Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printed Gears


Tessa Blokland  


There is actually nothing to it, just a wheel with teeth. However, taking a closer look at 3D printed gears, it becomes more and more interesting to me at least. What I think makes gears interesting is the combination of (very) precise engineering and designing for its purpose, to begin with. The diameter of the gear, the number of teeth (more teeth mean a smoother workflow of the rotary motion, uneven teeth mean that the signs of use will be evenly spread), the pressure angle, size of the teeth, and the thickness of the gear. The advantage of 3D printing is of course you can highly customize your gears, adjust their shape, pick the right technology, and material to 3D print them with.

Let’s start with a fantastic 3D printed spherical gear system, designed by Proxy Design Studio (also top image). The sphere exists out of 64 interlocking gears and support structures and moving one part will drive the other 63. Just amazing! You can order the Mechaneu v1, as the 3D printed object is called, on Shapeways.

The 3D printed gears in this sandblasting machine from BMF GmbH have proven to be very wear-resistant and break-proof even under extreme conditions. Another advantage of additive manufacturing in comparison to milled components is that the weight reduced over 60% and the lead time for production to only hours. I like the quote of Chris Tettalowsky, Head of Blasting Systems: “We only manufacture what is needed immediately. Our warehouse is now on a spool!” Again another advantage of additive manufacturing.

Gears are made for turning round and driving mechanics. What you see here is a worn worm gear in a Braun KM32 kitchen machine. Apparently the original replacement part isn’t for sale anymore. Thanks to Woodcast, it is now possible to order a 3D printed replacement worm gear via Shapeways. He (or she) reversed-engineered the design slightly to make it simpler, by for example shortening the teeth to only where they are supposed to touch the worm and therefore increasing its robustness.

In a production plant, it is key to ensure machines are running efficiently, are producing consistent results, and can be easily repaired as components wear out or break. Meaning that in case of an urgent replacement, components should be available directly with minimum loss of time, production speed, and cost. Thanks to 3D printing it is now possible to 3D print gears, this is a design by Desktop Metal, faster and at lower costs than for example CNC milling. Parts can design in greater geometric complexity, or even designed into fewer, multi-functional assemblies.

The last 3D printed gear is from Heraeus. Next to all the above-mentioned advantages of additive manufacturing (reduction of material usage, weight, production costs, production time, design freedom), this part is 3D printed in an amorphous metal. Amorphous metals are characterized by good corrosion resistance, excellent wear resistance, and the elasticity of polymers. They also have soft magnetic properties and are easy to magnetize and demagnetize. With this combination of properties, the part is, according to the company, superior to steel, titanium, and many other materials. I am sure the cost of one part might be higher, but down the line, considering all the other advantages of AM, you might be off cheaper. Did anyone ever make a calculation on this? If so, please let me know!
LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3D Printed Gears

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.


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