MakerBot Print is our newest print-prepration software, which supports native CAD files and STL assemblies,
allows you to interact with all your printers via the Cloud, and many other exciting new features.

Download Now


Anti-Backlash Compound Planetary Gearhead

by LoboCNC Apr 15, 2019
Download All Files

Thing Apps Enabled

Please Login to Comment

Jeff, do you recall what helix angle, pressure angle (i presume 20 degrees), module, and backlash you used to create the outer rings in this actuator? I do have to rebuild this in Fusion 360 as I'm going on about 40 crashes and it's killing me.

I've realized that Solidworks imports with about 250 points per tooth edge at top and bottom of all helical gears and that's why Fusion 360 can't handle it because it multiplies out into insanity. There is a helical gear tool in Fusion 360 and it creates clean tooth edges so I can do all the mods I'm trying to do to this actuator.

Thanks a ton.

These are 40 pitch gears (40 teeth per 1" of diameter), so you'll have to convert that to a module value. And yes, 20 deg. pressure angle. The pitch of the helix is 10.9 deg. This means that the top of each tooth is skewed by 1.25 teeth relative to the bottom of the tooth. Good luck rebuilding everything in Fusion 360.

Excellent. Thanks.

Hi Jeff, I'm trying to get an optical end stop working. The concept is to use a TCRT5000 reflective IR sensor. It's nice and small, reflects well off of the 4mm balls and the IR light gets nicely absorbed by black sharpie marker so a tab that can be blackened can be added to the top part of the actuator as seen in the attached images.

Here's the problem. That parasolid file keeps crashing Fusion 360. It imports ok seemingly, but I think it's so heavy on Fusion 360 that when you zoom in, it crashes it. So, I've been having to work with the STL files which is not a great way to do it because you get stuck with less boolean operations available in Fusion 360 due to it being a mesh. Is there any chance you could try exporting other types of file formats so I can see which one works best in Fusion 360?


Yeah, working with STL's as your CAD source is not great. I've just posted an IGES version - see if that works any better.

Awesome. Trying to import the IGES right now, although it looks like it paused at the 60% mark. So I think that format won't work either. What about STP?

BTW, here's the latest incarnation of your latest anti-backlash actuator with my custom circuit board. It's packed with ESP32, TMC2130, TMP36 sensor, fan, fan controller, ws2812 LED, touch jog dial. You can see in the vid I'm struggling with wires. Will just have to shorten and cut new stepper cable to make more room.

STEP was actually my first choice, but fro some reason Solidworks, on that particular file, blows up the STEP file to several hundred MB. And very impressive (an amusing) work on the actuator redesign. You've really managed to pack 10 lb into a 5 lb bag.

Fusion 360 does support importing Solidworks files natively .sldprt and .sldasm are supported. You just drag in the whole folder of parts and assembly file and you're good to go. Any chance you could try that export format? The IGS is acting the same way as the Parasolid. It has so many triangles in it (I believe) that it causes huge 1GB files to be created when you export the STL and then you can't slice those. Plus it crashes Fusion non-stop. Thank you so much.

I didn't realize Fusion 360 could import Solidworks directly - I'm using SW2011 so hopefully that won't be an issue. I'm uploading the SW version now...

Thanks. Those Solidworks files are working better, although they're still sort of crashing Fusion 360. At least I can sort of make it through if i don't zoom in.

Here's the latest derivation I'm working on. Trying to get 20v to transmit via the actuator as a slip-ring.


I think this is similar with your previous actuator, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdRGrTHq4hA .
On that video, body40 part is divided into two parts(grey one and yellow one), so it can move flexibly.
But when I printed body40, I found it consit of single part, so It do not move flexibly.

On this model, the flexible ring is still relatively stiff - just enough give to allow for tiny variations in the gears. Also note that the there is a tiny 1-layer gap beneath the ring gear and the bottom surface, and the gear needs to be flexed ever so slightly to break it away from the bottom,

How do I know if this is printed correctly?
Should body40's structure move slightly, but visibly?

Yes, you should be able to see just the slightest movement in the ring gear if you insert a small flat screwdriver blade into the flexure and pry very gently.

Printed everything in about 5 hours but can't assemble. Either Sun, or orbiter gears are way to big to fit. Are you sure you scaled everything down from original project?

I printed using Cura and Octoprint on Ender 3 and everything fit together like a glove. I did use 0.3mm nozzle and 0.06 layer height.

The STL files posted are the same ones I used for the assembled unit shown. It could be that you are over extruding some, making the parts not fit. Also, you have to be very careful to assemble the planet cluster gears as described, aligning the fiducial marks, otherwise it won't go together.

Printed all together, 100% infill, 0.4mm nozzle, 0.15mm slice, 200C nozzle, 60C bed, 100% speed, 100% fan. Everything came out looking perfect, i see marks for planetary alignment but i can't fit everything in, orbiters seems overpressurized.

How much clearance is exactly in planetary?

The gears were designed with maybe only 0.002" clearance, which is essentially zero clearance when you're talking about 3D printing. The flexing ring gear, however, is what allows it all to work. That said, the assembly is still pretty tight and you still need to clean up any surface irregularities before assembly.

Any chance you could post a STEP file of this one? I want to see if I can fit a brass coupling on the shaft and then have it attach to the sun gear.

For some reason,saving this as a STEP file in Solidworks blows up to 0.5 GB file. Instead, I've posted as a parasolid file. Hope you can read it.

Excellent. Thanks. Imported fine into Fusion 360 as parasolid.

There are no arrows for alignment on the planetary gears, so is it not as important on this design to align those planetary gears as accurately when you place them into the final assembly? It appears to be ok from the build I did, but it would seem you still would need to line these up well. I'm just doing it by visual eyesight but alignment arrows would be nice.

Orientation is still important. The original arrows were a little hard to get aligned, and on this design, there was no good place to put them on the ring gear. Instead, you'll notice that on the larger cluster gear, one tooth has the top beveled, and on the ring gear there are 3 pairs of adjacent teeth with top bevels. In the 3rd photo, you can see where I marked these with a Sharpie. There's a little more detail about the alignment in the Assembly section of the Thing Details.

Wow, you just keep upping the ante. This anti-backlash design looks great. Printing one right now.

Thanks! For the smallest actuator, this upgrade is pretty well necessary because it's really hard to get the tiny gear teeth running smoothly enough for the tiny motor. Hopefully, though, I'll have time to do anti-backlash versions of the medium and large actuators as well.

Where did you get the 4mm balls?

I got Delrin (acetal) balls from McMaster Carr. I am actually using 5/32" balls, but they also sell 4mm. You can also use steel balls which are a little more widely available.