3D-Printed Clock and Gears

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About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...
These are the basic components of a clock 3D-printed by a Stratasys FDM 2000. The Stratasys FDM works by laying down "hot noddles" of ABS plastic and a sacrificial material that can be dissolved by water. The hot noodles are printed layer-by-layer and fuse together building finished-quality-level parts. With careful design, you can create captured moving parts, like the interlocking gears shown in the Slideshow.

This project dates to 2001 when I was at the MIT Media Lab. I was big on clocks, and was trying to design a fully 3D-printable clock. I imagined that after dissolving away the sacrificial material, you could wind the clock up and have it start ticking. I printed working gears, springs, and escapements in my attempts to test out each of the required components.

The escapement proved to be the biggest challenge. While it did work, the tolerances on the one shown were not quite good enough for it to work consistently. In the video, I have quite a large weight pulling on the escapement wheel and the pendulum moving briskly, but if the pendulum loses just a little bit of energy and doesn't make a full swing the escapement wheel doesn't lock, and instead, spins freely dropping the weight. The weight, which is out of the video frame, is connected to a spool on the center of the escapement wheel via a white string that is almost in visible in the video. The bed size of the Statasys (about a cubic foot) prevented me from building much larger versions of this escapement where the tolerances wouldn't be as much of an issue.

Obviously, nice escapements and clocks can be built by hand, and I encourage anyone mechanically-minded to at least visualize how escapement works, if not trying to build one yourself.

I've included the complete CAD files from the escapement shown here, so you can use my models as a starting point for your own creations. EJW 3D-printed clock.zip includes Autodesk Inventor files and solid model exports (stl and sat files).


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    37 Discussions

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    animes25

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I could make this clock with paper, if you post the 3d model, then I could post the pattern to be printed

    10 replies
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    omnibotanimes25

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Wasn't there a book like that ones? I'd check with amazon.com but I'm too lazy.

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    an voomnibot

    Reply 1 year ago

    hello, can you help me draw clock so i print 3d

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    kanaminomnibot

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    it's called "Make Your Own Working Paper Clock". The design is adjustable and had the faceplate and hands and everything. I've had a copy of it since I was a little boy, when I was younger I was too scared I'd mess it up so I never tried it. I've decided to keep it in book form, lest it become rare some day. Some people have "probably" scanned it and the pdf is "probably" floating around the internet.

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    squirrelMLMkanamin

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Ugh I am currently building the paper clock from this book... Very tedious very frustrating... I am having a lot of trouble with this clock because the main wheel (which took more than an hour to make, btw) seems to be warped because I decided to use rubber cement instead of regular white glue, and the rubber cement wasn't strong enough, so now the main wheel won't quite turn true (it turns wobbly) which causes problems with it meshing properly with the other wheels... AGHHHH sooo frustrating

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    omnibotkanamin

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Um .. why yes .. I think I heard about that PDF somewhere. Anyone know where to find it? *whistles innocently*

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    johnblaggomnibot

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm that sounded like a call of I found it here it is...

    I have actually been looking for a file I could downlod of this for ages would you mind sharing them?

    and By the way ... keeping the book original for this long way to go... Im sure it is collectable by now to say the least

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    animes25animes25

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    forget what I said; I got the CAD files I will try to do it in paper, and post the patters so everyone can make their own clock

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    peach_fartanimes25

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    just open the files in pepakura and click unfold. youll have to convert the file to a .obj (wavefront), .dxf(autocad 3d), .mqo(metasequoia), .3ds(3ds max), .lwo(lightwave), .stl(binary stl), .kml, or .kmz(both google earth4). you wont be able to save files unless you want to spend $40 to get it registered.

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    dscott4

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool,

    I would love to see it added to the 3D print group I have just started

    https://www.instructables.com/group/3Dprint/

    Thanks

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    Aegian2424

    7 years ago on Introduction

    where is the weight that pulls the mechanism down? or is it without a weight?

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    keltnesdjhygz_07

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    The force of gravity works both against and for the pendulum. We can agree that if you started a pendulum with nothing else touching it, no escapement mechanism, it would eventually stop due to gravity. Adding the escapement and weight, however, should keep the pendulum going as long as the weight hasn't reached the ground. The weight causes the escapement gear to want to rotate, and as the lever releases the gear, the gear pushes back on the lever and therefore the pendulum as well. This little push is what overcomes the losses due to gravity.

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    danielsb7676

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey I'm looking for plans for an escapement clock that can measure to the tenth of a second if thats not possible im looking for any plans and or places where i can order parts

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    Tetsu57

    9 years ago on Introduction

    hi all, I work for a company that prints STL files directly into metal. This is more expensive than plastic, BUT, it's metal! This is not laser sintering, which is VERY expensive. Small parts are generally 3-5x more than plastic versions. Large projects are possible but it can get pricey. Go to: www.prommetal.com

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    Vendigroth

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Anytime anyone wants to make an instructable on a basic clock mechanism's fine by me. Always wanted to make a clock..

    1 reply
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    jrossjonesVendigroth

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Could it be the 3D printer has trouble making the fine points of the wheel as sharp and hard as one made of metal? If the wheel is free wheeling then would the distance between be the problem as for mentioned? And could this be a result of the tins being a fraction short, soft or something to this sort? Ross

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    benvandewaal

    10 years ago on Introduction

    The reason the escapement is behaving this way is that the two arms of the anchor have equal lengths(?). Making one arm a little bit shorter will case the entering pallet to enter the space between successive teeth (rather than on top of a tooth), exactly at the moment the other pallet looses contact with the escape-wheel. This brings the escape-wheel to a stop twice every full period of the pendulum.