For about as long as hackers and makers have been using desktop 3D printers, there have been critics that say the plastic parts they produce aren’t good for much else than toys and decorative pieces. They claim that printed parts are far too fragile to be of any practical use, and are better suited as prototype placeholders until the real parts can be injection molded or milled. Sure. Try telling that to [Engineering Nonsense].
He recently wrote in (as did a few other people, incidentally) to share the latest version of his incredible 3D printed remote control car, and seeing it tearing around in the video after the break, “fragile” certainly isn’t a word we’d use to describe it. Though it didn’t get that way overnight. The Tarmo4 represents a year of development, and as the name suggests, is the fourth version of the design.
We know the purists out there will complain that the car isn’t entirely 3D printed, but honestly, it’s hard to imagine you could get much closer than this. Outside of the electronics, fasteners, tires, and shocks, the Tarmo4 is all plastic. That includes the gearbox and drive shafts. [Engineering Nonsense] even mentions in the video that he’s not happy with the tires he’s found on the market, and that they too will likely get replaced with printed versions in the future.
While the car is certainly an incredible technical achievement, what’s perhaps just as impressive is the community that’s developed around it in such a relatively short time. Towards the end of the video he shows off a number of custom builds based on previous iterations of the Tarmo. We’re sure that interest from the community has played a part in pushing the design forward, and it’s always good to see a one-off project become something bigger. Hopefully we’ll be seeing even more from this passionate community in the near future.
Just like the Open R/C Project, Tarmo proves that 3D printed parts are more than a novelty. If these diminutive powerhouses can run with printed gears and drive shafts, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when you run off the parts for your next project.
Scope creep is a real pain in the real world, but for projects of passion it can have some interesting consequences. [rctestflight] was playing around with 3D printed rover gearboxes, which morphed into a 3D printed tank build.
[rctestflight]’s previous autonomous rover project had problems with the cheap geared motors, and he started experimenting with his own gearbox designs to use with lower RPM / Kv brushless drone motors. The tank came about because he wanted a simple vehicle to test his design. “Simple” went out the window pretty quickly and the final product was completely 3D printed except for the fasteners, axles, bearings, and electronics.
The tracks and gears are noisy, but it works quite well. On outdoor tests [rctestflight] did find that the tracks were prone to hooking on vines and branches, which in one case caused it to throw a track after the aluminium shaft bent. An Ardurover navigation system was added and with a 32 Ah battery was able to run autonomously for an entire day and there was surprisingly little wear on 3D printed gearbox and tracks afterward. All the STL files are up on Thingiverse, but [rctestflight] recommends waiting for an upcoming update because he discovered flaws in the design after filming the video after the break.
It’s often been our experience that some of the most impressive projects are the passion builds, the ones where the builder really put in their all and obsessed over every detail. Even if they don’t always have a practical application, it’s impossible to look at the final product and not respect the accomplishment.
Case in point, this absolutely incredible 3D printed model of a sequential “dogbox” transmission created by [Indeterminate Design]. All of the STL files and a complete bill of materials are available for anyone brave enough to take on the challenge. It might never be mounted to a vehicle and driven around the track, but you can still flick through the gears and watch the complex gearing do its thing.
Even if you don’t want to necessarily build the model itself, [Indeterminate Design] takes you through the concepts behind this unique transmission and how it differs from the sort of gearboxes us lowly commuter drivers are familiar with. He’s even nice enough to explain what a dogbox is.
Put simply, this type of transmission allows the driver to simply move the gear change forward and backwards to step through the gears like in a video game. This prevents you from having to navigate an H-pattern gear shift while dealing with all the other stresses of competition driving. Watching it in action, you can certainly see the appeal.
If you prefer your printed gearboxes to be of the practical variety, we’ve certainly seen plenty of those as well. They’re perfect for next time you need to move an anvil around the shop.
Interfacing a shaft to a 3D printed gear doesn’t have to be tricky. [Tlalexander] demonstrated a solution that uses one half of a spider coupling (or jaw coupling) to create an effective modular attachment. The picture above (and this older link) shows everything you need to know: the bottom of the coupling is mounted to the shaft, and a corresponding opening is modeled into the the 3D printed part. Slide the two together, and the result is a far sturdier solution than trying to mate a 3D printed gear directly to a motor shaft with a friction fit or a screw. This solution isn’t necessarily limited to attaching gears either, any suitable 3D printed part could be interfaced to a shaft in this way.
These couplings are readily available, and fortunately for hobbyists, come in sizes specifically designed for common stepper motors like NEMA 17 and NEMA 23. Ironically, these couplings are often used when building custom 3D printers for those same reasons. With this method interfacing anything at all to a motor shaft becomes mostly a matter of modeling a matching hole out of the part to be 3D printed. One coupling even provides two such attachments, since only one of the two sides is used.
Are your aluminum extrusions too straight? The Crimson Axlef*cker can help you out. It’s a remarkable 3D printed, 4-stage, 125:1 reduction gearbox driven by a brushless motor. Designer [jlittle988] decided to test an early prototype to destruction and while he was expecting something to break, he didn’t expect it to twist the 2020 aluminum extrusion shaft before it did. We suppose the name kind of stuck after that.
Between projects like this one and other gearboxes like this cycloidal drive, it’s clear that custom gearbox design is yet another door that 3D printing has thrown wide open, allowing hobbyists to push developments that wouldn’t have been feasible even just a few years earlier.
It seems like modern roboticists have decided to have a competition to see which group can develop the most terrifying robot ever invented. As of this writing the leading candidate seems to be the robot that can fuel itself by “eating” organic matter. We can only hope that the engineers involved will decide not to flesh that one out completely. Anyway, if we can get past the horrifying and/or uncanny valley-type situations we find ourselves in when looking at these robots, it turns out they have a lot to teach us about the theories behind a lot of complicated electric motors.
This research paper (gigantic PDF warning) focuses on the construction methods behind MIT’s cheetah robot. It has twelve degrees of freedom and uses a number of exceptionally low-cost modular actuators as motors to control its four legs. Compared to other robots of this type, this helps them jump a major hurdle of cost while still retaining an impressive amount of mobility and control. They were able to integrate a brushless motor, a smart ESC system with feedback, and a planetary gearbox all into the motor itself. That alone is worth the price of admission!
Strain wave gearing is a clever way to produce a high-efficiency, high ratio gearbox within a small space. It involves an outer fixed ring of gear teeth and an inner flexible ring of teeth which are made to mesh with the outer by means of an oval rotor distorting the ring. They aren’t cheap, so [Leo Vu] has had a go at producing some 3D-printable strain wave gearboxes that you could use in your robotic projects.
He’s created his gearbox in three ratios, 1:31, 1:21 and 1:15. It’s not the most miniature of devices at 145mm in diameter and weighing well over a kilogram, but we can still imagine plenty of exciting applications for it. We’d be curious as to how tough a 3D printed gear can be, but we’d expect you’ll be interested in it for modest-sized robots rather than Formula One cars. There’s a video featuring the gearbox which we’ve placed below the break.