Tricky 3D Printed Joinery Problem? Give Heat Staking A Try

When you just can’t 3D print something as a monolithic part, you’re going to have to join pieces together. In such cases, most of us instinctively include threaded inserts or nut slots in the design, or even reach for a tube of CA glue. But perhaps you should be thinking more along the lines of heat-staking your printed parts together.

Although you might not be familiar with the term, if you’ve looked inside anything made out of plastic, chances are good you’ve seen a heat-staked joint. As [Richard Sewell] explains, a heat-staked joint is nothing more than the classic mortise-and-tenon made from plastic where the tenon stands proud of the joint face so it can be softened with heat. The tenon spreads out so the joint can’t be pulled apart. A variant on the theme includes a mortise with a generous chamfer so the melted tenon can spread out, providing not only extra resistance to pull-out be also a more flush surface.

To melt the joint, [Richard] simply uses a soldering iron and a little pressure. To spread out both the heat and the force a bit, he uses the barrel of the iron rather than a tip, although we could see a broad chisel tip being used for smaller joints. Either way, a layer of Kapton tape helps keep the iron from getting gunked up with melted plastic. [Richard] lists a host of advantages for this kind of plastic joinery, including eliminating the need for additional hardware. But we think the best feature of this joint is that by avoiding monolithic prints, each aspect of a part can have its layer lines optimized.

While it probably isn’t applicable everywhere, heat-staking looks like a technique to keep in mind. We’d love to see [Stefan] over at CNC Kitchen do some of his testing magic on these joints, like he did for threaded inserts.

This Laser-Cut One-Piece Wedge Tenon Locks Wood Joints Tight

Woodworkers have always been very clever about making strong and attractive joints — think of the strength of a mortise and tenon, or the artistry of a well-made dovetail. These joints have been around for ages and can be executed with nothing more than chisels and a hand saw, plus a lot of practice, of course. But new tools bring new challenges and new opportunities in joinery, like this interesting “hammer joint” that can be made with a laser cutter.

This interesting joint comes to us from [Jiskar Schmitz], who designed it for quick, solid, joints without the need for glue or fasteners. It’s a variation on a wedged mortise and tenon joint, which strengthens the standard version of the joint by using a wedge to expand the tenon outward to make firm contact with the walls of the tenon.

The hammer joint takes advantage of the thin kerf of a laser cutter and its ability to make blind cuts to produce a tenon with a built-in wedge. The wedge is attached to a slot in the tenon by a couple of thin connectors and stands proud of the top of the tenon. The tenon is inserted into a through-hole mortise, and a firm hammer blow on the wedge breaks it free and drives it into the slot. This expands the tenon and locks it tightly into the mortise, creating a fairly bulletproof joint. The video below tells the tale.

While the hammer joint seems mainly aimed at birch plywood, [Jiskar] mentions testing it in other materials, such as bamboo, MDF, and even acrylic, although wood seems to be the best application. [Jiskar] also mentions a potential improvement: the addition of a ratchet and pawl shape between the wedge and the slot in the tenon, which might serve to lock the wedge down and prevent it from backing out.

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Exploring Woodworking Mysteries With Strain Gauges And Raspberry Pi

If you’re not a woodworker, you might not have heard of the “45-degree rule.” It goes like this: a clamp exerts a force that radiates out across a triangular region of the wood that forms a right angle — 45 degrees on each side of the clamp’s point of contact. So, to ensure that force is applied as evenly as possible across the entire glue joint, clamps should be spaced so that these force triangles overlap. It’s a handy rule, especially for the woodworker looking to justify the purchase of more clamps; you can never have too many clamps. But is it valid?

Myth busted?

The short answer that [ari kardasis] comes up with in the video below is… sort of. With the help of a wonderfully complex array of strain gauges and a Raspberry Pi, he found that the story isn’t so simple. Each strain gauge lives in a 3D printed bracket that spaces the sensors evenly along the wood under test, with a lot of work going into making the test setup as stiff as possible with steel reinforcement. There were some problems with a few strain gauges, but once he sorted that out, the test setup went into action.

[ari] tested clamping force transmission through pieces of wood of various widths, using both hardwoods and softwoods. In general, he found that the force pattern is much broader than the 45-degree rule suggests — he got over 60 degrees in some cases. Softwoods seemed to have a somewhat more acute pattern than hardwoods, but still greater than the rulebook says. At the end of the day, it seems like clamp spacing of two board widths will suffice for hardwoods, while 1.5 or so will do for softwoods. Either way, that means fewer clamps are needed.

A lot of woodworking is seat-of-the-pants stuff, so it’s nice to see a more rigorous analysis like this. It reminds us a lot of some of the experiments [Matthia Wandel] has done, like load testing various types of woods and glues.

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The Nuts And Bolts Of Nuts And Bolts

If you’re a mechanical engineer, the material covered in this video on the basics of bolted joints probably won’t cover any new ground. On the other hand, if you aren’t a mechanical engineer but still need to bring a little of that discipline to your projects, there’s a lot to learn here.

If there’s one takeaway lesson from [The Efficient Engineer]’s excellent examination of the strength of bolted joints, it’s the importance of preload. Preload is the tensile force created by tightening a bolt or a screw, which provides the clamping force that keeps the joined members together. That seems pretty self-obvious, but there’s more to the story, especially with joints that are subject to cycles or loading and unloading. Such joints tend to suffer from fatigue failure, but proper preloading on the bolts in such a joint mitigates fatigue failure because the bolts are only taking up a small fraction of the total cyclical force on the joint. In other words, make sure you pay attention to factory torque specs.

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Harmonic Drive Uses Compliant Mechanism To Slim Down

[Levi Janssen] has a secret: he doesn’t like harmonic drives. But rather than abandon the torque-amplifying transmission completely, he decided to see about improving them using 3D-printed compliant mechanisms.

For the uninitiated, harmonic drives, also known as strain-wave gears, are a compact, high-torque gearbox that has become popular with “robotic dog” makers and other roboticists. The idea is to have a rigid, internally-toothed outer ring nested around an externally-toothed, flexible cup. A wave generator rotates within the inside cup, stretching it so that it meshes with the outer ring. The two gears differ by only a couple of teeth, meaning that very high gear ratios can be achieved, which makes them great for the joints of robot legs.

[Levi]’s problem with the harmonic drive is that due to the depth of the flexible spline cup, compactness is not among its virtues. His idea is to couple the flex spline to the output of the drive through a flat spring, one that allows flexion as the wave generator rotates but transmits torque efficiently. The entire prototype is 3D-printed, except for the wave generator bearings and stepper motor, and put to the test.

As the video below shows after the excellent introduction to harmonic drives, the concept works, but it’s not without its limitations. Even lightly loaded, the drive made some unpleasant crunching sounds as the PLA springs gave out. We could easily see that being replaced with, say, a steel spring, either machined or cut on a water-jet machine. That might solve the most obvious problem and make [Levi]’s dream of a compact harmonic drive a reality. Of course, we have seen pretty compact strain-wave gears before.

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Take This Cylindrical Coupler Design For A Spin

We’re not exactly sure what kind of shenanigans [Conrad Brindle] gets himself into, but apparently it often requires cylindrical couplings to attach 3D printed parts to each other. He found himself designing and redesigning this type of connector so often that he decided to just make a parametric version of it that could be scaled to whatever dimensions are necessary for that particular application.

In the video after the break, [Concrad] explains the concept behind the coupler and how he designed it. Put simply, the tabs inside of the coupler are designed to grab onto each other once the coupler is spun. When he demonstrates the action, you can see that both sides of the coupler are pulled together tightly with a satisfying little snap, but then can be easily removed just by rotating them back in the opposite direction.

The nature of desktop 3D printing means that the female side of the connection requires support when printing, and depending on your printer, that might mean a relatively rough mating surface. [Conrad] notes that you’ll need to experiment a bit to find how small your particular machine can print out the design before things get too gummed up.

We can see how this would be useful for some applications, but if you need a printed joint that can handle a decent amount of torque before giving up the ghost, you might want to look into (mis)using one half of a spider coupling.

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Cable Driven Robotic Joint

Even the oldest of mechanisms remain useful in modern technology. [Skyentific] has been messing with robotic joints for quite a while, and demonstrated an interesting way to use a pulley system in a robotic joint with quite a bit of mechanical advantage and zero backlash.

Inspired by the LIMS2-AMBIDEX robotic arm, the mechanism is effectively two counteracting sets of pulley, running of the same cable reel, with rollers allowing them to act around the bend of the joint. Increasing the mechanical advantage of the joint is simply a matter of adding pulleys and rollers. If this is difficult to envision, don’t work as [Skyentific] does an excellent job of explaining how the mechanism works using CAD models in the video below.

The mechanism is back drivable, which would allow it to be used for dynamic control using a motor with an encoder for position feedback. This could be a useful feature in walking robots that need to respond to dynamically changing terrain to stay upright, or in arms that need to push or pull without damaging anything. With properly tensioned cables, there is no backlash in the mechanism. Unfortunately cables can stretch over time, so it is something that needs to be considered when using this in a project.

Pulley systems have been with us for a very long time, and remain a very handy tool to have in your mechanical toolbox. A similar arrangement is used in the Da Vinci surgical robots to control their tiny manipulators. It would also be interesting to see this used in the already impressive robots of [James Bruton]. Continue reading “Cable Driven Robotic Joint”