3D Printed Rigid Chain Mechanism

One of the major advantages of 3D printing is the ability to quickly test and then iterate on mechanical designs. [gzumwalt] does a lot of this, and has recently been working on various versions of a rigid chain mechanism. (Video, embedded below.)

A rigid-chain mechanism is one way of fitting a long beam into a small box. It works similar to a zipper, meshing two separate “chains” with specially teeth designed to form a rigid beam. Due to clearances between the teeth, the beam tends to be a bit floppy. [gzumwalt] made various sizes of the mechanism, and also reduced the clearances on later versions to reduce the flop. He also integrated it into a cool “snake in a basket” automaton (second video below) by adding a reversible gearbox and a binary snap-action switch.

One possible use for this type of mechanism is for autonomously assembling long structures in space, as one of the 2017 Hackaday Prize finalist projects, ZBeam, proposed.

[gzumwalt] has not made the files available for download yet, but you can keep and eye on his Instructables pages for updates. He got a number of fascinating 3D printed devices already available, like a domino laying machine or a WiFi controlled rover.

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