Have you ever found yourself pining for the good old days when machines–from coffee makers to cars–were less complicated, when you could take something apart, repair, and reassemble it without needing a degree in computer programming or engineering? Just when it seemed like everything had become hopelessly complex, however, along came the maker movement and one of its closest allies, 3D printing.
Maker and Instructables contributor and 3D printing expert Alex Crease of San Francisco–who recently brought us the impressive PulleyBot project–has created a small, brightly colored and impressively detailed robot, which he calls “GearBot.” On the one hand, when reading the lengthy instructions he provided on the site, you get the impression that this small, colorful robot is impossibly complicated and, in a sense, it is. But it is also a testament to the aforementioned good old days. That’s because GearBot, as Crease explains, is “a simple, single actuator, 3D printed toy with a transmission entirely made up of gear mechanisms.”
GearBot features a working clutch mechanism and a variety of other basic kinds of gears. As gears go, Crease seems to know what he’s talking about as is demonstrated in his detailed but incredibly easy-to-follow instructions for making and assembling the GearBot properly. If you think Crease would make a good teacher, you’re not far off the mark for he is a student in Engineering with Robotics at Olin College and is one of four students who run the school’s 3D printing space. So, chances are, he gets plenty of opportunities to teach and exercise the patience that he demonstrates both with this project and the helpful instructions he provides on the Instructables page.
Crease, who in addition to pursuing his studies in robotics is also a professed adventurer and musician, says that he “loves building things and taking other [things] apart to see how they work because every creation,” he declared, “is an adventure.” He recommends before beginning the GearBot project that you check out another one of his Instructables contributions, Basic Gear Mechanisms. It’s essentially a primer on gears.
“Cars, clocks and can openers, along with many other devices, use gears in their mechanisms to transmit power through rotation,” Crease writes. “Gears are a type of circular mechanical device with teeth that mesh to transmit rotation across axes, and they are a very valuable mechanism to know about as their applications range far and wide.”
In order to produce the 3D printed components of GearBot, his most recent tribute to the marvels that are gears, Crease used–what else?–a MakerBot Replicator 2. He designed the parts so that support material was not required. Total print time, printed as one job, was six hours. He also chose to print the gears in different colors so that it would be easier to see how they all link and work together to power the GearBot.
For a supplies list, see the Instructables page, where you can also access all of the .stl files to either print at home or send off to 3D Hubs or another service. As with all such community-oriented efforts, you’re invited to share the results of your own version of GearBot with Crease and with the larger Instructables crowd–and with us!Will you be creating your own gear-powered robot? Let us know how it turns out for you in the 3D Printed GearBot forum thread over at 3DPB.com.