A 3D Printed Snake Automaton.

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Introduction: A 3D Printed Snake Automaton.

About: Our grandkids keep me busy!

Just prior to designing an enclosure for "A 3D Printed Snake Automaton", family, friends and followers who viewed the mechanism became mesmerized watching it in action, so mesmerized that they were disappointed that I would hide it from view in an enclosure. So here is "A 3D Printed Snake Automaton" for all to see in "open format" form!

During operation, this mechanism assembles two chains into one "pseudo rigid" chain to create a snake and raise it out of its cartridge. When completely assembled and raised, the mechanism mechanically reverses direction and disassembles the snake back into two chains as it lowers the snake back into the cartridge.

The mechanism uses a rotary gear carriage for mechanical reversing. When the carriage rotates to the ascend position, the carriage gears drive an ascend gear to assemble and raise the snake out of its cartridge. And when the carriage rotates to the descend position, the carriage gears drive a descend gear to disassemble and lower the snake back into its cartridge.

However, without intervention the rotary gear carriage will continually rotate via the gear motor and as such must be paused to drive the ascend and descend gears in order to assemble / raise then disassemble / lower the snake. To pause carriage rotation at the proper positions, the carriage wheel has two stop tabs; one for the ascend position and a second for the descend position.

A mechanical switch assembly moves a single pin alternatively between the ascend and descend carriage wheel stop tabs in order to pause the rotation at the ascend and descend positions. The mechanical switch is positioned by an arm attached to the chain drive sprocket that sets the travel limits of the snake as it ascends and descends.

At 6VDC, the mechanism draws an average of 15MA, low enough for solar powered operation which was one of my numerous design goals.

As usual I probably forgot a file or two or who knows what else, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to comment as I do make plenty of mistakes.

Designed using Autodesk Fusion 360, sliced using Ultimaker Cura 4.8.0, and 3D printed in PLA on Ultimaker S5s.

Supplies

  • Soldering Iron and Solder.
  • Thick cyanoacrylate glue.
  • Light machine oil to lubricate the gears, arms, slides and axles.

Step 1: Parts.

I acquired the following parts:

  • One N20 100RPM 6VDC gear motor.
  • One 4AAA battery holder with on/off switch.
  • Four AAA batteries.
  • One 6.35 by 10.3 spring.
  • One R08 (11mm ID, 2.5mm Section) o-ring.
  • 2mm diameter music wire.

The attached file "Parts.pdf" contains the name, quantity, infill, layer height and support of all 3D printed parts I printed for this mechanism. Note parts with a ".3MF" extension are dual extrusion prints.

This mechanism is a high precision print and assembly using at times very small precision 3D printed parts in confined spaces with highly precise alignment. I printed the chains, gears, levers, arms, cams and wheels using the Ultimaker Cura 4.8.0 "Engineering Profile" on my Ultimaker S5s, which provides a highly accurate tolerance requiring minimal if any trimming, filing, drilling or sanding. However, prior to assembly, I still test fitted and trimmed, filed, drilled, sanded, etc. all parts as necessary for smooth movement of moving surfaces, and tight fit for non moving surfaces. Depending on your slicer, printer, printer settings and the colors you chose, more or less trimming, filing, drilling and/or sanding may be required to successfully recreate this model. I carefully filed all edges that contacted the build plate to make absolutely certain that all build plate "ooze" is removed and that all edges are smooth using small jewelers files and plenty of patience to perform this step.

This mechanism also uses threaded assembly, so I used a tap and die set (6mm by 1, 8mm by 1.25) if required for thread cleaning.

Step 2: Pins.

The mechanism uses two metal pins (one 14mm in length, the second 8mm in length) for ascend / descend control. I made these pins from 2mm diameter music wire as follows:

  • Used a cutoff blade in a hand held rotary tool to round one end of a length of the 2mm diameter music wire.
  • Marked the music wire at 14mm from the rounded end.
  • Cut off the 14mm length.
  • Filed the cut end smooth.
  • Repeated the previous four steps for the 8mm length pin.

With the pins complete, using small dots of thick cyanoacrylate glue, I glued the 14mm pin into the hole in "Slide, Switch.stl" and the 8mm pin into "Switch.stl".

Next, I:

  • Positioned the switch assembly in the base.
  • Slid the switch slide through the base, pressed through the switch assembly, then slid though the base.
  • Aligned the switch assembly exactly between the two marks on the slide assembly.
  • Using small dots of thick cyanoacrylate glue, secured the switch assembly to the slide assembly.
  • Positioned "Arm, Slide, Switch.stl" over the pin on the slide assembly, then rotated it into position on the base.
  • Made certain the assembly slid with ease in the base.

Step 3: Carriage.

To assemble the carriage, I performed the following steps:

  • Slid the spring over the pin on "Carriage, Arm.stl".
  • Placed "Gear (.75m 16t).stl" onto the pin on the carriage assembly.
  • Placed "Gear, Motor (.75m 16t).stl" into the center hole in "Carriage, Wheel.stl".
  • Aligned the carriage arm and wheel assemblies then pressed them together.
  • Soldered the battery pack wires to the motor terminals such that the motor rotated clockwise as viewed from the motor shaft end of the gear motor.
  • Pressed "Axle, Motor.stl" onto the gear motor shaft.
  • Positioned the carriage assembly into the base.
  • Pressed the motor into the base.
  • Slid the motor towards the carriage assembly, aligned the motor shaft with the center hole in the carriage assembly motor gear, then pressed the motor shaft into the carriage assembly motor gear.
  • Adjusted the motor carefully in the base assembly such the carriage assembly was centered between the motor mount and carriage towers and rotated with ease.

Step 4: Ascend and Descend Gears and Axles.

To add the ascend and descend gears and axles, I performed the following steps:

  • Positioned "Gear, Ascend.stl" into the base assembly and secured in place with "Axle, Gear, Ascend.stl", making certain the ascend gear rotated freely.
  • Positioned "Gear, Descend.stl" into the base assembly and secured in place with "Axle, Gear, Descend.stl" and "Gear (.75m 16t) And Axle.stl".

Step 5: Snake and Cartridge.

To assemble the snake and cartridge, I performed the following steps:

  • Positioned the o-ring on "Axle, Sprocket.stl".
  • Positioned the head mount ends of "Snake, Chain, Green, 1.2mm pins.stl" and "Snake, Chain, Yellow, 1.2mm pins.stl" together.
  • Starting at the head mount ends of the chains, slid my fingers up the two chains to link them together.
  • Pressed "Head.3mf" onto the head mount ends of the chains.
  • Placed "Sprocket (15 Teeth).stl" into the sprocket hole in "Cartridge.stl", positioning the small indexing hole in the sprocket as shown.
  • Inserted the end of the snake assembly into the cartridge assembly, engaged the green chain with the sprocket, then carefully slid the snake into the cartridge assembly noting the final sprocket indexing hole position when fully inserted.
  • Pressed "Cartridge, Lid.st" onto the cartridge assembly.
  • Pressed "Sprocket.Arm.stl" onto the sprocket such that with the sprocket indexing hole straight up, the arm points straight down.
  • Pressed "Gear, Sprocket.stl" onto the sprocket assembly.

Step 6: Final Assembly and Test.

For final assembly, I performed the following steps:

  • Moved the slide arm to the ascend (full right) position.
  • Carefully positioned the cartridge assembly onto the base assembly aligning the cartridge assembly sprocket hole with the base assembly threaded hole.
  • Inserted the sprocket axle assembly into the sprocket axle hole and tightened it slightly.
  • Inserted one "Bolt, Cartridge.stl" through the cartridge mount hole into the base and tightened it.
  • Inserted the remaining cartridge bolt through the cartridge mount hole into the base and tightened it.

With final assembly completed, I turned on the battery pack and slightly tightened / loosened the sprocket axle assembly until the snake descended smoothly into the cartridge.

And that is how I 3D printed and assembled "A 3D Printed Snake Automaton".

I hope you enjoyed it!

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    20 Comments

    0
    DominiqueB33
    DominiqueB33

    10 months ago

    Hello,
    As I like your creations, I started this one.
    No worries for printing, even the channel did not pose a problem for me.
    I started the tests with the engine, and this is where it gets more complicated
    The 'Carriage wheel' does not twist very well or hangs
    Should the spring be hard or softer?

    Thank you

    Chaine.jpg
    0
    docrock81
    docrock81

    1 year ago

    I am curious if you have designed a 'manual' crank mechanism to go in place of the motor ( at least temporarily). Something like a box with a horizontal hole through it, which then holds a cylinder, with a crank on one end, and that 'special' axle fitting on the other. This snake was the first project I attempted, and I'm almost there - but still not running smoothly. It seems I need to be looking at how the ascend/descend gears engage, while looking at the how the pins are stopping/releasing the big wheel. Things moving too fast when I use the motor; removing the motor causes the big wheel to be out of alignment. Just checking if you have already created such a manual crank -- if not, might be a good project for me to learn Fusion 360 - ( but that seems intimidating right now). LOL. Anyway, I have started printing parts for next project (Mac n cheese), and manual crank might come in handy there too. Really love everything you have done -- hopefully, most of these will soon be in the hands of my 6 y.o. grandson. Thanks for your generosity and your time, Rick ( Pennsylvania, USA).

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi docrock891,

    I've made a few hand cranked designs, but the grandkids simply love to push buttons to my more recent models have been motor driven.

    Best wishes with Fusion, I like it a lot!

    Greg

    0
    KixMan
    KixMan

    1 year ago

    Awesome project! Thank you for sharing the instructions and the 3D printable files. I printed my Snake Automation on a Creality Ender 3. Everything printed smoothly, except for the chains. I needed to restart the printing several times as always one or two parts broke loose from the PEI build plate. Finally I managed to print the two halves of the the chain and now I am about to assemble the mechanism.
    Why you use the the spring on the Carriage Arm? I modified the arm to have a thicker diameter where the spring is located (because I couldn't source the right size spring).
    Are you sure that the O-ring size is correct in the description (11mm ID, 2.5mm Section)? I bought this size of O-ring and it seems to be too large for the Sprocket Axle. Shouldn't be 6 mm ID, 2.5 mm section, 11 mm OD?
    I will post images once my automation is ready.

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi KixMan,

    Thank you very much, and congratulations on your successful 3D print!

    The spring is used to provide tension so that the rotary gear carriage will rotate when the control pin moves to its new position. Without the spring, the carriage may stall.

    I believe the o-ring is the correct size, however, since it is simply used to create just enough friction to keep the snake chain from rapid descent, any reasonably close sized o-ring should work.

    Congratulations again and I am excited to see your finished automaton!

    Greg

    0
    DigitalDavid
    DigitalDavid

    1 year ago

    Just stunning. I'm waiting for my first printer to arrive in March. This will be one of my first prints. I love your work. I don't have a dual extruder, can I still print Head.3mf?

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi DigitalDavid,

    Thank you so very much for your kind words!

    Yes, most slicers will convert the dual extrusion .3mf file to a single extrusion .stl file, but if yours does not, just let me know and I will upload a single extrusion head for you.

    Many thanks again!

    Greg

    0
    Kdemon
    Kdemon

    Question 1 year ago

    Well I'm hooked on your YouTube page, first where does an engineer like myself get started learning to design and fabricate machines with 3d printed gears? Second, are you treating these 3d printed gears with lacquer or oil?

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Answer 1 year ago

    Hi Kdemon,

    Thank you very much, I'm glad you enjoy those videos!

    There are numerous sources for gear train design examples on Instructables and the web. For a basic gear, Autodesk Fusion 360 has a spur gear "add-in" that is what I use for most of my gear designs.

    The 3D printed gears I mostly lubricate with lite machine oil, mainly around the axles.

    Hope this helps!

    Greg

    0
    Lennerton
    Lennerton

    Question 1 year ago on Step 4

    I think what you've done here is excellent and certainly thought-provoking. I'm confused about what I believe is the "Gear, Descend.stl"'s interaction with the "Axle, Gear, Descend.stl" and "Gear (.75m 16t) And Axle.stl". In the video, it appears they rotate in opposite directions? Is this an optical illusion? Or are they actually turning in opposite directions? If so, how? In the assembly photos, it appears both axles screw into the descending gear and they act as one rotating piece. Thank in advance for your response.

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Answer 1 year ago

    Hi Lennerton,

    I believe most of the difficulty you are having visualizing this model is "stroboscopic effect" as can be seen in old western movies where the wagon wheels appear to be spinning in reverse. Had I significantly slowed down the model operating speed, this effect would have been eliminated. Sorry about that...

    "Gear, Descend (.75m 32t).stl" is driven by the gear carriage when the snake is descending. During this time, "Gear, Ascend (.75m 32t).stl" is being driven by the descend gear and is simply idling (e.g. doing nothing but spinning).

    "Gear, Ascend (.75m 32t).stl" is driven by the gear carriage when the snake is ascending. During this time "Gear, Descend (.75m 32t).stl" is being driven by the ascend gear. Since an additional gear is now added to the gear train, the output reverses its rotational direction.

    "Gear, Descend (.75m 32t).stl", "Axle, Gear, Descend.stl" and "Gear (.75m 16t) And Axle.stl" were designed to be rigid when tightened and thus they all rotate in unison.

    Hope this helps!

    Greg

    0
    Lennerton
    Lennerton

    Reply 1 year ago

    It did help. Thanks for a very concise explanation. The stroboscopic effect is very misleading and convincing. Thanks again.
    Semper fi,
    Lennerton

    0
    Kdemon
    Kdemon

    Question 1 year ago

    This is fantastic. What is the height from the table to the top of the height Chain Cartridge? And when fully extended what is the height from the table to the bottom of the snakehead? I'm trying to figure out your extension ratio.

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Answer 1 year ago

    Hi Kdemon,

    Thank you very much, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    The snakes chin is 75mm above the base when fully retracted and 175mm above the base when fully extended thus the snake head rises 100mm out of a base height of 60mm.

    Hope this helps!

    Greg

    0
    DouglasB93
    DouglasB93

    Reply 1 year ago

    It looks like the chain is flexible enough to be retracted into a pair of spiral channels, in which case it could be much longer.

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi DouglasB93,

    Yes, it is, but most applications of rigid chain style mechanisms simple expand the horizontal axis to allow for more links.

    Greg

    0
    Aarav G
    Aarav G

    1 year ago

    That was really well-explained and a lovely idea too. I am trying this out for sure!

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you Aarav, I truly appreciated it!

    Greg

    0
    NirL
    NirL

    Question 1 year ago

    That's amazing! Well done:)
    Do you simulate the motion in some of the software before your start printing, or is the simulation all in your head? :)

    0
    gzumwalt
    gzumwalt

    Answer 1 year ago

    Hi NirL,

    Thank you so very much, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Most of the simulation is done in my head, but as I age, I find myself depending more and more on Autodesk Fusion 360! I did simulate the switching mechanism in Fusion to test for clearances.

    Thanks again!

    Greg