When [Morley Kert] laid eyes on a working time card-punching clock, he knew he had to have it for a still-secret upcoming project. The clock seemed to work fine, except that after a dozen or so test punches, the ink was rapidly fading away into illegibility. After a brief teardown and inspection, [Morley] determined that the ribbon simply wasn’t advancing as it should.
This clock uses a ribbon cassette akin to a modern typewriter, except that instead of a feed spool and a take-up spool, it has a short length of ribbon that goes around and around, getting re-inked once per revolution.
When a card is inserted, a number of things happen: a new hole is punched on the left side, and an arm pushes the card against the ribbon, which is in turn pushed against the mechanical digit dials of the clock to stamp the card.
Finally, the ribbon gets advanced. Or it’s supposed to, anyway. [Morley] could easily see the shadow of a piece that was no longer there, a round piece with teeth with a protrusion on both faces for engaging both the time clock itself and the ribbon cassette. A simple little gear.
After emailing the company, it turns out they want $95 + tax to replace the part. [Morley] just laughed and fired up Fusion 360, having only caliper measurements and three seconds of a teardown video showing the missing part to go on. But he pulled it off, and pretty quickly, too. Version one had its problems, but 2.0 was a perfect fit, and the clock is punching evenly again. Be sure to check it out after the break.
Okay, so maybe you don’t have a time card clock to fix. But surely you’ve had to throw out an otherwise perfectly good coat because the zipper broke?
When it comes to making gearboxes, 3D printing has the benefit that it lets you whip up whatever strange gears you might need without a whole lot of hunting around at obscure gear suppliers. This is particularly good for those outside the limited radius served by McMaster Carr. When it came to 3D printed gears though, [Michael Rechtin] wondered whether PLA or resin-printed gears performed better, and decided to investigate.
The subject of the test is a 3D-printed compound planetary gearbox, designed for a NEMA-17 motor with an 80:1 reduction. The FDM printer was a Creality CR10S, while the Creality LD02-H was on resin duty.
The assembled gearboxes were tested by using a 100 mm arm to press against a 20 kg load cell so that their performance could be measured accurately. By multiplying the force applied to the load cell by the length of the arm, the torque output from the gearbox can be calculated. A rig was set up with each gearbox pushing on the load cell in turn, with a closed-loop controller ensuring the gearbox is loaded up to the stall torque of the stepper motor before letting the other motor take over.
A cycloidal gear drive is one of the most mesmerizing reduction gears to watch when it is running, but it’s not all just eye-candy. Cycloidals give decent gearing, are relatively compact and back-drivable, and have low backlash and high efficiency. You probably want one in the shoulder of your robot arm, for instance.
But designing and building one isn’t exactly straightforward. Thanks, then, to [How To Mechatronics] for the lovely explanation of how it works in detail, and a nice walkthrough of designing and building a cycloidal gear reducer out of 3D printed parts and a ton of bearings. If you just want to watch it go, check out the video embedded below.
The video is partly an ad for SolidWorks, and spends a lot of time on the mechanics of designing the parts for 3D printing using that software. Still, if you’re using any other graphical CAD tool, you should be able to translate what you learned.
It’s amazing that 3D printing has made sophisticated gearbox designs like this possible to fabricate at home. This stuff used to be confined to the high-end machine shops of fancy robotics firms, and now you can make one yourself this weekend. Not exotic or unreliable enough for you? Well, then, buy yourself some flexible filament and step on up to the strain wave, aka “harmonic drive”, gearbox.
The testing involved printing worm gears on an FDM machine, in a variety of positions on the print bed in order to determine the impact of layer orientations on performance. Materials used were ABS, PLA and PETG. Testing conditions involved running a paired worm gear and worm wheel at various rotational speeds to determine if the plastic parts would heat up or otherwise fail when running.
The major upshot of the testing was that, unlubricated, gears in each material failed in under two minutes at 8,000 RPM. However, with adequate lubrication from a plastic-safe grease, each gearset was able to run for over ten minutes at 12,000 RPM. This makes sense, given the high friction typical in worm gear designs. However, it does bear noting that there was little to no load placed on the gear train. We’d love to see the testing done again with the drive doing some real work.
It also bears noting that worm drives typically don’t run at 12,000 RPM, but hey – it’s actually quite fun to watch. We’ve featured some 3D printed gearboxes before too, pulling off some impressive feats. Video after the break.
After testing several kinds of gear teeth, gear diameters, and gear spacing, he finally struck upon an 81:1 ratio gearbox. It has six gears: five stepped gears and one drive gear on the input shaft. First tests are accomplished with a 3D-printed handle, similar to a hand crank used to start really old cars. But unlike those cranks, [Steven]’s doesn’t have any release provision. While the handle can be removed, it can’t be removed while spinning.
We think it would be helpful to revise the drive shaft coupling method, allowing the handle or drill to be easily removed from the gearbox once it’s attained speed. This would be more convenient, and it seems prudent from the workbench safety point of view as well.
[Steven] manages to get the final gear spinning at 7000 RPM in video #2 of the series by hand cranking it “as fast as he can”, a speed measured by using the metronome app on his smartphone. He begins driving the gearbox with an electric drill in video #3, with some mixed but promising results. We think he will ultimately succeed in his goal of a high-speed, electric-drill-driven gearbox after a few more tests. If you want to have a go at this yourself, the design files are posted online.
How fast do you think he can eventually get this gearbox spinning? Are there any physical limitations of the assembly or due to the 3D printing materials/process? We certainly know that high torque can tear 3D-printed gearboxes apart, but how does the speed affect things? Let us know in the comments below.
Still don’t have anything for Valentine’s Day? We wholeheartedly suggest that you fire up that printer and get ready to fall in love with engineering all over again, because [JBV Creative] has designed a super-sweet piece of machinery that would turn the gears of anyone’s heart. He calls this the most overly-engineered candy dispenser ever, and we have to agree. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen.
There’s no electronics at all in this elegant design, just purely mechanical, hand-cranked fun. Turning the crank does two things at once — it moves a little access panel back and forth underneath the chute that governs the number of candies given, and at the same time, moves the conveyor belt along to deliver the goods to the receiving area.
This entire design is absolute genius, especially the decoupling mechanism that shuts off the flow of candy but allows the belt to keep moving. Be sure to watch the build video where [JBV Creative] effortlessly snap-fits the machine together without a single tool, and stay for the follow-up video where he discusses the engineering challenges and shows just how much work went into it.