Top 5 Constraints: Gears and Stuff

As a quick refresher:

The goal of my project is to create a puzzle box with a focus on moving gears. This small puzzle should test spatial and logical problem solving skills while maintaining a satisfying mechanical aesthetic.

1.) Template Design

Leading in from my last laser cutting project, I’m still learning Inkscape in order to make my templates. Since I’ve barely worked with any other design software other than GIMP, the learning process is ongoing. Gears are especially difficult, since there’s a lot of math that goes into making sure teeth will mesh correctly are made correctly. There’s a built in gear maker in Inkscape, but it’s fairly rudimentary and is missing key functionality. For example, when making an inverted gear I had to manually invert and clone the teeth. Ultimately I’m going to have to start making my own gears if I want to go with stranger shapes, so building up my skill in the software is a must-do now.

1.) Puzzle Design Space

Another one of the main problems I’m running into is that gear puzzles seem to be pretty limited. Doing a google image search mostly comes up with kid’s puzzles. These usually consist of “If you turn this gear, what will happen?”, or “Where can I place these gears to make this one turn?”. Both of these spatial problems are hard to scale, so I decided that I need to look further. Basically I need to figure out what the building blocks of my puzzle will be so that I can streamline creation and wrap my head around the process. In my notebook I’ve been attempting to make logic gates, using circles as gears and rectangles as racks(lines of gear teeth). The results have been middling at best, as your inputs need to be individual gears and “running” the gate involves another input gear. It’s possible that this just doesn’t translate well so I might have to try another system.

3.) The Third Dimension

Due to the choice to make this using laser cut pieces I’m limiting myself in the types of gears I can make. Some of the more interesting gears that turn 90 degrees require side engraving, which would have to be done with a 3D printer. My design will still work in three dimensions for the cube, but will have to rely on simpler dowel systems which honestly don’t look as cool.  Originally I wanted to use gears at 45 degree angles in order to connect different cube faces, but this doesn’t work well with 2D gears (usually the teeth have a “V” shape facing into the z axis). I’m going to have to design around this, or maybe if I run out of time I can cut out the 3rd dimension entirely.

3.) All the goddamn things I still need to learn

The most intimidating thing about this project is probably the fact that I still need to learn a lot of skills before I can get my project like I envision. Right now my next prototype will probably be a 2D cardboard/wood example of different puzzles. This doesn’t even begin to cover the woodworking that will go into designing a

5.) Time

So far most have my progress has been in trying to figure out if my project is actually a good idea. There really isn’t much time left for me to decide on a specific design and iterate. Therefore, the biggest constraint I’ll likely face with my product is the limited amount of available time.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Hey Kyle,
    It’s surely a great project, with your design, I think you can combine two or more gear mechanisms to come up with a great puzzle. Maybe use like a rack and pinion mechanism to attach gears out of plane, time sure is a constraint but if there’s anything I can help you with, do let me know. All the best.

  • Max Armstrong
    March 8, 2020 3:28 pm

    These all sound like reasonable constraints. It is certainly a bold project that you’re embarking upon and I hope it goes well! If you’re in need of CAD work for the 3D printing, just message me in slack and I can help you out as a part of worktrade. Also I’m wondering if you would be able to use the flat gears in a 3D fashion by orienting them somewhere between 90 deg and horizontal. That way the bevel wouldn’t be as essential.


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