How to Make a Transformer in 123D Design




About: I'm Mario Caicedo Langer, from Colombia, former Navy officer and BSc in Naval Sciences. Right now I'm Technical Director and Technology Lead Teacher at STEM - Engineering for Kids Azerbaijan. Also, I'm artis...
After two days of learning and practicing, officially this is my first project in 123D Design, the Autodesk CAD program made specially for makers. Also, this is my first time with a CAD program. You know how I love to get my hands dirty and build things with physical stuff and physical tools. But It's always good to learn something new.

So, I decided to make a transformer, not as complicated as the Michael Bay ones, but more like the vintage toys from the 80's.

The difficult parts are the joints and that everything you make in the robot mode, you have to consider it in the car mode and vice versa.

  • 2 arms (car sides)
  • 1 main piece: torso, face and thighs (car front)
  • 4 wheels
  • 4 long pivots (for each limb)
  • 4 short pivots (for each wheel)

About the 123D Design software, I have to say: I really like it. It's friendly, you don't need to be industrial designer or engineer to learn it, but having visual-spatial ability helps a lot (relax! most of the makers have it). And it's free! You can download the program in this link.

NOTES: I used the 123D Design 64bits version for PC. My laptop is a Samsung with Intel Core i3-2370M 2.40GHz  processor, 4,00 GB RAM and Windows 7.

In the design, I used the orthographic view in almost all of this instructable.

I recommend: when you are working in a project, save it in your computer every time you can, because the program don't have auto-save.

Robot mode:

Car mode:


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Step 1: Robot's Legs (back of the Car)

TIP: Before starting, remember: this project has 17 main pieces. Every piece is made combining primitive solids. Don't forget to combine each form into the single piece. If not, when you try to manipulate a piece looking for how it fits to another, you will have forms dispersed everywhere.

I started designing the legs. Each one is a big primitive box with others smaller primitive boxes giving form to feet and decoration. In this design I use a lot of negative extrude for hollowing the pieces where another pieces need to be housed in car mode. For the "knees" I used chamfer. I made one leg, then I duplicated it, verifiying the symmetry. In each leg I use a hollowed half cylinder for housing the wheels. I made a primitive cylinder as wheel, for keep a reference for each robot limb and its place in car mode.

TIP: Negative extrude: Do you want to make a hollow into a piece? Create a new primitive form with a face equal to the form you want inside the piece, and situate it exactly over the place you want to hollow. Use the "extrude" tool over the mentioned face. Extend the face negatively (positively: blue color; negatively: red color) until you finish to carve the piece. It's a very useful tool. In the real world, I love the rotary tool for working with physical objects. In CAD, negative extruding became my virtual "rotary tool".

Step 2: Main Piece: Car Front

I made a new primitive box for the main body, of the same heigth and width of the legs together, but longer.

With fillet and chamfer tools, I give it the shape of some kind of minimalist futuristic car.

I copied the wheels housing from the back (legs), and I pasted these in each side of the front.

Step 3: Cutting the Front for Making Robot's Arms

In front of the car, I put two boxes with small width ("razors") and extruded it for cutting the arms from the car's front.

TIP: Take away the legs. You don't want to cut these, too.

Step 4: Robot's Thighs and Axes

I made a primitive box, same width and height ot the leg hollow, but much longer for inserting in the body. I double fillet the end of the thigh for a better hinge effect of the leg. When I got it inside, I copy and paste it into the other leg. I combined the thighs with the main body.

With all pieces together, I negatively extruded small radius cylinders: one for the body-arms axis, and other for the thighs-legs axis. I did the same for the wheels axis, too. Remember the radius of these cylinders, because you will need it for making the pivots.

Step 5: Wheels

I made one wheel using the cylinder I kept in reference. Then, I used other cylinders for extruding and making the wheel cover. At the center, I extruded a hole for the axis. Later I found out you can make circular paterns for the tire, so I used small boxes (On the next steps of this project you will see flat tire wheels, but in some moment you will see the finished wheels).

Step 6: The First Transformation

Before making the robot aesthetics, I played with the pieces, making the car-to-robot transformation. It worked!

Step 7: Robot's Body Front

With the armed robot, I made some decorations using thin boxes, extrude, fillet and chamfer tools. I put a chest and I left some space for the face.

Step 8: Face

I made the face simple but with a personality. It has a visor, nose, mouth and chin, made with extruded solids.

Step 9: Hands

I extrude at the end of each arm and put some cylinders (fingers) in each one.

Step 10: Pieces for 3D Printing

Before printing, I wanted to play with each piece, looking around for possible failures. I realized I need to make pivots, I corrected some axis troubles and combined free parts of each piece.

(Later I realized I can print the whole transformer without divide it in pieces, only with a few arrangements. I will keep it in mind for my next 123D project).

Step 11: Printed Pieces and Cleaning

The time has come. The car model, the robot model and the pieces were 3D printed in the new Instructables Anex. Now is time for removing the support material and cleaning the pieces. The best is to use a pointy tool like and screwdriver, latex gloves and a box for disposing the leftover material. It must be done carefully. At the end, washing the hands and cleaning all the surfaces that made contact with the printed material are highly recomended.

Step 12: Washing the Pieces

In the Instructables Anex on TechShop, I used the water jet (the one for cleaning, not the one for cutting metal) for removing the remaining support material.

Step 13: Attaching the Pieces

According to the 123D Design model, I attached the pieces.

Step 14: Definitive Transform!

And now, our transformer is ready for action!

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    46 Discussions

    M.C. LangerSUMITR28

    Reply 2 years ago



    How well do you think a design using only 5mm pegs-and-peg-holes as joints would work? I want to take advantage of my school's 3d printer and make a transformer using as few pins and such as possible.

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Woooooooooow Amazing project, I'll take it as a reference

    Thanks :D

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Step 14

    Brilliant project! I'm also a lifelong Transformers fan, and I can attest that designing transforming figures like this is a nice, challenging creative exercise, and well worth playing with. I don't have a printer myself yet, or live near anywhere like your Annex (as far as I'm aware), but I get them printed via Shapeways, where I've got a few for sale.

    I would point out though, in response to your intention to try printing a working figure in one, that while it might be an interesting experiment, I can almost guarantee that it won't work very well, for a couple of reasons.

    Firstly, you'd have no way of cleaning out the leftover material. you'd wind up with lots of un"baked" plastic caught inside all the joints. The only way I can see you'd be able to get this out is essentially through continuously moving the figure, pulverising the material out of the gaps.

    Secondly, in order to prevent the parts fusing in the printer, you need to make sure they have sufficient clearance. Depending on the printer and material, it usually requires at least 0.5mm between parts (IIRC), and when you're talking about joint tolerances, that's actually quite a gap. By the time you've worked out the aforementioned unfused material, you'll have extremely loose and floppy joints.

    That said, if you want to try it out as an experiment, by all means give it a crack; I'm just pointing out potential pitfalls to consider.

    1 reply
    M.C. LangerDrawnSteelHero

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 14

    Thanks DrawnSteelHero. Actually, some weeks later, I printed a fully articulated robot action figure, already assembled. This is the instructable:


    Now I want to design a mini unicron! (Without the girders or horns and with a much simpler transformation, of course)


    5 years ago

    He looks like one fo those old transformers I used to get back in the 80's when I was a kid.

    I am basically the transforming robots guru, because I have researched most of the transforming robot brands of toys found on the internet, and, Gobots aren't very hard to come by. I've researched most of the Japanese brands, and most of the knockoff brands. Your design however, looks way better than a lot of the toys on the internet! In fact your design of a 123d design transformer is the only design I can find on the internet!

    So, simple but cool 123d Gobots for the win! :-)
    Try to say that five times really fast, you can't.


    1 reply

    I just thought of something. Maybe you can design more figures this size and then you can make them have connector ports on them, so that you can combine them! Autodeskabots, merge into DESIGNOR!

    Puns intended.


    Hello, I just want to start my first day of being a member by saying this, I am obsessed with transformers! Those toys that turn from one thing to another, whether big or small, simple or complex I like them all! Hey, that rhymed!

    I am working on a complicated transformer in 123d design. Similar to Movie megaton (the tank kind of thing).

    I just joined today, so I hope there are a lot of nice people!


    6 replies

    I was just wondering if you are interested in making a transformer out of aluminum foil! May sound stupid but I am almost in love with shiny transformer crafts! I want to have a race with you and see which of us can do an instructable about foil transformers first! There will be no prizes, Just wanted to do it for some fun. Please respond and tell me when you want to start or if you even want to do it at all!