3D Printed Strain-Wave Gearbox Turns Up The Torque

3D printers are good for a lot of things, but making parts for power transmission doesn’t seem to be one of them. Oh sure, some light-duty gears and timing belt sprockets will work just fine when printed, but oftentimes squooshed plastic parts are just too compliant for serious power transmission use.

But that’s not a hard and fast rule. In fact, this 3D-printed strain-wave transmission relies on the flexibility of printed parts to work its torque amplification magic. In case you haven’t been briefed, strain-wave gearing uses a flexible externally toothed spline nested inside an internally toothed stationary gear. Inside the flexible spline is a wave generator, which is just a symmetrical cam that deforms the spline so that it engages with the outside gear. The result is a high ratio gear train that really beefs up the torque applied to the wave generator.

It took a couple of prototypes for [Brian Bocken] to dial in his version of the strain-wave drive. The PLA he used for the flexible spline worked, but wasn’t going to be good for the long haul. A second version using TPU proved better, but improvements to the motor mount were needed. The final version proved to pack a punch in the torque department, enough to move a car. Check it out in the video below.

Strain-wave gears have a lot of applications, especially in robotic arms and legs — very compact versions with the motor built right in would be great here. If you’re having trouble visualizing how they work, maybe a Lego version will clear things up.

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Turn Your Lathe Into A Shaper

Ingenuity is the name of the game with manual machine tools. You often have to get creative to use the tools you have to create the part you want. That’s exactly what happened when [John] needed to cut internal splines and keyways using his lathe.

Lathes are usually used to turn metal, but internal keyways and splines are¬†operations often performed with a broach. An older tool called a shaper would be perfect here, but shapers are relatively rare these days — or are they? There are many examples of shaper attachments for lathes. These are human-powered devices that scrape a bit of metal off each pass. The lathe itself is used to keep the workpiece in place and move the tool in a repeatable way.

Rather than create a shaper jig from scratch, [John] decided to use his compound slide as the shaper slide itself. He removed the compound slide lead screw, which allowed the compound to slide freely.¬†He then fabricated a double hinged bar and bolted this to the compound slide. Moving the bar causes the slide to move. Just add a cutting tool, and you’re ready to cut a keyway. Add an indexing plate, and you’re ready to cut a spline. You can see the tool in action after the break.

If you want to learn more about lathes and what goes into them, you can learn how to build one from scratch.

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Printed Adapter Teaches An Old Ninja New Tricks

Do you like change for the sake of change? Are you incapable of leaving something in a known and working state, and would rather fiddle endlessly with it? Are you unconcerned about introducing arbitrary compatibility issues into your seemingly straight-forward product line? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, have we got the job for you! You can become a product engineer, and spend your days confounding customers who labor under the unrealistic expectation that a product they purchased in the past would still work with seemingly identical accessories offered by the same company a few years down the line. If interested please report to the recruitment office, located in the darkest depths of Hell.

A 2D representation of the adapter in Fusion 360

Until the world is rid of arbitrary limitations in consumer hardware, we’ll keep chronicling the exploits of brave warriors like [Alex Whittemore], who take such matters into their own hands. When he realized that the blades for his newer model Ninja food processor didn’t work on the older motor simply because the spline was a different size, he set out to design and print an adapter to re-unify the Ninja product line.

[Alex] tried taking a picture of the spline and importing that into Fusion 360, but in the end found it was more trouble than it was worth. As is the case with many printed part success stories, he ended up spending some intimate time with a pair of calipers to get the design where he wanted it. Once broken down into its core geometric components (a group of cylinders interconnected with arches), it didn’t take as long as he feared. In the end the adapter may come out a bit tighter than necessary depending on the printer, but that’s nothing a few swift whacks with a rubber mallet can’t fix.

This project is a perfect example of a hack that would be much harder (but not impossible) without having access to a 3D printer. While you could create this spline adapter by other means, we certainly wouldn’t want to. Especially if you’re trying to make more than one of them. Small runs of highly-specialized objects is where 3D printing really shines.

This is an entry in Hackaday’s

Repairs You Can Print contest

The twenty best projects will receive $100 in Tindie credit, and for the best projects by a Student or Organization, we’ve got two brand-new Prusa i3 MK3 printers. With a printer like that, you’ll be breaking stuff around the house just to have an excuse to make replacement parts.