stated which filament you used. PLA or ABS?

I do state above that this was printed in PLA

Thank you. Awesome! Gonna try!

It took about a week to design and print.

Coolest part in my mind is that in robot mode it's bigger than it is in Tardis mode...does that mean it really is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside? :o

Heh, I didn't realize how big it was going to be until it was finished. I started with a Tardis model scaled to what I thought would be a good toy size, then figured out how to make it turn into a robot.

Wow! Bow ties are cool :)

Only suggestion: It needs a fez. Fezzes are cool.

I suppose I could make an alternate head model. Not sure how I'd fit a fez on there, the head barely fits in the chest cavity as it is.

Wow, just... Wow!

Awesome work! that... is... BRILLIANT!
If I wasn't so busy on my birdhouse entry, I'd print this thing tomorrow. It would look perfect next to my large Bandai Veritech fighter; about the same size too!

I'm definitely going to try making this in the near future.

Did I mention that it's cool, like, cooler than bow ties?
absolutely amazing job; I think you just broke my psyche with your skill!

there's even a bow tie...
I would 'like' this 1000 times if i could :)

well done, it's brilliant!

Thank you all. The original credit for the idea does still go to Jason Casteel, but working out hot to actually make it wasn't easy.

I cannot express how awesome this is .... words fail me

That is the coolest thing I've seen on the 'verse in a long time. Well done.

I've got a Soundwave Tardis I've been working on all week I was going to post... Now I don't need to. ;)

I've just seen the pictures of your design on the TFW boards. Interesting coincidence that we were both working on the same idea the same week. I wouldn't have thought of basing it on Soundwave - as you can see my design is heavily inspired by the classic G1 Optimus Prime.

Bet we both had the same idea: "Gosh that's never been done, I'll do that!" 50 years of no one doing it then two the same week. ;)

After I saw yours I purposely avoided an Optimus repaint on mine to avoid stepping on any toes. Went Vector Prime instead!

That is So awesome!

Personally, I would have likes a Doctor's head, but I understand the reason.

Optimus Prime's head has the advantage of being something I can make out of graphics primitives. For the Doctor, I'd need to find a 3D scan of the actual actor's head to use as a base.

I don't suppose you'd share your source files?

There aren't source files as such, everything was hand-drawn in AutoCAD.

I meant the AutoCAD files. As in whatever was the source for the STLs as STL files aren't terribly friendly for editing.

Alrighty. I've put up a zip archive with all the AutoCAD source files.

Fair enough.

Dude, I think you just won thingiverse.