3D-printed gearboxes are always an interesting design challenge, especially if you want to make them compact. [ZeroBacklash] created a little strain wave gearbox (harmonic drive) for when you want to trade speed for torque on NEMA 17 stepper motors.
Strain wave gears work by deforming a stationary flexible spline into an ellipse so the teeth engage the internal teeth of the output spline. Add a couple of extra teeth on the output side, and you get a high-reduction gearbox with fewer parts and reduced volume than equivalent spur gearing. Keeping the flexible spline stationery is achieved by making half of it engage with a stationary spline with the same number of teeth.
In this case, there are 60 teeth on the input side and 62 on the output, giving a gear ratio of 30:1. The flexible spline is deformed using a set of bearing balls and an elliptical plug on the shaft of the motor. It makes for a compact design that matches the frontal size of the stepper motor and is only about 27 mm long. [ZeroBacklash] has not released any design files, but the idea should be simple to replicate.
We’ve featured a couple of 3D printed harmonic drives of different sizes, but they usually use a pair of ball bearings as the wave generators, which doesn’t lend itself well to smaller designs.
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.
Continue reading “3D Printed Strain-Wave Gearbox Turns Up The Torque”
Actuators that are powerful, accurate, compact, and cheap are like unicorns. They don’t exist. Yet this is what [3DprintedLife] needed for a robotic camera arm, so he developed a custom 3D printed high torque strain wave gearbox to be powered by a cheap NEMA23 stepper motor.
Strain wave gears, otherwise known as harmonic drives, are not an uncommon topic here on Hackaday. The work by deforming a flexible toothed spline with a rotating elliptical part, which engages with the internal teeth of an outer spline. The outer spline has a few more teeth, causing the inner spline to rotate slowly compared to the input, achieving very high gear ratios. Usually, the flexible spline is quite long to allow it to flex at one end while still having a rigid mounting surface at the other end. [3DprintedLife] got around this by creating a separate rigid output spline, which also meshes with the flexible spline. Continue reading “A High Torque 3D Printed Harmonic Drive”
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.
This certainly isn’t the first strain wave gearset we’ve brought you, more than one 3D printed project has graced these pages. We’ve even brought you a Lego version. Continue reading “A Compact Strain Wave Gear Assembly”
In most mechanical systems, metal gears that bend are a bad thing. But not so for strain wave gearing, which is designed to take advantage of a metal gear flexing to achieve an action much like planetary gears. The fun isn’t limited to metal anymore, though, if you 3D print a strain wave gear like this.
Strain-wave gearing is nothing new – it was invented in 1957 and has traveled to the moon on the lunar rover. And you may recall [Kristine Panos]’ recent article on a LEGO strain wave gear, which makes it easy to visualize how they work. She also has a great description of how the flex spline, wave generator, and circular spline interact, so we’ll spare those details here. [Simon Merret]’s interpretation of the strain wave gear is very simple and similar to other 3D-printed versions, except that he uses an inside-out timing belt as the flex spline. The wave generator is just an arm with a roller bearing at each end, and despite needing a few tweaks the gear does an admirable job.
Simon is reaching out for help in getting this gear ready for use where the industrial versions see frequent application – the first and second degrees of freedom of robotic arms. If you’ve got any ideas, head over to his project page on Hackaday.io and pitch in.
Continue reading “3D-Printed Strain Wave Gear Needs Your Help”
We are continually amazed by the things people do with LEGO and Technics, especially those that require incredible engineering skill. There’s an entire community based around building Great Ball Contraptions, which are LEGO Rube Goldberg machines that move tiny basketballs and soccer balls from one place to another. Except for a few rules about the input and output, the GBC horizons are boundless.
Famed GBC creator [Akiyuki] recently built a GBC module that’s designed to show the movement of strain wave gear systems. These types of gear systems are used in industrial applications where precision is vital. Strain wave gears are capable of reducing gear ratios in a small footprint.
Continue reading “LEGO Strain Wave Gear Is Easy On The Eyes”
Magnetic gears are surprisingly unknown and used only in a few niche applications. Yet, their popularity is on the rise, and they are one of the slickest solutions for transmitting mechanical energy, converting rotational torque and RPM. Sooner or later, you’re bound to stumble upon them somewhere, so let’s check them out to see what they are and what they are good for.
Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: What Are Magnetic Gears (Good For)?”