We shouldn’t laugh, but we know the feeling very well. [Gear Down for What] invented a revolutionary transmission and fabricated it from scrap material when he was 16. Except he later found out the same design was the subject of a patent filed 14 years earlier. Dismayed he destroyed his prototype, but fast forward to today and he’s made a 3D model of a ratcheting continuously variable transmission. You can see a video of him explaining how it works below and put your own spin on the idea by grabbing the model from Thingiverse.
The model is just for demonstration purposes. We doubt it would wear well enough to use in practice but it’s great to get your hands on for a really intuitive understanding of the mechanism. Some modern automobiles use a continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and many recreational vehicles and motorcycles use them. Like any transmission, their job is to match the motor’s rotation to needed output torque and speed by offering different gearing ratios. Whereas a normal transmission provides a few fixed gears, a CVT changes seamlessly through a range of ratios.
Some of the design of the transmission is pretty tricky, like the cam adjustment. The video shows the rationale for how the design works and how it relates to tank steering (tank as in an Army tank; not like a gas tank). The model isn’t just plastic. It uses some screws and BBs, as well. However, if you have a 3D printer and wanted a good classroom demonstration, this is the ticket.
We’ve seen other geared variable transmissions for robots before. The planetary gears in the cam adjustment of this design are well understood. If you want to brush up your planetary knowledge, there’s no time like the present.