Sam's Gears

by pleppik, published

Sam's Gears by pleppik Sep 22, 2012

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My nephew Sam has a birthday coming up, so I designed and made him this gear toy. This set has gears of multiple sizes and lets you stack gears together so you can make different gear ratios. For the base you can either print out the included base, or use a sheet of pegboard from the hardware store to go really big.


Print as many of the parts as you like, in whatever colors you like. Assemble.

All parts print without support.

The available parts are:

  1. Gears: 1, 2, 3, and 4 inch diameters. Each diameter has a different design, and the gears can stack and lock together vertically.

  2. Plates: 2 and 4 inch square plates serve as the base for building. Plates lock together to make larger layouts. You can also use commercial pegboard from the hardware store, but note that pegboard has holes spaced at 1" intervals instead of 1/2", so pegboard won't allow even-sized gears to mesh with odd-sized gears.

  3. Pegs: 1, 2, 3, and 4 cm length pegs serve as the axles for the gears. The split end of the peg fits into the base plate, and gears stack onto the solid end

  4. Spacers: Spacers are like gears without any teeth, and let you stack gears without meshing with a neighboring gear. The Spacer With Pegs locks onto the gear above so all the gears in a stack turn together; the Spacer No Pegs lets you build a stack of gears which can turn independently.

  5. Crank: The crank fits on top of a gear (3" and 4" work best) to give you a handle to turn it with.

UPDATED 9/24: I've added simplified versions of the two plates which should slice and print significantly faster. I left the original versions in place in case you like the aesthetics of the exposed ribs.

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Sam's Gears by pleppik is licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution license.

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What program were these made in? Any chance we can get the original files?

These were designed in ViaCAD. I don't mind posting the CAD files, but not many people use this program so I'm not sure how useful it will be.

That would still be nice. I have never tried importing ViaCAD files into solidworks, but they could hardly work any worse than STL files.

Thanks a ton for the great prints. I successfully printed the 1", 2", and 3" gears along with the two 2" plates and one of the 4" plates.

I ran into two problems which might have more to do with me being a begginer than anything else, but I might as well share.

The regular plates (non-simple) one does not print very accurately, while the simplified one has very precise dimensions.

My biggest problem: I can't manage to print the pins. My Lulzbot printer either picks up the object as it is printing, even at slow speeds (with a heated bed of 110 degC) Or if it does manage to finish a pin (only happened once for me) the pin layers are not very well stuck together. Any advice for me to get these pins created would be great!

Brian: This is likely to be a problem with either your slicer or your printer. I've never used the Lulzbot, so I can't be a whole lot of help.

Really beautiful parts. I found the holes were too small to get the pegs into however, and the puzzle edges don't really fit together. maybe a version with larger holes and no puzzle edges? I could maybe simply glue the mini boards together as need.

The base pieces have fairly tight tolerances, so if you're having problems fitting them together it may be that your printer is just a little too sloppy. You can try sanding or filing the edges a bit.

As an alternative, this is sized so you can use ordinary pegboard from the hardware store as a base. That may give you better results.

A good website to look at:
made for creating wooden gears, but you can adjust it to portray a wide variety of gears.

What infill % do you recommend? I'm going to use these in my Science 8 class.

I printed them with a very loose fill, just to save time and plastic. The design should be fairly forgiving and print well on most reasonable settings.

The posts that link the gears together are VERY tight when sliced in RepG (defaults) and printed on a Rep2.  Anybody else seeing this issue?

If you made a couple of planetary ring gears (rings with teeth on the inside), and had pencil holes in the gears, they could be used to make pencil rosettes in a hundred different ways just like the old spirograph.

I got the 2" gear to print right after I imported it into sketchup and removed the two lines halfway down the shafts that seemed to cause my slicing problem.

Did you post this as a derivative? My printer is currently undergoing an upgrade, but I plan to print these once I'm back up and running :) 

I didn't post it yet because supposedly other people can print the one here. I'm printing on a Thingomatic using SF35 and jetty's accelerated firmware.  Everything else printed beautifully except for the 2" gear.  If anyone else is having a problem printing that gear I'll post a link or something.  Just message me about it.

Like isn't a strong enough word. These are awesome! I have a big bag of magnets, which now I know I must glue to the back of these to stick on the fridge. Time to print!

Wonderful Concept! A great skill to teach him. Hats off to you!

You need to have toothed gears from 5 or 6 to about 104, so he can learn how gears work.

Any chance of uploading these files in a .zip?

This is truly a joy to print and play with. I'll get some pics up soon! :) Thank you!

 Ok, so the gears silce and print wel.. but I cant get the Plates to slice. 90 minutes in slic3r and still nothing :(

The plates are fairly intricate with all the ribs and stuff, so I'm not surprised it would take a long time to slice depending on your settings.

If I have a chance in the next few days I'll generate a simpler version of the plates. I think I went overboard on those parts.

The 4" plate took me nearly 3 hours to print but I'm using accelerated firmware.

I added Simplified versions of the plates--they should slice and print faster without all the ribs and structure.

 now printing the simplified plates :) Thank you!

Best. Uncle. Ever.

I can't handle it, these just look so WHIMSICAL

Very nice gears!
Where are the source files you generated the STL from?

The 4 inch plate is broken or it just doesn't render in RepG.  Will you reupload it? I'm suspecting I'll have the same problem with the 2 inch gear since Thingiverse can't render that one either.

I've been able to print out several of the other pieces though.

Try it now. I regenerated both STLs and ran them through NetFabb. NetFabb now approves.

The new 2 inch gear prints but there is an artifact that causes the pins on top to not be fully connected.
Photo below:

That's odd--and there are not (or should not) be any surfaces there. Anyone else having this problem?

I've now printed every single thing and the 2 inch gear is the only one I had a problem with.  Currently printing the  2inch simplified plate now.

The problem you are having with the pins is a big mystery. It doesn't happen for me, the file passes NetFabb's tests, and I can't see anything wrong with the mesh.

Excellent!  Thank you for checking that out.  Downloading and printing now.  Photos will be posted when I get done.

This is very cool!  I have two nephews of my own where I am introducing them to some building toys.  When I finally finish my printer, I am going to print this out. 

What printer do you use?

This is just awesome. 

I like the squiggly crank handle.

I'd like it more if there was a smaller version for the other gears.  

That's a good thought. I'll put that on my list of future enhancements.