Manufacture custom gears with a craft cutter and shrink plastic

Picture of manufacture custom gears with a craft cutter and shrink plastic
Update:  wow, bummer.  I just found out that ProvoCraft (the makers of the Cricut)  sued "Make the Cut" and "Sure Cuts A Lot" so that they can no longer sell their products to work with the Cricut.

Here are some competing products which can be used with Make the Cut software though I have not tried these products specifically, they look like they do about the same thing

Klic-N-Kut computerized craft cutter
Pazzles Inspiration amazon
BossKut Gazelle amazon
USCutter MH/Lazerpoint

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Step 1: Materials

Picture of materials
for this you need:

a craft cutter which works with Make the Cut and can accept accept arbitrary vector art.  I'm using a Cricut with updated firmware (before the lawsuit happened).  See this instructable for how that worked.

some sheets of type 6 plastic, aka shrink plastic or "Shrinky Dinks"

"make the cut" software, or similar

a crisp image of the gear you would like to replicate

an oven.  (I use a toaster oven dedicated to baking plastics like shrinky dinks and sculpey). 

Step 2: Locate gear images

Picture of locate gear images
I found a bunch of ideas in this book:  "Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements".  You can buy it on Amazon or find it for free on Google books.

Try to find the cleanest image of the gear you want that you can.  I had to touch mine up in Photoshop to get them cleaner.  The more crisp the image, the easier it will be for the cricut.  Also, it's better if you find gears that are already in pairs, that way you know the teeth will line up.

I'm sure a lot of these gears have proper names, though I'm not sure what they are.  If you know of any other cool gear designs, please let me know.

Note, some gears just wouldn't bake straight, like the pinion example below (with the red x).  It seems to be better if the design isn't too thin

Step 3: Use Pixel Trace to import the image into MTC

Picture of Use Pixel Trace to import the image into MTC
Load the gear image into MTC with pixel trace.

dk2k made it!1 year ago

Real square gears :) They must be a bit different if you want to rotate them properly


gtoal3 years ago
My experience with shrink plastic was that it always curled up. Did you have any special trick to keep it flat? I'd basically given up on ever using it again, but after seeing this I might give it another try.

By the way, although I do still have the Cricut and working MTC software, I've upgraded to a KNK MAXX cutter which is a much more industrial quality machine.
hussam.tech3 years ago
JesusFreke4 years ago
Hmm. I had no idea what "type 6" plastic is. For anyone who is similarly perplexed, it appears to be a plastic called polystyrene.

Out of curiosity, do you know what the (pre-shrunk) thickness of the plastic you used is? What about the post-shrink thickness?
foobear (author)  JesusFreke4 years ago
Pre-shrunk the thickness is about the same as a sheet of typical bond paper, maybe a little tiny bit thicker. After shrinking it is quite a good deal thicker, at least 4 or 5 times thicker.

With my imprecise plastic calipers it looks like It goes from about a tenth of a millimeter to about 2 millimeters thick.

Thanks for the info! I might have to find me some :D
zack2474 years ago
your "biscuit" looks like a cheez-it! :D

great instructable, but it sucks to hear that make the cut wont work anymore, but how does the cricut deny the use of the program? sure the company does, but how does the machine know whether or not to allow the information to cut stuff be sent to it?
foobear (author)  zack2474 years ago
The software I bought before the lawsuit happened still works, but they're not allowed to sell it for the Cricut anymore.

It apparently works with other brands of cutters though. I don't know how or if they were able to specifically turn off support for the Cricut within the software.

Not only a nice idea for small custom gears, but this would also be helpful to the Steampunk people who need gears and what ever for their work too.
foobear (author)  atombomb19454 years ago
jonesy434 years ago
This is a great idea. I have heard though that 'Make the Cut' no longer works with cricut machines. Any suggestions to alternatives?
foobear (author)  jonesy434 years ago
Oh man, thanks for letting me know. I just now read about the lawsuit. So... I guess people won't be able to do this instructable.

Probably a smart competitor will arise before too long.

Too bad.