Printed machine does nothing until the heat death of the Universe


A 2:1 gear reduction slows down a spinning shaft to half speed and doubles the torque. Repeat this a few times, and you’ve got a ludicrous amount of torque moving too slowly to see with even precision instruments. That’s the idea behind [Jeshua]‘s project, a Printed Machine partially embedded in a block of concrete.

[Jeshua]‘s build is a replica of one of [Arthur Ganson]‘s kinetic sculptures. [Ganson]‘s machine uses 50 sets of gears to reduce the rotation of 200 RPM motor more that 200¬†¬†quintillion times. The final gear in the sculpture is embedded in a block of concrete, waiting to be freed by either erosion of the concrete block or the sun going nova.

Instead of metal gears, [Jeshua] used 3D printed gears in PLA. After assembling them on a stand, he cast concrete around the final, barely moving gear. It’s an impressively useless build that will turn to dust before the final gear makes even 1/10th of a revolution. This machine could have a longer life if it were printed with ABS instead of PLA, but with the time scales we’re talking about here it won’t make much difference.


  1. Gert says:

    If one reads the actual page, it’s 12 gear downs, each with a 1:50 gear ratio, rather… (or 50:1? Friday; who cares about that last bit :) )

    And then of course the pictures only show 8 gear pairs. Who knows…

  2. James says:

    Each reduction is 50:1 not 2:1.

    Actually, I think a series of 2:1 might be more interesting than the 50:1, the 50:1 probably makes the turning largely imperceptible after just a couple of reductions, a 2:1 would give a longer progression.

  3. Xyroze says:

    Wouldn’t the gears just strip?

    • Ryan says:

      Yes. And if you have ever made this with Lego, you’d know the resistance of all the gears will cause it to just jam up immediately.

    • macegr says:

      They might jam up or strip one tooth in a 30 billion years if they all started preloaded.

    • James says:

      You perhaps underestimate just how slowly that last gear is moving, 1 turn in a couple trillion years, so lets say that you get enough force exerted to strip a tooth when it would otherwise be at 1 degree of revolution if it wasn’t in a block of concrete, that’s 2,777,777,777 years.

      I’d hazard a guess that the plastic would disintegrate by age long before it would strip a tooth through the torque.

      • Greenaum says:

        There’s some twisting capacity in the rods in Lego. It’d be good to see how many of the gears noticably turned, to see the power seemingly go nowhere. I bet you’d get a few millennia before it’d even start to jam,

        • Ryoku says:

          he should cast the thing in a sealed resin box a foot thick, weather treat it, then bury it and maybe in a few hundred thousand years people will find it like that Roman/Greek/Sumerian (I’m obviously proving I don’t remember and can’t be arsed to google it) machine that got all kinds of hoopla a few years back.

          impressive stuff yet quite useless at the same time. however if he could get this to work on hydrothermal power in an enclosed space it would be a science project time capsule for the ages.

          some one could come back and scan it in a few decades or centuries to see how much torque has built up or if/when the machine actually fails. even if it turns into a mechanical fossil it’d be something interesting WAY down the line ^^

  4. doot doot says:

    This has been done like a thosand times before.

    • vonskippy says:


    • Cargo Cult says:

      I unwittingly built something similar out of Lego about twenty years ago – when tasked during a design technology lesson at school to build the slowest-moving machine out of a standard Lego motor, some wheels and a (relatively small) fixed number of gears.

      I won by several orders of magnitude – it turned out I was the only one to know about worm gears. So, with those combined with the super-large circular gears, I ended up with a wheeled device which (we calculated) would perhaps move a millimetre every couple of hours. Assuming the slack in the gears had even disappeared.

      Surprisingly, I got a reputation for being a bit of a smart-arse after that.

    • IJ Dee-Vo says:

      much like all comments from trolls

  5. fish dude says:

    I want to know how he plans on powering the motor for billions of years.

  6. Tony Smale says:

    You think the power will still be connected to this in 100 years?

  7. Frank Johnson says:

    But…how can one make money from this?

  8. 0xfred says:

    That last gear should hit a switch that makes it post something on Google+. Then it truly deserves the title of the world’s greatest useless machine.

  9. Jeshua here. Correction: the machine is in fact a series of twelve gears, each gear reduces the motion of the previous gear 50:1.

  10. Dave says:

    The original machine:
    Maybe the point of the concrete is that the machine will stop or damage the gears / concrete one the final gear moves enough to become obstructed by the concrete. The concrete kind of proves how slowly that last gear is moving.

  11. I think this is how the transmission in my 1977 Chevrolet Vega worked. It explains the 0-60 times.

  12. RoadWarrior222 says:

    I doubt PLA is going to last the decade.

  13. Cricri says:

    There’s a simpler way to waste energy: just connect a massive resistor (say 22 ohms 15A) across live and neutral, and hey presto, continuous 2.6kW added to your energy bill.
    Also, the exercise is “doubly” pointless: no movement, and even if you could wait long enough to have some movement, these crappy gears would crumble if you tried to harvest the theoretical output torque.
    So I’d only be impressed if the guy used, say, single crystal titanium gears, and if he calculated the number of gear sets so that latest/slower gear can deliver a maximum load within the mechanical abilities of these gears. Then at least, it could “in theory” be useful.

    • Well some of the “crappy” gears in fact are moving at observable speeds. Besides, even with “single crystal titanium gears” our sun and earth itself wouldn’t be around to see any useful output. Even with the input spinning at 100,000RPM, It would take 4,642,313,546 years for a single rotation at the “work” end.

      To me the beauty of the sculpture is that with just 12 gears we are talking about truly cosmological timescales.

    • IJ Dee-Vo says:

      Oh no! how dare a guy use his own time and money doing something you think is a waste! If only he consulated random strangers!

  14. jwrm22 says:

    With 6 stages it would already be 149 years… But you would see if the concrete would crumble by the force after 2-3 years. I think the concrete doesn’t stand a chance! (Not with abs gears…)

    The creator has some really great builds, real inspiration.

  15. RoadWarrior222 says:

    Hey, why didn’t he do something useful with this, like fit a bellcrank to the end gear and take the whole thing to a big glacier, hammer a stake into the glacier and connect it to the bellcrank, so it turns it half a revolution in it’s 1 foot a year progress, THEN it spins the motor at eleventy bajillion RPM, INFINITE ENERGY!!!!!1111oneone

  16. Joejoedancer says:

    Does anyone know what slicer he used? I love the patterns in the gears!

  17. Blastar Seymour says:

    This Guy is genius ! NOT

  18. MC says:

    Is there a webcam of the final gears? :-P

  19. Magrathea says:

    The sun won’t go “nova”. Editors, please double check your wording?

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