Benchtop Lathe Gets An Electronic Leadscrew Makeover

The king of machine tools is the lathe, and if the king has a heart, it’s probably the leadscrew. That’s the bit that allows threading operations, arguably the most important job a lathe can tackle. It’s a simple concept, really – the leadscrew is mechanically linked through gears to the spindle so that the cutting tool moves along the long axis of the workpiece as it rotates, allowing it to cut threads of the desired pitch.

But what’s simple in concept can be complicated in reality. As [Clough42] points out, most lathes couple the lead screw to the spindle drive through a complex series of gears that need to be swapped in and out to accommodate different thread pitches, and makes going from imperial to metric a whole ball of wax by itself. So he set about building an electronic leadscrew for his lathe. The idea is to forgo the gear train and drive the leadscrew directly with a high-quality stepper motor. That sounds easy enough, but bear in mind that the translation of the tool needs to be perfectly synchronized with the rotation of the spindle to make threading possible. That will be accomplished with an industrial-grade quadrature encoder coupled to the spindle, which will tell software running on a TI LaunchPad how fast to turn the stepper – and in which direction, to control thread handedness. The video below has some great detail on real-time operating systems on microcontrollers as well as tests on all the hardware to be used.

This is only a proof of concept at this point, but we’re looking forward to the rest of this series. In the meantime, [Quinn Dunki]’s excellent series on choosing a lathe should keep you going.

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Vintage Print Processor Fixed with 3D Printing

If you don’t know what a print processor is, don’t feel bad. There’s precious few people out there still running home darkrooms, and the equipment used for DIY film development is about as niche as it gets today. For those looking to put together their own darkroom in 2019, buying second hand hardware and figuring out how to fix it on your own is the name of the game, as [Austin Robert Hermann] found out when he recently purchased a Durst Printo Print Processor on eBay.

The auction said the hardware was in working order, but despite the fact that nobody would ever lie on the Internet, it ended up being in quite poor condition. Many of the gears in the machine were broken, and some were simply missing. The company no longer supports these 1990’s era machines, and the replacement parts available online were predictably expensive. [Austin] determined his best course of action was to try his hand at modeling the necessary gears and having them 3D printed; two things he had no previous experience with.

Luckily for [Austin], many of the gears in the Printo appeared to be identical. That meant he had several intact examples to base his 3D models on, and with some educated guesses, was able to determine what the missing gears would have looked like. Coming from an animation background, he ended up using Cinema 4D to model his replacement parts; which certainly wouldn’t have been our first choice, but there’s something to be said for using what you’re comfortable with. Software selection not withstanding, he was able to produce some valid STLs which he had printed locally in PLA using an online service.

Interestingly, this is a story we’ve seen play out several times already. Gears break and wear down, and for vintage hardware, that can be a serious problem. But if you’ve got a couple intact gears to go by, producing replacements even on an entry level desktop 3D printer is now a viable option to keep these classic machines running.

Unicycle Given a Hand Crafted Gear Box

Being able to coast on a bicycle is a feature that is often taken for granted. The use of a freewheel was an improvement made early in the bicycle’s history, for obvious reasons. This also unlocked the ability to build bikes with multiple gears, allowing higher speeds to be easily reached. On a unicycle, however, there’s no chain and the pedals are permanently fixed to the wheel’s axle, meaning that there is (usually) no freewheel and no gearing. [johnybondo] wanted to get some more speed out of his unicycle, though, and realized he could do this with his own homemade internal geared hub for his unicycle.

The internal hub gear was machined and welded by hand as a one-off prototype. There are commercial offerings, but at $1700 it’s almost best to fund your own machine shop. It uses a planet gearset which is more compact than a standard gear, allowing it to fit in the axle. Once all the machining was done, it was time to assemble all of the gears into the hub, lace it to the wheel with spokes, and start pedaling away. Since it was so successful, he plans to build another and lace it to a larger wheel which will allow him to reach even higher speeds. If this isn’t fast enough for you, personally, there are other options available for ludicrous speed.

Now, this gear is still “fixed” in the sense that it’s a permanent gear ratio for his unicycle and it doesn’t allow him to shift gears or coast. There’s no freewheel mechanism so the unicycle can still be pedaled forward and backwards like a traditional unicycle. The advantage of this setup is that the wheel spins 1.5 times for every one revolution of the pedals, allowing him to more easily reach higher speeds.

Adding Upgrades To A Stock Motorcycle

In today’s world of over-the-air firmware upgrades in everything from cars to phones to refrigerators, it’s common for manufacturers of various things to lock out features in software and force you to pay for the upgrades. Even if the hardware is the same across all the models, you can still be on the hook if you want to unlock anything extra. And, it seems as though Suzuki might be following this trend as well, as [Sebastian] found out when he opened up his 2011 Vstrom motorcycle.

The main feature that was lacking on this bike was a gear indicator. Even though all the hardware was available in the gearbox, and the ECU was able to know the current gear in use, there was no indicator on the gauge cluster. By using an Arduino paired with an OBD reading tool (even motorcycles make use of OBD these days), [Sebastian] was able to wire an LED ring into the gauge cluster to show the current gear while he’s riding.

The build is very professionally done and is so well blended into the gauge cluster that even we had a hard time spotting it at first. While this feature might require some additional lighting on the gauge cluster for Suzuki to be able to offer this feature, we have seen other “missing” features in devices that could be unlocked with a laughably small amount of effort.

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Couch Potato Refined: Self-Rotating TV Uses Plywood Gears

When we first saw [Mikeasaurus’] project to rotate his TV 90 degrees in case he wanted to lay down and channel surf we were ready to be unimpressed. But it grew on us as we read about how he fabricated his own gearing system to make a car seat motor rotate the TV.

The gearing system is made from plywood and the design was from geargenerator.com, a freebie design tool we’ve covered before. You’d think you’d need a laser cutter, but in this case, the gear forms were printed out, glued on the plywood and then cut out manually. Each gear is made of several laminated together.

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Firing Bullets Through Propellers

Early airborne combat was more like a drive-by shooting as pilot used handheld firearms to fire upon other aircraft. Whomever could boost firepower and accuracy would have the upper hand and so machine guns were added to planes. But it certainly wasn’t as simple as just bolting one to the chassis.

This was during World War I which spanned 1914 to 1918 and the controllable airplane had been invented a mere eleven years before. Most airplanes still used wooden frames, fabric-covered wings, and external cable bracing. The engineers became pretty inventive, even finding ways to fire bullets through the path of the wooden propeller blades while somehow not tearing them to splinters.

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Vintage Logan Lathe Gets 3D Printed Gears

In December 2016, [Bruno M.] was lucky enough to score a 70+ year oldĀ Logan 825 lathe for free from Craigslist. But as you might expect for a piece of machinery older than 95% of the people reading this page, it wasn’t in the best of condition. He’s made plenty of progress so far, and recently started tackling some broken gears in the machine’s transmission. There’s only one problem: the broken gears have a retail price of about $80 USDĀ each. Ouch.

On his blog, [Bruno] documents his attempts at replacing these expensive gears with 3D printed versions, which so far looks very promising. He notes that usually 3D printed gears wouldn’t survive in this sort of application, but the gears in question are actually in a relatively low-stress portion of the transmission. He does mention that he’s still considering repairing the broken gears by filling the gaps left by the missing teeth and filing new ones in, but the 3D printed gears should at least buy him some time.

As it turns out, there’s a plugin available for Fusion 360 that helpfully does all the work of creating gears for you. You just need to enter in basic details like the number of teeth, diametral pitch, pressure angle, thickness, etc. He loaded up the generated STL in Cura, and ran off a test gear on his delta printer.

Of course, it didn’t work. Desktop 3D printing is still a finicky endeavour, and [Bruno] found with a pair of digital calipers that the printed gear was about 10% larger than the desired dimensions. It would have been interesting to find out if the issue was something in the printer (such as over-extrusion) or in the Fusion 360 plugin. In any event, a quick tweak to the slicer scale factor was all it took to get a workable gear printed on the third try.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen 3D printed gears stand in for more suitable replacement parts, nor the first time we’ve seen them in situations that would appear beyond their capability. As 3D printer hardware and software improves, it seems fewer and fewer of the old caveats apply.

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