Picture of 2.5D Laser Cut Gears
Laser cut gears are used in a wide variety of projects, from steampunk jewelry to the exposed mechanism of a wooden clock.  By taking advantage of both the cutting and engraving capabilities of the laser, much more realistic and/or interesting gears can be created.  Here I show how to create a basic laser cut gear (in traditional 2D), then how to use three different techniques for adding depth to the gear (a 2.5D effect).  This is referred to as 2.5D because although it is adding a third dimension (essentially a Z axis) it is much more limited than the 3D you could obtain from a 3D printer or 4-6 axis milling machine.

I made this at TechShop
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Step 1: Materials & Equipment

Vector drawing software (I used CorelDRAW)
Laser Cutter (my TechShop has a Trotec Speedy 300)
1/4" thick poplar, slightly larger than desired gear size

This instructable assumes some basic familiarity with CorelDRAW and a laser cutter

Step 2: Define Gear Regions

Picture of Define Gear Regions
Each gear will have five distinct regions as shown in the image.  Draw five concentric circles sized to your sense of aesthetics.  In my case I chose diameters of 0.125", 0.5", 1.3", 1.7", and 2.0".  This will result in a gear that is 2" in diameter that will fit a 1/8" shaft.  You won't be cutting or engraving this pattern directly, rather it will be used as the basis for designing the gear shape and profile.  Save this design, as you will use fresh copies in several of the upcoming steps.
those look sweet... how long did it take... any chance you post the coreldraw file to download?
nicework very good
Kiteman1 year ago
I had no idea laser cutters were capable of that kind of thing!

I've taken the liberty of adding this project to a guide I compiled to be circulated around schools.