You’ve probably seen the drawings where some illustrator thought he was being very techie and placed three gears next to one another in a triangle all meshed together. You and I can look at a graphic like that and our spatial imagination quickly sees the problem, the gears can’t turn because they’re all locked in place. Now look at the gears in the photo.
The photo and the video below show a perfectly useless set of three gears, but fascinating, too, because the gears are meshed together and they turn. These were created as a complete assembly on a 3D printer and, at least for me, even after I watch the video, it’s difficult to clearly imagine the arrangement in my mind’s eye. I see it, I understand it, but it’s one orientation twist too many to conjure it up to begin with. Try it. Close your eyes and follow the path of the teeth on the individual gears and how they need to be angled to pull this off.
The reason I wanted to bring this little gizmo to your attention is to illustrate a point. Everyone is used to being amazed by all of the gee whiz electronics around us and ever since we began to create the world of complex circuitry, even when you understand it, without the aid of voltmeters and oscilloscopes, you can’t see what’s going on. But mechanical things, gears, no problem, you can watch it move, everything meshes and turns and reciprocates, it’s easy, right? Then you look at these gears and it’s get’s a little fuzzy.
Some mechanical wizard in the past might have been able to machine or carve something like this after lots of trial and error and a big pile of wasted material next to his bench, but now these gears can be designed on a computer and printed on demand. How many would you like? Want them smaller or larger? No problem. As already stated, these gears may be useless, but they’re still pretty amazing and a sign of things to come.
The beautiful upside to this is that even for the guys that are gearheads through and through, who would rather not get involved with all of the really high tech, you don’t have to worry about the world grinding to a halt with all of the advancements happening somewhere else, if we can design and create things like this, you can bet there’s a lot more coming, so stay sharp. Cool.