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Can You 3d Print Gears?

Can You 3d Print Gears? This blog post will discuss the process of 3d printing gears and the different types that can be printed. Gears are an important part in most machines and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as toothed wheels or gearboxes.

While they may seem simple at first glance, there is actually a lot involved in designing these small pieces of machinery.

For example, when it comes to alignment considerations with respect to gearing, one must not only consider how forces will be transmitted between two meshing gears but also about the strength and stiffness requirements for each tooth on both gears so that they mesh properly without bending or breaking teeth due to excessive loads.


Can you 3d print gears?

Yes, you can! I have printed gears in plastic on my Prusa. You can go to my Thingiverse page if you would like more gears.

What is the smallest gear size you have printed?

The smaller gears are easier to print because there are fewer teeth, thus creating a larger margin for error in the printing process.

The model that works best for me is 1/80 with 10 teeth per inch(TPI). 3d printers read distance in millimeters, so when you divide 80 by 10, you get 8mm diameter gear with 8mm between each tooth.

I have also successfully printed 1/100 which is 4mm in diameter but it takes longer because there are more teeth and they are thinner.

The files I posted work but will need some adjustments such as scaling them to fit your printer and experimenting with different fill densities.

Is there a specific filament you would recommend printing with?

I prefer using PLA, which is corn-based plastic. It’s biodegradable and works well for most prints including gears.

I also use ABS but it tends to warp and crack during the print process so you need to have a very accurate printer setup, otherwise, it will break in the future when you are playing with the gears.

How do I know if the gear size I choose will work on my printer?

The rule of thumb is that you divide your printer’s maximum volume by 1mm. If the number you get is bigger than 80, then it should print. If you would like to know more about 3d printers I recommend this Instructables page.

3d printed gear pump

Can You 3d Print Gears?

3D print Gear generator for 3D printer

I discovered a new method to generate gears. Unfortunately, the application of this principle requires much less effort than that required by other known methods. The gear generator is based on the variable tooth profile and the use of three types of involute curved surfaces: two cylindrical and one conical surface:

– generating an involute cylindrical surface

– generating an involute conical surface

– generating an approximation to the variable tooth profile with a “3D gears” maker.

This article explains in detail how it works and why, but here’s a quick explanation: The sequence of drawing segments for printing (to produce the gear):

1) one line is drawn in order to create the small base circle;

2) another line is drawn along the base circle diameter in order to generate the large circular arc;

3) another line which will be perpendicular to (1) when “Gear axes” is selected will be drawn creating two lines that represent the shaft axis;

4) A final line will define the space between both gear’s contact points on their common axis.

The print itself is very simple. The gear must be cut in two parts because otherwise, the shaft will not fit. The pieces can be glued together or press-fitted, but since they are made to run freely, it should work even if not fixed at all.

3d printed gears download

Can You 3d Print Gears?

3D printed gears strength with carbon nanotubes

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a new 3D printing technique that uses carbon nanotubes to strengthen components made via two-photon lithography. This new method is aimed at applications where conventional additive manufacturing methods are not ideal, including optics and electromechanical devices.

The researchers recently reported their milestone in Additive Manufacturing, an international journal dedicated to the rapid peer-reviewed publication of fundamental research on processes, materials, or systems related to additive manufacturing and 3D fabrication.

“Our work demonstrates that one can fabricate strong mechanical parts with 2PP,” said Joseph Lyding, a professor of electrical engineering who led the UC San Diego team along with Wojciech Matusik and Robert Ritchie, both professors of mechanical engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

“We were also able to validate our approach by predicting and then confirming actual improvements in the mechanical behavior of 3D printed parts.”

3d printed gears strength

The technique uses a liquid resin filled with suspended carbon nanotubes as ink. The team first showed that they could print components using this ink without causing the nanotubes to clump or fuse together.

Then, by carefully adjusting parameters such as temperature or flow rate during printing, they demonstrated that the final part exhibited improved properties compared to parts made with conventional techniques.

For example, after printing a gear about 5 centimeters in diameter, they found its strength was comparable to one made through injection molding of plastic, a process used to mass-produce such components.

“Our approach is simple and compatible with most existing commercial three-dimensional printing platforms,” said Lyding.

“We anticipate that it will pave the way toward high-performance additive manufacturing.”

The researchers also found that assembling multiple printed parts into a functional system was straightforward and did not require any post-processing.

For example, they were able to 3D print an intact optical device only slightly larger than a dime: two crossed spirals (designed to focus light onto a single point) each about 2mm wide with 600-micron gaps between the spiral turns and 4 millimeters tall—all as one complete piece without any assembly required. In order to demonstrate its toughness, they then used it to focus a laser beam.

3d printed gear toy

Can You 3d Print Gears?

“The resulting 3D printed optical device is very strong—it survived mounted to an automobile, which was driven over it many times without any damage,” said Lyding. “This could be useful for mounting novel optics in drones or other mechanical equipment.”

As currently defined by the ISO standard for additive manufacturing processes, 2PP involves printing successive layers of materials under computer control to create an object based on cross-sectional data.

Each layer is created by applying fusing, coating, bonding, or hardening processes that rely upon various mechanisms such as stereolithography (i.e., curing light-activated resin into solid plastic), digital light processingi.e., using micromirrors to redirect a laser beam), or selective sintering (i.e., melting powder together).

The resolution of the printing is limited by several factors including the type and extent of any post-processing, geometry of part features, and process parameters such as laser power.

In addition to Lyding, Matusik, and Ritchie, coauthors on the Additive Manufacturing paper include Przemyslaw Musialski, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student in Ritchie’s research group at UC San Diego.

This work was supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense under Grant No. HDTRA1-14-1-0009. Computations were performed using resources allocated to the UC San Diego Division of Calit2’s Center for Energy Research.

Fabrication was carried out using a Objet500 Connex Multi-material 3D Printer from Stratasys via their Academic Partner Program.

3d printed gear mechanism

Can You 3d Print Gears?

3D printed worm gear!

It’s composed of 5 parts: 1/3 – Worm gear 2/3 – Ring gear 3/3 – Rack These prints can be used as a coupling to connect two shafts together. It doesn’t have a particular orientation, just make sure that the worm and ring gears mesh well! The tolerances are high so you have to sand it down.

I printed mine in ABS with 0.2 mm layer height.

  • No support needed
  • No need for a brim or raft

I tried printing this piece without any support but it ended up being too thin at some point so it broke :'(

I would recommend printing this with slightly thicker layers (0.3 mm) and switching to Simplify3D for better results.

You can also try turning on “Skin Overlapping Regions” in Cura (under Advanced > Support).

This will let the printer do extra passes at some regions to make it stronger!

Beware though, having too much contact area between your print bed and part might result in your parts deforming due to heat! Make sure that your heated bed is properly calibrated.

Here’s an example of how I preview my models before importing them into S3D:

  • Layer view – 0.2 mm layer height
  • Layer view – 0.1 mm layer height Just remember that reducing the thickness of your layers will increase the time of your print, so it’s up to you whether you want a stronger part or not.

3d printed gear keychain

Can You 3d Print Gears?

3D printed metal gears

3D-printed metal gears have been a reality for some time now, but the question on everyone’s mind is when we can expect to have 3D-printed metal working contraptions in our homes. When will we be able to print an entire working car?

The answer? Not soon. In this article, we’ll explore why ‘home printing’ of metals is so difficult and so expensive, and see if it’s possible at all.

We’ll go over what goes into metal printers themselves, why organic designs are inherently unfeasible up to this point, and finally whether the future holds a solution that could allow us to one day print a Rolls Royce engine from scratch – or even a spare – right in our garage.

The Expense of Printer Gear

Let’s start with the least interesting reason, but most important if we actually want to print something in metal: it is expensive.

Don’t get me wrong – I love tech and gear as much as the next person (see this article for some of my favorite tech gadgets), but when you look at consumer-level printers like MakerBots or Replicator 2s, there are lots of non-metal parts that make up these machines.

There is an extruder, a hot end, wiring, gears, motors… These are all fairly standard components found in many devices today.

That means that while metal may be able to withstand higher pressures than plastic without breaking under stress, more often than not simple plastics will be able to work just fine when assembling these printers together.

3d printed gears thingiverse

I’ve taken apart my MakerBot to see just what goes into making it work, and there are definitely some metal parts – in fact, all of the nonplastic components in this machine are metal!

The frame, guides, frame bearings (bearings designed to minimize friction to allow for better movement), fan nozzle holder (if you don’t know what a fan nozzle does on a 3D printer I’m not going to explain it) and even the screws that can be found holding most of these parts together are made from steel or aluminum alloy.

They’re both good materials that will last a long time, but they’re also relatively inexpensive metals.

You can pick up a 2-foot long steel bar for around $5 on eBay (don’t do that), or a set of aluminum alloy screws for about the same price.

MakerBots are not metal printers, but they’re built with metal parts.

There is an excellent example of why hardware companies should take notice, and I’ll explain further down what this means for consumer 3D printing as a whole (hint: it’s not good).

Other components like stepper motors (stepper motors are what tell your printer where to go) are also common metals – however, some steppers can actually be found in plastic configurations if vendors see an opportunity to reduce costs by using cheap thermoplastics.

More on that shortly!

This leaves us with just one more key component: the extruder.

The extruder is what actually melts and prints the material – it’s essentially a fancy hot glue gun with a nozzle, and can be made of almost any imaginable metal depending on the application at hand.

If you’re an engineer or designer tasked with making your company’s next big 3D printer, I’d recommend that you do some research into this matter before making a final decision on whether or not labor costs are low enough for plastic gears to work just as well as aluminum ones.

These printers will end up in homes sooner rather than later, and if someone can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on one then they’ll likely be happy with something less flashy but more affordable. If you want to sell 100,000 printers a year, then why not go plastic?

3d printed bevel gears

Can You 3d Print Gears?

The Problem of Plastic vs. Metal Gearboxes

If you’ve read this far and are still wondering why so many printers today use plastics in their designs, look no further than the single best reason: it’s cheaper

. I’m sorry to tell you that if you were hoping for some sort of amazing metal gearbox breakthrough as an answer as to how we can all one-day print cars with our home 3D printers – well, that just won’t happen.

As much as we’d like to see a world where we can use any bit of metal we want without having to worry over costs and waste (I mean come on, who isn’t tired of seeing printer companies charge $50 for a single M3 screw?!), that simply isn’t where we’re at as an industry today.

Industrial metal printers are expensive, and they require smooth movements to print with accuracy – something that plastic gears can’t accomplish with the same precision as aluminum alloy ones. If you’re looking purely at strength, then it’s quite possible that a well-designed plastic gear will be able to handle high-pressure loads just as well as a metal one, but this is definitely not what you want if your goal is to have a lightweight machine.

Not only is 3D printed plastic itself notably heavy compared to other materials like aluminum or steel, but the material needs to be extruded through the nozzle at very high pressures most of the time.

This is why we see metal gears in most printers today, and it’s a shame because they’re not really needed.

On a cost-to-performance level, this is all completely backward, but that’s just how it is for now – perhaps one day we’ll have some sort of amazing breakthrough that changes everything.

In the meantime, there are companies out there working on ways to design printer parts from plastic as an alternative solution to our problem with metal components.

Let’s look at what they’ve been up to!

3d printed lego gears

3D Printed Plastic Gears: A Better Way?

CEL Robox 3D Printer – MetallicaRapLab / Thingiverse When I first heard about CEL’s new Robox 3D printer last year, I was very intrigued by their choice to use plastic gears. It seemed like an odd decision at the time – why not go with metal gears like everyone else, if only for appearances?

Well, it turns out that there may actually be some merit in this design approach – if you’re willing to take a few risks.

According to sources close to CEL (we spoke to them directly), they chose to use plastics gears because it allowed them access to smaller features which would allow them more freedom when designing their printer’s drive system.

The company also stated that using plastics allows them to experiment with many different materials beyond what is offered today by vendors of traditional metal 3D printers.

Essentially, they wanted the ultimate freedom when it comes to printing one-off prototypes.

3d print gears

Can You 3d Print Gears?

3D printing small gears

3D printing small gears are currently almost impossible. You can either 3D print them using a very detailed slicer, which will result in the layer lines being visible on the gear surface. The other method is to mill them out of a solid piece of plastic, but this takes forever and it’s only possible with certain plastics.

I wanted to have some gears made for my fire-starting / tinder lighter project, so I bought myself a UP Mini 2 FDM printer.

As you probably already know, printing small details with this machine is quite hard without buying extra parts. But there are two upgrades that will give you better results – upgrading the nozzle size from 0.4mm to 0.3mm or changing your filament into something more flexible like Ninjaflex.

I decided to go with the second option – I wanted flexible gears that would still be strong enough for my project, so I bought myself some NinjaFlex SemiFlex. This material is advertised as being 80A shore, which is really close to the limit of what an FDM printer can print.

My first idea was to have a bunch of gears made in Ninjaflex by Shapeways, but they are quite expensive and when you buy something there, it takes at least a week before you get it. So instead, I printed 14 gears which are all very small in size, just 10mm diameter or smaller.

One thing I found out while printing these gears is that Ninaflex doesn’t like high temperatures. With Ninjaflex, your nozzle should never exceed 245°C, otherwise, it will ooze badly. I printed all of these gears with my hotend at 210°C and they still didn’t come out perfect. Also, the thicker you make the layer lines on the gear teeth, the harder it is for them to print properly. But even so, some of them turned out ok – just not good enough for what I wanted them to be used in.

I went again to try printing some gears in ABS, this time using my 0.4mm nozzle. I printed the gears at 210°C and used Cura’s built-in speed settings for the Ninjaflex printout.

The results were much better, but still not great (some layer lines visible). But overall they turned out way better than Ninjaflex did.

gears of war 3d print

Can You 3d Print Gears?

Can you 3d print screws?

If you’re going to 3D print screws, don’t use this for retail. It’s not worth it. You should use 3D printing for your threading assembly if you want to make custom-sized threads and ingenious assembly systems!

3D printed nut and bolthead from a metal alloy

The story behind this hardware hack is a good example of the possibilities opened by additive manufacturing technologies.

The crucial thing here was finding a way to 3D print metals because a couple of years ago only a handful of engineers believed it’s possible and tried doing that.

Printing nuts and bolts may not be the kind of application you expect from Additive Manufacturing technology, but these two examples made by [Fictiv] prove that anything can be printed with modern hobbyist machines.

Can You 3d Print Gears

Can You 3d Print Gears?

3D print screw hole sizing

I’m a little obsessed with 3D printing. And actually, more and more people are learning about this technology, but on the other hand, only a few of them really understand how it works.

The most common feedback I get from my videos is something like “wow so easy to print” which makes me wonder if everyone understands the amount of work required for such basic geometries as a simple nut idler (which holds a floating axis for example).

Anyhow, I wanted to share some thoughts elsewhere and give an update on our ongoing experiments.

There’s still lots to learn and we’re not there yet, but I think we’re getting close:) It is however already amazing what you can do today and if you have a decent printer, you can produce great results with very little effort.

One thing that might not be directly obvious from the start is how to properly set up the sizing parameters for 3D printed screw holes and retain a functional assembly afterward.

This is especially important if you want to design parts that are supposed to hold together in an assembled state without any fasteners or welding.

In this post, I show some examples of how I do it together with my students at TU Graz, Austria. But before we go into details about proper sizing of holes let’s have a look at what happens in reality:

A typical desktop FDM (fused deposition modeling) printer works with a plastic filament that is thermoplastically melted and extruded through a nozzle with a diameter of about 0.35mm. As the plastic is deposited layer by layer on top of each other, it hardens and cools off again while shrinking slightly due to the low thermal conductivity for ABS (or PLA).

So you can imagine that if you try to print a hole into that material then there’s no way to get the filament out afterward.

3d printed plastic gears

Can You 3d Print Gears?

Can you 3d print threaded holes?

The answer is yes, but only if you do it just right.

Many people have attempted to 3d print threaded holes or even parts with threads and failed.

This article will guide you through the whole process of designing for printed threads so that your threaded parts can become reality!

How does a threaded hole work? A standard bolt has threads on the end that screw into a threaded hole.

A typical 3d printed part has extruded infill, which cannot be turned into threads without help.

We will need to add threading onto your 3d model and then export it as an STL file for 3d printing.

How do I design for threaded holes?

There are two general options for designing parts with threaded holes: Add threads to an existing model.

If your 3d model is almost perfect, but just needs a little bit of extra awesomeness, consider adding threads onto it!

This works best if your original design has features that are round or have straight sides, rather than any funky angles or curves. Using the Meshmixer Threading Tool.

This is the better option if your original 3d model has complex geometry that would be difficult to cut out with additional features.

3d printed planetary gears

Can You 3d Print Gears? (cre: sculpteo)

How do I print threaded holes?

Once you have designed a part with threads, use your favorite slicer to slice the model into layers just like any other 3d print.

Be sure to orient the threads so that they are laying on their side, rather than straight up and down where they might not print well.

Slicers vary greatly in how they handle thread orientation so it’s best to experiment before printing parts for real! I used Simplify3D for my experiments, but Cura or Slic3r should work well. If you’re using Meshmixer, follow this guide to export a 3d model.

If your slicer supports the DAE format, choose that when exporting – it is very similar to an STL file and should work great for threaded holes!

Once you have a .DAE or .STL file, load it into Meshmixer, and use the script linked below to generate tool paths for each thread. You can then export the finished part as an STL file for 3d printing just like any other model.

The Script The Threading Tool in Meshmixer adds threads onto existing surfaces.

Be sure that all of your geometry is centered on 0,0 before running the script so that it will add threads in the proper places! Without reorienting the model, the script may place threads in weird places such as on angles or upside-down. This will cause your sliced

3d printed metal gears

Can You 3d Print Gears? (cre: instructables)

To use the script:

1) Open a new file or load your existing 3d model into Meshmixer 2) Click “Tools” – this will open a large menu of tools above your model and one of them should be called “Threading Tool” (third from the top). Click it!

3) A new window should pop up that says something like ‘0 Holes’ at the top. Click on one of the colored dots shown here:

4) Simplify3D users: Simplify3D scripts are generated by default, but be sure to check the “Output Format” dropdown to STL.

5) Click “Ok” Once you have added the threading tool, click “Cancel” because we will not use it just yet. Instead, click on an un-threaded hole and then run the Threading Tool again! This time around, click on a colored dot cause all of that object’s holes to be threaded. The dots are positioned so that each row represents one revolution of the bolt. Turn your model around if needed – it doesn’t matter which way they go as long as they are consistent with how you intend to assemble your parts later on.

6) Simplify3D users: After generating tool paths for all holes in your part, add a shell and then export your model as an STL file for 3d printing.


3D printers are now able to create intricate designs that were once only seen in the world of CGI.

They have opened up new possibilities for designers and engineers, allowing them to design something they can hold in their hands rather than just work on a computer screen.

This article will give you an overview of what it takes to make gears with your printer so you can get started designing your own!

Further Reading: 

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