Screwless Cube Gears

by emmett, published

Screwless Cube Gears by emmett Aug 1, 2011

Featured Thing!


UPDATE: This design has been superseded by my newer version, thingiverse.com/thing:213946, which has better pins (and more gear ratio options). I highly recommend you print that instead, as it prints more reliably, assembles much easier and holds together better.
Thank you, all of you who've made cube gears and posted pictures. Since tbuser made these lovely pin connectors, thingiverse.com/thing:10288, I figured it was high time to make a fully printable cube gear set. Now you needn't bother buying any more screws: this one snaps together.

UPDATE: For anyone without access to a 3D printer, you can now buy these from caesia on her Etsy store: etsy.com/shop/PlasticFusion

UPDATE: New version uses tbuser's new pin connectors V2: thingiverse.com/thing:10541, is much stronger, and prints right-side-up. This is practice for making a heart-gear version.

This design also incorporates a couple of tricks that others may find useful. The center block has two very narrow slices through it, which cause interior walls to form, which help keep the tops of the holes from sagging during printing. Likewise, a cylinder is cut out of the interior of the gears, which serves two purposes. First, it makes a strong internal support for the pin. Second, it makes for less stringing between parts when you print four gears at once, because Skeinforge makes the head go from the center of one to the center of the other, so that the perimeters wipe off the nozzle.

UPDATE: By popular demand, a new version of the center block has been uploaded (BcenterFlat.stl), which doesn't have any internal slits and is oriented to print on a large face. This one is significantly easier to print, though the top and bottom holes do end up a touch tighter than the rest.

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Will it work on a print bot simple?

Or if you can split the pins? Thanks

is there somewhere i can download the larger of the two pins please?

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Just print the parts list and snap them together. I print all of these parts with one extra shell and zero infill, which works beautifully on my TOM. I recommend using Multiply to print four of each gear at once, and Cool to make sure the pins come out well.

UPDATE: The new gear pieces all start with 'B', and correspond to cubeGears3.scad. The pin tolerance worked great for me the first time, but if you have trouble, you can just print out new pins, perhaps scaled slightly. The short pins are for the small faces on the center block and the long pins are for the large faces. The pins should fit tightly into the center block and loosely into the gears so they spin freely.

The SCAD file is fully parametric, so feel free to adjust as desired.

UPDATE: Just added two plates for those of you who don't like to use the multiply feature. These are courtesy of Nick Starno.


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Funpuppy on Mar 19, 2014 said:

Will it work on a print bot simple?

Scottylad7 on Jan 19, 2014 said:

is there somewhere i can download the larger of the two pins please?

Scottylad7 on Jan 19, 2014 said:

Or if you can split the pins? Thanks

tramalot on Jan 11, 2014 said:

painters tape and aqua net for pla, abs slurry for abs

zenom3141 on Dec 11, 2013 said:

Would this model be scalable or would the fittings come out different for the different pieces?

GroundLoop on Nov 20, 2013 said:

I have to say these gears have become my taunting nemesis. I've tried at least a dozen times to print the gears in ABS, but the 'tips' of the overhang curl up as the nozzle departs. After a few layers, it looks like upward flower petals, and eventually the nozzle will fold them over into globs or whack the part off the print bed.

The center prints fine, and if I run a bit of fan, I can sometimes get a useable print, but it's not nearly as nice as the pictures seen here.. the gear teeth are lumpy.

Would these print easier if the cube corners were lying flat on the bed, instead of hole-side-down?

I saw a few other people having problems with the gear tips in these comments. I posted a picture of a failing print.

emmett on Nov 20, 2013 said:

You're describing exactly the reason I switched from ABS to PLA. It is possible to print these with ABS, but it's very difficult and failed prints from corner curling are common. PLA's lack of shrink makes it much better for steep overhangs and dimensional accuracy. Plus you don't even need a heated bed.

popto on Nov 12, 2013 said:

I am using a reprappro huxley with a .3 nozzle. I am having an impossible time of printing the bigger gears because of the overhang. what settings do you use to keep the tips of the gears from failing? I have tried printing cooler but around 190c my layers start losing strength. I am also using active cooling. Help would be greatly appreciated!

Dynamic on Oct 9, 2013 said:

check out a new forum? the3dconnection com

Overgrownasian on Aug 7, 2013 said:

This was by far the best designed print that I've done to date on my Printer (Solidoodle 3). My printer is calibrated pretty tightly, and yet I still find myself having to adjust models to make things work most of the time. This Printed effortlessly the first go and putting it together was a snap (pun intended). Everything fit snug and rotates easily. Keep up the good work.

Richy_T on Jul 27, 2013 said:

When I run the plate through slic3r, only three of the gears gets sliced. The other is just not there. It shows as green in the object position window and the others are magenta. Anyone know what it means? I'll print them individually so no biggie...

GroundLoop on Nov 20, 2013 said:

I'm seeing the same on Repetier 0.90C, and Slic3r ignores that one gear. The "Normals" show "Not Oriented" on that object, though I couldn't tell you what it means.

shypzms on Jul 12, 2013 said:

It is so amazing!

latz on May 16, 2013 said:

I made a timelapse - such an amazing design and fun toy!

Mattdh on May 8, 2013 said:

how small do you think it could be scaled before the pins became too weak for it to work properly?

gfmsfootball6560 on Feb 27, 2013 said:

Hey has anyone made these out of anything other than plastic? Has anyone machined them out of aluminum or steel? Also is there a solidworks file for all the parts? If not where can I find the exact dimensions for gear pitch and everything so that I can model it

emmett on Feb 27, 2013 said:

Not that I know of. I didn't model them in Solidworks, I used OpenSCAD (which is free). The .scad file is a text input file to OpenSCAD, which you can change if you want to alter the design.

aswanson076 on Feb 26, 2013 said:

hey does the larger pin go on on the large gear or small gear? i used the B files. Also which face do the corresponding gears go into?

polygonsheep on Feb 12, 2013 said:

Hey emmet, I can't find the "pinpeg" module in the scad files. I have cubeGears3.scad and pins.scad. Am I missing another file? Thanks.

emmett on Feb 12, 2013 said:

pinpeg is in pins.scad. Perhaps you haven't pointed OpenSCAD to the proper directory?

Jaknil on Feb 4, 2013 said:

Done! Here is a video of the finished product. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

mozm97 on Feb 1, 2013 said:

Does anyone know if it's really "legally safe" to use this desing for commercial or artistic use? I'm interested in creating a pubblic big motorized sculpture of it but wouldn't get in trouble with the creator. Is emmett the real creator or did it inspire himself from some other works/artist who could afterwards sue me?
Thanks a lot.

emmett on Feb 1, 2013 said:

As with all art, I was certainly inspired by others, but as far as I know this is sufficiently different from anything that came before that no one else can claim it. Your project sounds interesting; would you mind emailing me ([email protected]) some details? I'm curious what you're planning for the attribution and share-alike portions of the license.

c15da on Jan 13, 2013 said:


I was just wondering, since I printed out the plates, I am a bit confused about how to assemble it, or which pins (ling or short) go into which gears. Any help?

Thingify on Jan 12, 2013 said:

Hi Emmett,

I run a mall kiosk to advertise my 3D services company. On the kiosk we have a hobby-level 3D printer constantly printing out trinkets to introduce more people to the technology.

I would like to display and sell your designs on the kiosk.

Since our location is not web-based, is there some way you would like us to attribute your designs to you in addition to your full name?

Brian Arandez,
Thingify, Inc.

emmett on Jan 13, 2013 said:

Hi Brian,

Well, you could put a QR code that points to this webpage, or note that the design is open source and can be found on Thingiverse. Ideally you should probably put the little CC-BY-SA license logo somewhere. If you want to mention I'm an aerospace engineer from Seattle, that's cool, but not necessary.

The3DLibrary on Dec 16, 2012 said:

Hey emmet, We love your work with both you heart and cube gears and we would love to turn any object in to gears like a gnome or angry bird, we are new to openscad and have looked at your script but are not sure how we could design something similar. Is it possible to create a negative that you can subtract from a model to create the parts and then print them. We would love your help

Ryan King
The 3D Library

emmett on Dec 16, 2012 said:

This is a complex file, so I'd recommend you play around with OpenSCAD a bit before you delve into this. However, the HeartGears script contains a module for your base object, so ideally it should be pretty easy to put in your own. Click on the gear_mashup tag and you can see all the other versions people have already made.

basiliska on Dec 1, 2012 said:

These are so cool. I saw one at the Montreal Mini Maker Faire this summer and just had to make one. Sinces then we've printed a bunch and personalised them with words and logos.

We used OpenSCAD for the lettering, and Inkscape and OpenSCAD to make the 3D logo stl files.

tom10122 on Oct 18, 2012 said:

I tried printing the center piece but most of the holes came out squished(flatter) any Ideas? Other then that its perfect and my z-axis is calibrated correctly

tom10122 on Oct 18, 2012 said:

 nvrmind found the problem

thecrazy on Oct 13, 2012 said:

This is one of the best models I have printed. The tolerances are excellent, everything fits together easily and nothing is loose. Plus the gears turn really easily. I dont know if all the screwless gear items are this well made but definitly excellent work! And credits to everyone who made this possible!

gtg252b on Aug 20, 2012 said:

This is a really cool part. I printed one of these for my desk, and now everyone in my office wants one (I work with a bunch of huge nerds, myself included).

I have found that setting the filament diameter right is very important. My first one came out perfectly. The filament was slightly smaller on the second one and it didn't fit together nearly as well... the gears work themselves loose over time on that one.

madsoup on Apr 19, 2012 said:

i'm new to this. so you'll have to excuse me. not sure if you call this curl, as its happening on the higher layers. but certain parts will start to curl upwards and eventually get higher than the nozzle. this eventually causes the object to break away from the platform and much failure to ensue.

i'm using rafts on the ABP-- yah, i plan on switching to just the HBP soon. using the latest TOM w/ mk7 extruder and the default SF35-Thingomatic-ABP-mk7 profile (slightly modified to make the raft easier to remove).

i was having this problem originally on the 20mmbox and someone told me to swit
from Skeinforge 47 to 35. that fixed the problem for the box. and while i haven't been printing flawlessly (hugely common problem for me is a really crappy top layer), this high level curling had gone away.

the center of the gear cube printed well enough (though i had to add 10% fill to keep
the top layer from being a huge mess), the pins seem to work, and the larger gear printed pretty well. only the smaller gear is giving me problems now.

anyway, sorry if this is the wrong place to go for someone who needs this much help. but its really not clear where to go to get help on how to s
ystematically fine tune your makerbot and software settings.

thecrazy on Oct 13, 2012 said:

i know you poste this a while ago, but you have got to try to slice with with slic3r 0.92 it came out perfect! My printer is calibrated down to 0.015mm though.

Grey on May 10, 2012 said:

Hey, I had the SAME EXACT problem... I saw that your using the ABP, i was too.... i sent a not to Makerbot support and they suggested to switch to the HBP with an aluminum build plate, which I did... All of my prints have been great... Because the ABP has that plastic belt it tends to heat unevenly and the belt it self changes shape.. The aluminum wont.... I hope this hepls :)

emmett on Apr 19, 2012 said:

You picked one hell of a tough object to calibrate on! It is a tricky process, though there are guides online if you look around. I'd recommend getting your machine finely tuned on simpler objects and then trying this again.

It looks like your issue might be heat related. I always print four little gears at once (using Multiply), which allows the layers to cool enough before being printed on again.

Rob on Mar 9, 2012 said:

Do you have the solidworks files or source files for whatever program you modeled it in?

emmett on Mar 9, 2012 said:

You must be new here :). I use one of the most popular CAD programs on Thingiverse, OpenSCAD, because it's free, open source, and cross-platform. It takes a plaintext input file, which is downloadable on the left: cubeGears3.scad.

migoya on Feb 27, 2012 said:

works perfect!!! thank you

rocketboy on Nov 4, 2011 said:

The center and gears printed beautifully but I can't seem to get the pins right on my Cupcake Ultimate. I've tried a bunch of different settings now but there's never a well defined bump at the end of the pins, there's a grove in the middle so the pins can squish together but without the bump at the end the pin is either big enough that the cube gears won't spin smoothly or loose enough that the gears fall off. Has anyone else run into this?

emmett on Nov 4, 2011 said:

That's odd; are you printing really fast? If there's any slop in the belts, that could be the problem.

Anonymous on Oct 3, 2011 said:

I just built my TOM MK7 with RepliG026 and this was one of my first prints. It turned out great except for the center. I printed the Bcenter and no matter what way I orient it, when it gets right above the last set of holes it freaks out as pictured. It skips a bunch of rows of the edge and the infill goes crazy and all over the place. I have tried regenerating the code with different settings, etc with no luck. Anyone else having this problem?


emmett on Oct 3, 2011 said:

I just uploaded a new center piece, BcenterFlat, which will probably skein easier. That definitely looks like a SF bug, which there's not much you can do about. If the problem persists, try unchecking "infill in direction of bridges" in carve (that is the source of many bugs). And always check your gcode with something like skeinview or pleasant3D to make sure it looks good before you waste a bunch of time printing it. I hope to see your successful print up here soon!

msmollin on Sep 27, 2011 said:

Any particular settings for the little gears? I seemed to have to pull my feed rate WAAAAY back, like I normally print at 32 mm/s (cupcake) and to get the gears to print right i had to turn it back to 10 mm. Also, first object layer was printed at 50% that speed, just so everything would adhere. I tried both 0 and 1 extra shells, and ended up on 1 extra shells with the above settings. On 0 shells it was depositing too much plastic, but with 1 extra shell, i couldnt go faster than 10 or else the first layer wouldn't adhere to the HBP. Running white ABS, at 225C, 110 on HBP. I clean the HBP every 3rd print or so, and I print raftless usually.

The big gears and center piece printed fine (although the center piece I had to put onto a big edge).

emmett on Sep 27, 2011 said:

I've been printing them at 42mm/s on my TOM. You're printing onto Kapton, right? Perhaps you're not starting close enough to the platform? I use one extra shell and zero infill.

Landru on Sep 21, 2011 said:

Hey man, nice to have met you at Maker Faire this weekend. Everybody thought your cube gears were pretty much the coolest thing we had to show off. Keep up the awesome work! They even work when scaled down a lot.

emmett on Sep 27, 2011 said:

Yeah, good to meet you too. Were you the one who was talking about some new skeining engine? If you have a link, I'd like to look at it.

tbfleming on Sep 20, 2011 said:

SFACT wasn't building walls from the microcrack, so I bumped s to 1.0. Still nothing, so I looked at View-
gt;"CGAL Grid only". I don't see any indication of a slit there either :'(

emmett on Sep 21, 2011 said:

Strange; I'll have to look into it. The slits should be pretty easy to remove from the code if they're giving you trouble.

TheRuttmeister on Sep 13, 2011 said:

Nice... although the Bcenter STL is full of hairline cracks that play merry heck with SF.

Not an OpenSCAD user so I can't fix it there... started doing it in Sketchup but lost the will to live (far too much time spent fixing STL's in sketchup over the past month).

Any chance of a fixed version?

emmett on Sep 13, 2011 said:

Actually those two hairline cracks are intentional (see description above). They cause SF for form interior walls that support the angled holes, which otherwise have a bit too much overhang to print well. Let me know if your Gcode somehow ended up unprintable.

albert on Aug 26, 2011 said:

Hi! I'm new in the 3D printer. I bought a ultimaker few days ago but I haven't got the best resolution in my prints. Someone can help me? Which are the parameters that I can change to have more quality print when I create the G code?

Thanks for all.

Great work

emmett on Aug 26, 2011 said:

This is a fairly challenging print; I'd recommend lots of test cubes and simple shapes to make sure you really understand how your bot works and get everything calibrated really well. There are lots of good resources online to get you started. Once you can print simpler shapes really well, you can work your way up to stuff like this.

Bismar on Aug 24, 2011 said:

Printed these perfectly.

An improvement would be to add a slight larger hole at the end of each current hole, so that the pins will latch firmly in place (because of the step between the small and larger hole) and spin freely, rather then being a friction fit as it is currently.

davidlvann on Aug 24, 2011 said:

Agreed. It might help if the pins were sized to "bottom out" in both the gear and the center piece, because I noticed there was a different fit and different amount of wobble on the pins that I pressed into the gears first versus the pins that I pressed into the center first. Maybe there is a correct way, but the results should be the same either way.

Also, I noticed the center piece was a tighter fit, resulting in pins with bent ends that would no longer fit without excess wobble if put into a gear. As a result, I have one pin with both ends bent so that gear slips when turning.

rhmorrison on Aug 17, 2011 said:

Great idea!

Can't get mine together, the big pieces were no problem but with the four big gears installed I can't for the life of me get the small gears snapped in...


tbuser on Aug 17, 2011 said:

I found it was easier to put the small gears in first, then it was easier to twist the large gears in because they have more space to twist them in.

on Aug 15, 2011 said:

Printed just fine for me, including the ultra-narrow center piece, on a HBP at 110c using ABS at 220c. No raft, just anoutline.

Anonymous on Aug 14, 2011 said:

printed out very nicely but it so so stiff that there's no way it's turning and the pins don't stay in. i suspect there's something off in calibration if this is staying together and spinning well for others. using .4mm layer height .6 extrusion width from fact (1.5 w/t).

i'm not seeing how the layer height could be issue, except for maybe the pins?

is there a way to salvage this one by converting it into the one with screws?

emmett on Aug 15, 2011 said:

Hmm, how can the pins be too loose to stay in, yet too tight to turn? Did you try the first or the second version?

dombeef on Aug 11, 2011 said:

The square corner ones look very clean, and professional! They look better than the cut corners in the old version. If someone was selling this, I would buy it!

emmett on Aug 12, 2011 said:

Thanks, and lucky for you, it's free. If anyone else wants to sell them, be my guest. That's why it's under a BY-SA license.

jimcook on Aug 11, 2011 said:

This was a fun print. I truly enjoyed making this cube. It runs smoothly. There were a few buggers on one or two teeth of each of the small gears but these were easily removed with my trusty X-Acto knife. Several of the holes in the center piece had a stray piece of plastic that was very quickly removed with a drill. I fully recommend printing this item and I hope you have as much enjoyment as I did.

jimcook on Aug 10, 2011 said:

This is a continuation of my other post. I noticed that the center piece is on the heated platform on one thin edge. Unless someone can give me a reason not to, I thing I'll revolve the part so it sits on one of the wide faces. I think this will make the part more secure during the print.

gcolbourn on Aug 11, 2011 said:

I just made one - I placed the largest face of the centre section on the platform (after 3 failed attempts at the default). Worked fine, and the cube all snapped together with no trimming or drilling necessary :) I used the Print-o-matic setting in ReplicatorG 0025, with 0 infil and 1 extra shell as suggested.

IainA on Aug 11, 2011 said:

I've had a similar issue with the central part detaching from the heated print surface (75C). I'm fairly new to printing with PLA so the fact it stays glassy for so long might require a fan just concentrating on the print area for a while. Hopefully have pics up soon! :D

emmett on Aug 10, 2011 said:

The reason it's on a thin edge is so that the holes can print better (less overhang, more symmetry). It prints great on the HBP, but if you're building on a belt it might have too much flexibility. You can also go into the SCAD and make the edge cuts deeper so it has a larger footprint to sit on.

jimcook on Aug 10, 2011 said:

I tried Bcenter.stl as a test piece. I went upstairs to get a drink and when I got back there was all the ABS plastic balled up on the tip of my TOM MK6+ extruder tip. :(

I'm going to give it another try tomorrow.

DubLo7 on Aug 9, 2011 said:

Can someone post a video assembling and spinning?

emmett on Aug 9, 2011 said:

Horizontally printed pins are vastly stronger than vertically printed ones, so this should fix any problems people have been having with pin breakage. This one also spins more freely thanks to the longer bearing surface.

tbuser on Aug 9, 2011 said:

That's awesome! Now they're also perfectly square and look easier to print. By the way, I made yet another update to the pin connector v2 that has an even better shape you might want to look at. :)

sirmakesalot on Aug 4, 2011 said:

Hi! Amazing print, I have printed off three of the bolt ones and they are awesome! I have tried to print the new gears off and have had some problems. I'm hopping you or someone can advise me.

I am getting a lot of curl on the gears and am not sure what the settings should be in the Infill and Cool sections you mentioned. I have 2 shells checked off. I am also using reverse settings of 75ms. My other settings are similar to yours that you mentioned.

Could you give me some more details? I want to print this off, it is so awesome!

emmett on Aug 4, 2011 said:

Curl can be tricky. If the plastic is curling off of the build platform, make sure the build platform is as level and sticky as possible (kapton tape makes a great surface, especially if cleaned with rubbing alcohol). For warping plastic, It can help to blow on stubborn prints for the first few layers; it can help break the warpage cycle. You shouldn't have to anymore once the corners have stopped curling. Failing that, you might need to change the temp settings of your nozzle and HBP. Good luck.

xnaron on Aug 2, 2011 said:

I've printed these out a few times and I can't get the gears to snap in to the center piece without snapping the connector off....5 for 5 now :(

Zomboe on Aug 3, 2011 said:

A long time ago I printed the ellipse gears in PLA and the connector on that snapped as well.

I haven't tried to print this yet, but maybe the connector walls need to be thinner to work with PLA, or maybe split them into more segments.

Opening up the hole is probably the easiest fix though, I agree.

xnaron on Aug 2, 2011 said:

I'm running a 0.35mm nozzle with 0.25mm layer height and 2.1 pwot. I may try them at beefier layer height....what did you print yours at?

DigiFab on Aug 2, 2011 said:

Good stuff! It's about time we got rid of the bolts :-P .

Zomboe on Aug 2, 2011 said:

Awesome idea!

Those are some beautiful pictures and excellent print quality. When I saw the thumbnails, the sides looked so smooth and shiny that I thought you must have rubbed them down with acetone or something.

Any hints on taking such quality pictures? I have a particularly hard time taking photos of bla
ck PLA parts.

emmett on Aug 2, 2011 said:

Thanks, the secret to good pictures of black parts seems to be lots of light. The flash doesn't work so well because it doesn't know what to focus on until the light is bright, so you usually need a separate source (unless you have something better than a cheap point-and-shoot). Those shots had direct sunlight on them; otherwise a desk lamp is often good. I usually aim until I get a good reflection off the plastic so you can see the grain well.

Anonymous on Aug 2, 2011 said:

Building this right now on an UP! 3D Printer. Looks awesome.

Jolijar on Aug 2, 2011 said:

Can you please do a screwless heart gears?

emmett on Aug 2, 2011 said:

That'll be tricky. Notice how I print these gears upside-down from how I did in the previous iterations? That works here because there's a flat surface on the outside to build from, but not so on the curvy heart. I suppose the heart should be possible with support, but that still feels like cheating.

MakerBlock on Aug 1, 2011 said:


schmarty on Aug 1, 2011 said:

So... incredibly... awesome!!!

tbuser on Aug 1, 2011 said:

Super awesome!