Stripping 3D Printed Gears for Science

While 3D printing is now well on its way to becoming “boring” in the same way that a table saw or lathe is, there was a time when the media and even some early adopters would have told you that the average desktop 3D printer was perhaps only a few decades behind the kind of replicator technology we saw on the Enterprise. But as the availability of these machines increased and more people got to see one up close, reality sunk in pretty quickly.

Many have dismissed the technology as little more than a novelty, and even within the 3D printing community itself there’s a feeling that most printers are used for little more than producing “dust collectors”. Some would see this attitude as disheartening, but the hackers over at [Gear Down For What?] see it as a challenge. They’ve made it their mission to push printed parts to increasingly ridiculous heights to show just what the technology is capable of, and in their latest entry, set out to push a pair of 3D printed gearboxes to failure.

The video starts out with a head to head challenge between two of their self-designed gearboxes. As they were spun up with battery powered drills, the smaller of the two quickly gave up the ghost, stripping out at 228 lbs. The victor of the first round then went on to pull a static load, only to eventually max out the scale at an impressive 680 lbs.

The gearbox may have defeated the scale, but the goal of the experiment was to run it to failure. By rigging up a compound pulley arrangement, they were able to double the amount of force their scale could detect. With this increased capacity the gearbox was then run up to an astonishing 1,000 lbs before it started to slip.

But perhaps the most impressive: after they got the gearbox disassembled, it was discovered that only a single planet gear out of the ten had broken. Even then, judging by how the gear sheared, the issue was more likely due to poor layer adhesion during printing than from stress alone. No gears were stripped, and in fact no visible damage was seen anywhere in the mechanism. The team is currently unable to explain the failure, other than to say that the stresses may have been so great that the plastic deformed enough that the gears were no longer meshed tightly.

This isn’t the first time we’ve checked in with the team at [Gear Down For What?], just a few months ago they impressed us by lifting an anvil with one of their printed mechanisms. They’re also not the only ones curious to find out just how far 3D printed plastic can go.

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3D Printed Gearbox Lifts An Anvil With Ease

How strong can you make a 3D-printed gearbox. Would you believe strong enough to lift an anvil? [Gear Down For What?] likes testing the limits of 3D printed gearboxes. Honestly, we’re amazed.

3D printing has revolutionized DIY fabrication. But one problem normally associated with 3D printed parts is they can be quite weak unless designed and printed carefully.

Using a whole roll of filament, minus a few grams, [Gear Down For What?] printed out a big planetary gear box with a ratio of 160:1 and added some ball bearings and using a drill as a crank. Setting it up on a hoist, he started testing what it could lift. First it lifted a 70 lb truck tire and then another without any issues. It then went on to lift a 120 lb anvil. So then the truck tires were added back on, lifting a combined weight of 260 lb without the gearbox breaking a sweat.

This is pretty amazing! There have been things like functional 3D-printed car jacks made in the past, however 3D-printed gear teeth are notoriously easily broken unless designed properly. We wonder what it would take to bring this gearbox to the breaking point. If you have a spare roll of filament and some ball bearings, why not give it go yourself? STL files can be found here on Thingiverse.

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Converting a Robotic Motor For Lego Blocks

The Internet has brought a lot of advantage to life, not the least of which is access to really cheap electronic parts. [KarelK166] was buying cheap geared motors for projects, but they didn’t easily work with Lego blocks. He found an easy way to adapt them and–lucky for us–decided to share.

The process is pretty simple. The gearbox has two screws and an elastic band holding it together. Once the gears are exposed, you can drill a hole in two of them with a 4.8mm drill bit. This might take a little practice since the gear needs to hold still, but you also don’t want to crush the plastic teeth. You also need to enlarge a hole in the casing, but that’s easier to clamp down in a vise.

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Hacked Car Axle Yields Custom 90° Gearbox

Need a sturdy angle gearbox to handle power transmission for your next big project? Why not harvest a rear axle from a car and make one yourself?

When you think about it, the axle of a rear-wheel drive vehicle is really just a couple of 90° gearboxes linked together internally, and a pretty sturdy assembly that’s readily available for free or on the cheap. [Donn DIY]’s need for a gearbox to run a mower lead him to a boneyard for the raw material. The video below shows some truly impressive work with that indispensable tool of hardware hackers, the angle grinder. Not only does he amputate one of the half axles with it, he actually creates almost perfect splines on the remaining shortened shaft. Such work is usually done on a milling machine with a dividing head and an end mill, but [DonnDIY]’s junkyard approach worked great. Just goes to show how much you can accomplish with what you’ve got when you have no choice.

We’re surprised to not see any of [DonnDIY]’s projects featured here before, as he seems to have quite a body of hacks built up. We hope to feature some more of his stuff soon, but in the meantime, you can always check out some of the perils and pitfalls of automotive differentials.

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Customize Your Ratios with a 3D-Printed Gearbox

Small DC motors are easy to find — you can harvest dozens from old printers and copiers. You might even get a few with decent gearboxes too. But will you get exactly the motor with exactly the gearing your project needs? Unlikely, but you can always just print a gearbox to get exactly what you need.

There’s nothing fancy about [fortzero]’s gearboxes. The motors are junk bin specials, and the gears are all simple spur gears 3D-printed from PLA. There are four gears in the train, each with a 2:1 reduction, giving a 16:1 overall ratio. The gears ride on brass shafts that are press-fit into the housing, and there’s not a bearing in sight — just a few washers to keep the gears spaced apart and plenty of grease. Despite the simplicity, the gearboxes turned out to be pretty capable, lifting a 3.5 kg load. The design files are available and should make it easy for you to get just the ratio you want for the motor you have.

Of course more complicated gearboxes are possible with a 3D printer, including a split-harmonic planetary gear, or a strain wave gear using a timing belt. No 3D printer? No problem! Just build a LEGO gearbox.

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Unique Planetary Gearbox can be Custom Printed for Steppers

Stepper motors are a staple in all sorts of projects, but it’s often the case that a gearbox is needed, especially for applications like the linear drives in CNC machines and 3D printers. In those mechanisms, a high-torque, low backlash gearbox might be just the thing, and a 3D printable split planetary harmonic drive for the popular NEMA 17 motors would be even better.

Right up front, we’ll say that we’re skeptical that any plastic gearbox can stay as backlash free as [SirekSBurom] claims his creation is. But we can see the benefits of the design, and it has some nice features. First off, of course, is that it’s entirely 3D printed, except for a few screws. That it mates perfectly with a NEMA 17 motor is a really nice feature, too, and with the design up on Thingiverse it shouldn’t be too tough to scale it up and down accordingly. The videos below show you the theory: the stepper drives a sun gear with two planet gears orbiting, each of which engages a fixed ring of 56 teeth, and an output ring of 58 teeth. Each revolution of the planets around the fixed ring rotates the output ring by one tooth, leading to almost 100:1 reduction.

We think the ‘harmonic’ designation on this gearbox is a little of a misnomer, since the defining feature of a harmonic drive seems to be the periodic deformation of a flex spline, as we saw in this 3D-printed strain wave gear. But we see the resemblance to a harmonic drive, and we’ll admit this beastie is a little hard to hang a name tag on. Whatever you call it, it’s pretty cool and could be a handy tool for all kinds of builds.

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Safely Remove Drill Chuck; Receive Motor, Gearbox, and Clutch

There’s a treasure trove of usefulness inside of an electric drill. [Steven Dufresne], Hackaday writer and the mad scientist behind Rimstar.org, kindly documented how to safely and reliably remove the chuck from a drill motor. You may think this is easy, but once in a while you’ll come across a drill determined to hold onto all its bits. We certainly were entertained by the lengths [Steven] went to in the video below to get a Black and Decker to give up its chuck.

An understanding of how the chuck and gearbox are connected, combined with the right tools and a bit of force, gets you a motor, gears and gearbox, and a clutch. There’s not much left in the drill after that, and you can put some or all of those components to new use — like using them for the drive system of a BB-8 Droid.

Many projects (like this walking scooter) make use of cordless drills as motor sources. Being able to skip the chuck in order to interface directly to the shaft is useful for those projects where the drill is at least a semi-permanent part of the build. Ask your friends, neighbors, and at work. Cheap cordless drills and screw guns have been around for a long time. It’s usually the batteries that go and many people have the drills lying around and will be happy to part with them knowing you’re going to do something awesome with them.

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