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gearboxaniFunctionality is something that is hard to come by for designers of 3D printable objects. The fact that desktop 3D printers are relatively new to the consumer market, and that they print in limited plastic materials, means that creating functional objects can be quite hard.

Back in December, we reported on 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys, and their goal of bringing 3D printing into the classroom. In trying to reach this goal, they launched a 3D printing technology course curriculum based on the theme, “Make Something That Moves Something.”

Their curriculum is apparently already going to good use. Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston has already been utilizing these lesson plans in a real classroom environment, and one student in particular has really shown what this new curriculum is capable of. Carmelo Locurto is his name, and 3D printing evidently is his game.

“The project was to have an entire classroom of students all create a module that would perform some kind of action,” Locurto tells 3DPrint.com. “It had a very ‘Rube Goldberg’ type idea driving it. I chose to be the center piece, the module that would drive all other modules.”

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The idea was that once all of the modules were completed, they would be connected to each other to create one large working machine. Originally Locurto had designed a gearbox based on a large ring gear and a set of planetary gears. However, he ran into a problem when he couldn’t get the tolerances between the planetary gears large enough to be 3D printed and assembled into a working device. So he had to start from scratch and try another design.

“I had already given the other students that would connect to me the heights at which the shafts would connect, so I was confined a bit on my redesign,” Locurto told us. “I came up with the five miter gear design because I could have much larger gears that would still mesh well while staying in the resolution of the printer, which is a Stratasys uPrint.”

gearbox3The end product, which is actually all printed as one complete object, consists of a top miter gear that drives the miter gear below it. This second gear is on a shaft that also drives the other miter gear across from it, which then drives the last two gears. Locurto added windows to his gearbox so that the assembly can be viewed while in action.  It also provided a way for the dissolving solution to enter into the box to dissolve the support material, once finished printing.

“One trick I learned from Stratasys is all my shafts are not cylindrical,” Locurto explained. “They are actually a rounded triangular shape of my desired diameters. This allows plenty of space for the solution to get in and dissolve the support material. What is also cool is that the little knob on top actually spins on the lever as well”

Locurto is currently a Senior Mechanical Engineering student, finishing up his required Co-op education. His gearbox turned out to be a terrific example of why 3D printing needs to be brought into the classroom environment. Stratasys realizes this, and so does Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Unfortunately not all of the designs by Locurto’s classmates were quite as successful, so this prevented the modules from ultimately being connected together.  What do you think of this incredible 3D printed gearbox? Discuss in the 3D printed gearbox forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of the gearbox in action below:

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