Studying The Finer Points Of 3D Printed Gears

[How to Mechatronics] on YouTube endeavored to create a comprehensive guide comparing the various factors that affect the performance of 3D printed gears. Given the numerous variables involved, this is a challenging task, but it aims to shed light on the differences. The guide focuses on three types of gears: the spur gear with straight teeth parallel to the gear axis, the helical gear with teeth at an angle, and the herringbone gear, which combines two helical gear designs. Furthermore, the guide delves into how printing factors such as infill density impact strength, and it tests various materials, including PLA, carbon fiber PLA, ABS, PETG, ASA, and nylon, to determine the best options.

The spur gear is highly efficient due to the minimal contact path when the gears are engaged. However, the sudden contact mechanism, as the teeth engage, creates a high impulse load, which can negatively affect durability and increase noise. On the other hand, helical gears have a more gradual engagement, resulting in reduced noise and smoother operation. This leads to an increased load-carrying capacity, thus improving durability and lifespan.

It’s worth noting that multiple teeth are involved in power transmission, with the gradual engagement and disengagement of the tooth being spread out over more teeth than the spur design. The downside is that there is a significant sideways force due to the inclined angle of the teeth, which must be considered in the enclosing structure and may require an additional bearing surface to handle it. Herringbone gears solve this problem by using two helical gears thrusting in opposite directions, cancelling out the force.

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Clipper Windpower: Solutions In Search Of Problems

The first modern wind turbines designed for bulk electricity generation came online gradually throughout the 80s and early 90s. By today’s standards these turbines are barely recognizable. They were small, had low power ratings often in the range of tens to hundreds of kilowatts, and had tiny blades that had to rotate extremely quickly.

When comparing one of these tiny machines next to a modern turbine with a power rating of 10 or more megawatts with blades with lengths on the order of a hundred meters, one might wonder if there is anything in common at all. In fact, plenty of turbines across the decades share fundamental similarities including a three-blade design, a fairly simple gearbox, and a single electric generator. While more modern turbines are increasingly using direct-drive systems that eliminate the need for a gearbox and the maintenance associated with them, in the early 2000s an American wind turbine manufacturer named Clipper Windpower went in the opposite direction, manufacturing wind turbines with an elaborate, expensive, and heavy gearbox that supported four generators in each turbine. This ended up sealing the company’s fate only a few years after the turbines were delivered to wind farms.

Some history: the largest terrestrial wind turbines were approaching the neighborhood of 2 megawatts, but some manufacturers were getting to these milestones essentially by slapping on larger blades and generators to existing designs rather than re-designing their turbines from the ground up to host these larger components. This was leading to diminishing returns, as well as an increased amount of mechanical issues in the turbines themselves, and it was only a matter of time before the existing designs wouldn’t support this trend further. Besides increased weight and other mechanical stresses on the structure itself, another major concern was finding (and paying for) cranes with enough capacity to hoist these larger components to ever-increasing heights, especially in the remote locations that wind farms are typically located. And cranes aren’t needed just for construction; they are also used whenever a large component like a generator or blade needs to be repaired or replaced. Continue reading “Clipper Windpower: Solutions In Search Of Problems”

It’s Easy To Make Gears Out Of Wood

Typically, most of the gears we use in our life are made of plastic or metal. However, wood gears can do just fine in some simple roles, and they’re utterly pleasant to make, as this video from [botto bie] demonstrates.

With steady hands, it’s easy to make basic gears by hand with basic tools and a printer. You just need the help of a spur gear generator to produce the required outlines for you to follow. [botto bie] uses the online tool from Evolvent Design which will spit out DXF or SVG files as you desire.

Basic woodworking techniques are used to produce the gears, and they prove simple and effective. A rack is produced by first applying a involute tooth template with paper to a rectangular piece of wood. A series of circular and table jigsaw operations are then used to cut out the required material to produce the rack. A variety of toothed gears are produced in a similar fashion.

If you’re lacking a CNC machine or a 3D printer, this can be a great way to experiment. Bonus points if you use your wooden geartrain as part of some kind of exciting mechanism, like an automated marble run or musical contraption. Video after the break.

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Advanced 3D Printing Tips

One of the best things about hanging around with other hackers is you hear about the little tricks they use for things like 3D printing. But with the Internet, you can overhear tips from people you’ll probably never meet, like [3D Printer Academy]. His recent video has a little bit of a click-bait title (“10 Secret 3D Printing Tricks…“) but when we watched it, we did see several cool ideas. Of course, you probably know at least some of the ten tips, but it is still interesting to see what he’s been up to, which you can do in the video below.

At one point he mentions 11 tips, but the title has 10 and we had to stretch to get to that number since some of them have some overlap. For example, several involve making printed threads. However, he also shows some C-clips, a trick to add walls for strength, and printing spur gears. Of course, some of these, like the gears, require specific tools, but many of them are agnostic.

Some of the tips are about selecting a particular infill pattern, which you’d think would be pretty obvious, but then again, your idea of what’s novel and what’s old hat might be different than ours. The explanation of how a print-in-place hinge works is pretty clear (even if it isn’t really a live hinge) and also applies to making chains to transfer power. We also thought the threaded containers were clever.

So if you can overlook the title and you don’t mind seeing a few tips you probably already know, you can probably take something away from the video. What’s your favorite “expert” trick? Let us know in the comments.

A lot of what we print tends to be enclosures and there are some good tips for those floating around. Of course, the value of tips vary based on your experience level. But if you are just starting out, you should check out [Bald Engineer]’s video of things he wished someone had told him when he started 3D printing.

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1950s Fighter Jet Air Computer Shows What Analog Could Do

Imagine you’re a young engineer whose boss drops by one morning with a sheaf of complicated fluid dynamics equations. “We need you to design a system to solve these equations for the latest fighter jet,” bossman intones, and although you groan as you recall the hell of your fluid dynamics courses, you realize that it should be easy enough to whip up a program to do the job. But then you remember that it’s like 1950, and that digital computers — at least ones that can fit in an airplane — haven’t been invented yet, and that you’re going to have to do this the hard way.

The scenario is obviously contrived, but this peek inside the Bendix MG-1 Central Air Data Computer reveals the engineer’s nightmare fuel that was needed to accomplish some pretty complex computations in a severely resource-constrained environment. As [Ken Shirriff] explains, this particular device was used aboard USAF fighter aircraft in the mid-50s, when the complexities of supersonic flight were beginning to outpace the instrumentation needed to safely fly in that regime. Thanks to the way air behaves near the speed of sound, a simple pitot tube system for measuring airspeed was no longer enough; analog computers like the MG-1 were designed to deal with these changes and integrate them into a host of other measurements critical to the pilot.

To be fair, [Ken] doesn’t do a teardown here, at least in the traditional sense. We completely understand that — this machine is literally stuffed full of a mind-boggling number of gears, cams, levers, differentials, shafts, and pneumatics. Taking it apart with the intention of getting it back together again would be a nightmare. But we do get some really beautiful shots of the innards, which reveal a lot about how it worked. Of particular interest are the torque-amplifying servo mechanism used in the pressure transducers, and the warped-plate cams used to finely adjust some of the functions the machine computes.

If it all sounds a bit hard to understand, you’re right — it’s a complex device. But [Ken] does his usual great job of breaking it down into digestible pieces. And luckily, partner-in-crime [CuriousMarc] has a companion video if you need some visual help. You might also want to read up on synchros, since this device uses a ton of them too.

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Cut Your Own Gears With This DIY Machine

You can buy gears off the shelf, of course, and get accurately machined parts exactly to your chosen specification. However, there’s something rugged and individualist about producing your own rotating components. [Maciej Nowak] demonstrates just how to produce your own gears with a homemade cutting tool.

The cutting tool for the job is an M16 machine tap, chosen for the smaller flutes compared to a hand tap. This makes it more suitable for cutting gears. It’s turned by a belt driven pulley, run by a small motor. The workpiece to be cut into a gear is then fed into the cutting tool by sliding on a linear bearing, with its position controlled by a threaded rod. The rod can be slowly turned by hand to adjust the workpiece position, to allow the gear teeth to be cut to an appropriate depth.

The method of action is simple. As the tap turns it not only cuts into the workpiece, but rotates it on a bearing as well. By this method, it cuts regular teeth into the full circumference, creating a gear. Obviously, this method doesn’t create highly-complex tooth shapes for ultimate performance, but it’s more than capable of creating usable brass and steel gears for various purposes. The same tool can be used to cut many different sizes of gear to produce a whole geartrain. As a bonus, the resulting gears can be used with M16 threads serving as worm gears, thanks to the pitch of the tap.

If you find yourself needing to produce tough metal gears on the regular, you might find such a tool very useful. Alternatively, we’ve explored methods of producing your own sprockets too, both in a tidy manner, and in a more haphazard fashion. Video after the break.

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Weasley Clock For Magically Low Cost

For those unfamiliar with the details of the expansive work of fiction of Harry Potter, it did introduce a few ideas that have really stuck in the collective conscious. Besides containing one of the few instances of time travel done properly and introducing a fairly comprehensive magical physics system, the one thing specifically that seems to have had the most impact around here is the Weasley family clock, which shows the location of several of the characters. We’ve seen these built before in non-magical ways, but this latest build seeks to drop the price tag on one substantially.

To do this, the build relies on several low-cost cloud computing solutions and smartphone apps to solve the location-finding problem. The app is called OwnTracks and is an open-source location tracker which can report data to any of a number of services. [Simon] sends the MQTT data to a cloud-based solution called HiveMQCloud, but you could send it anywhere in principle. With the location tracking handled, he turns to some very low-cost Arduinos to control the stepper motors which point the clock hands to the correct locations on the face.

While the build does rely on a 3D printer for some of the internal workings of the clock, this does bring the cost down substantially when compared to other options. Especially when compared to this Weasley family clock which was built into a much larger piece of timekeeping equipment, having an option for a lower-cost location-tracking clock face like this one is certainly welcome.