It’s often been our experience that some of the most impressive projects are the passion builds, the ones where the builder really put in their all and obsessed over every detail. Even if they don’t always have a practical application, it’s impossible to look at the final product and not respect the accomplishment.
Case in point, this absolutely incredible 3D printed model of a sequential “dogbox” transmission created by [Indeterminate Design]. All of the STL files and a complete bill of materials are available for anyone brave enough to take on the challenge. It might never be mounted to a vehicle and driven around the track, but you can still flick through the gears and watch the complex gearing do its thing.
Even if you don’t want to necessarily build the model itself, [Indeterminate Design] takes you through the concepts behind this unique transmission and how it differs from the sort of gearboxes us lowly commuter drivers are familiar with. He’s even nice enough to explain what a dogbox is.
Put simply, this type of transmission allows the driver to simply move the gear change forward and backwards to step through the gears like in a video game. This prevents you from having to navigate an H-pattern gear shift while dealing with all the other stresses of competition driving. Watching it in action, you can certainly see the appeal.
If you prefer your printed gearboxes to be of the practical variety, we’ve certainly seen plenty of those as well. They’re perfect for next time you need to move an anvil around the shop.
What do you do if you want a robot with great mobility? Walking is hard, and wheels are good enough, especially if you use the ‘wheels within wheels’ Mecanum setup. But you need torque, too. That’s what makes this entry into the Hackaday Prize so fantastic. It’s a Mecanum wheel of sorts, with an integrated gear set that produces a phenomenal amount of torque using a small, cheap stepper motor.
The wheel itself if 3D printed and fully parametric, using nylon weed wacker filament for the treads. This allows the wheel to scoot back and forth like a Mecanum wheel, or at the very least like one of those hyper mobile wheeled robots you see from time to time. It goes backwards, forwards, and side to side, and also has a zero turn radius.
A 3D printed Mecanum wheel is great, but how on earth do you drive it? That problem is solved with this hybrid planetary/strain-wave 3D-printed gear set. [Daren] has created a very compact ‘single’ stage gear set that fits right on top of a stepper motor. It’s thin, flat, and has a gear reduction of about 66:1. That’s a lot of torque in a very small package. Both of these projects are combined, and together they represent a freaky wheel with a lot of torque.
Even though [Daren] doesn’t have a robot in mind for this build, these are most certainly the building blocks of a fantastic robot, and a great entry in the Hackaday Prize.
Cycloidal drives are fascinating pieces of hardware, and we’ve seen them showing up in part due to their suitability for 3D printing. The open source robot arm makers [Haddington Dynamics] are among those playing with a cycloidal drive concept, and tucked away in their August 2018 newsletter was a link they shared to a short but mesmerizing video of a prototype, which we’ve embedded below.
A cycloidal drive has some similarities to both planetary gearing and strain-wave gears. In the image shown, the green shaft is the input and its rotation causes an eccentric motion in the yellow cycloidal disk. The cycloidal disk is geared to a stationary outer ring, represented in the animation by the outer ring of grey segments. Its motion is transferred to the purple output shaft via rollers or pins that interface to the holes in the disk. Like planetary gearing, the output shaft rotates in the opposite direction to the input shaft. Because the individual parts are well-suited to 3D printing, this opens the door to easily prototyping custom designs and gearing ratios.
[Haddington Dynamics] are the folks responsible for the open source robot arm Dexter (which will be competing in the Hackaday Prize finals this year), and their interest in a cycloidal drive design sounds extremely forward-thinking. Their prototype consists of 3D printed parts plus some added hardware, but the real magic is in the manufacturing concept of the design. The idea is for the whole assembly to be 3D printed, stopping the printer at five different times to insert hardware. With a robot working in tandem with the printer, coordinating the print pauses with automated insertion of the appropriate hardware, the result will be a finished transmission unit right off the print bed. It’s a lofty goal, and really interesting advancement for small-scale fabrication.
Even before the Industrial Revolution, gears of one kind or another have been put to work both for and against us. From ancient water wheels and windmills that ground grain and pounded flax, to the drive trains that power machines of war from siege engines to main battle tanks, gears have been essential parts of almost every mechanical device ever built. The next installment of our series on Mechanisms will take a brief look at gears and their applications.
We shouldn’t laugh, but we know the feeling very well. [Gear Down for What] invented a revolutionary transmission and fabricated it from scrap material when he was 16. Except he later found out the same design was the subject of a patent filed 14 years earlier. Dismayed he destroyed his prototype, but fast forward to today and he’s made a 3D model of a ratcheting continuously variable transmission. You can see a video of him explaining how it works below and put your own spin on the idea by grabbing the model from Thingiverse.
The model is just for demonstration purposes. We doubt it would wear well enough to use in practice but it’s great to get your hands on for a really intuitive understanding of the mechanism. Some modern automobiles use a continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and many recreational vehicles and motorcycles use them. Like any transmission, their job is to match the motor’s rotation to needed output torque and speed by offering different gearing ratios. Whereas a normal transmission provides a few fixed gears, a CVT changes seamlessly through a range of ratios.
Some of the design of the transmission is pretty tricky, like the cam adjustment. The video shows the rationale for how the design works and how it relates to tank steering (tank as in an Army tank; not like a gas tank). The model isn’t just plastic. It uses some screws and BBs, as well. However, if you have a 3D printer and wanted a good classroom demonstration, this is the ticket.
We’ve seen other geared variable transmissions for robots before. The planetary gears in the cam adjustment of this design are well understood. If you want to brush up your planetary knowledge, there’s no time like the present.
Here on Hackaday, too often do we turn our heads and gaze at the novelty of 3D printing functional devices. It’s easy to forget that other techniques for assembling functional prototypes exist. Here, [Reuben] nails the aspect of functional prototyping with the laser cutter with a real-world application: a roll-pitch friction differential drive built from just off-the shelf and laser-cut parts!
The centerpiece is held together with friction, where both the order of assembly and the slight wedged edge made from the laser cutter kerf keeps the components from falling apart. Pulleys transfer motion from the would-be motor mounts, where the belts are actually tensioned with a roller bearing mechanism that’s pushed into position. Finally, the friction drive itself is made from roller-blade wheels, where the torque transferred to the plate is driven by just how tightly the top screw is tightened onto the wheels. We’d say that [Reuben] is pushing boundaries with this build–but that’s not true. Rather, he’s using a series of repeatable motifs together to assemble a both beautiful and complex working mechanism.
This design is an old-school wonder from 2012 uncovered from a former Stanford course. The legendary CS235 aimed to teach “unmechanically-minded” roboticists how to build a host of mechanisms in the same spirit as MIT’s How-to-make-almost-Anything class. While CS235 doesn’t exist anymore, don’t fret. [Reuben] kindly posted his best lectures online for the world to enjoy.
The electric motors generally used in robotics can be extremely efficient, often topping 90% efficiency at high speed and low torque. Slap on a traditional fixed-ratio gearbox, or change the input speed, and efficiency is lost. An infinitely variable transmission, like [Alexander Kernbaum]’s cleverly named Inception Drive, allows the motor to stay at peak efficiency while smoothly changing the gear ratio through a wide range.
The mechanism takes a bit of thought to fully grok, but it basically uses a pair of split pulleys with variable spacing. The input shaft rotates the inner pulley eccentrically, which effectively “walks” a wide V-belt around a fixed outer pulley. This drives the inner pulley at a ratio depending on the spacing of the pulley halves; the transmission can shift smoothly from forward to reverse and even keep itself in neutral. The video below will help you get your head around it.
We’ve seen a couple of innovative transmissions around here lately; some, like this strain-wave gear and this planetary gearbox, are amenable to 3D printing. Looks like the Inception Drive could be printed too. Hackers, start your printers and see what this drive can do.