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Systems Within

3D Printed Planetary Gear: The 10 Best Models

Picture of Benjamin Goldschmidt
by Benjamin Goldschmidt
Mar 21, 2020
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Planetary gears look cool and are useful too! Reap the benefits with these great 3D printed planetary gear prints!

3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Galactic Gear-Trains

This planetary gear operates around a central
This planetary gear operates around a central "sun" gear and an outer "ring" gear (Source: Prusa Printers)

When you hear the term “planetary gears”, you might imagine some random gears floating through space, orbiting a star. And that isn’t actually so far off from the real thing.

In fact, the concept of a planetary gear, also known as epicyclic gears, relates to an early understanding of our solar system and planetary orbits. Early depictions of the solar system had our planets orbiting in planar, circular orbits, which is exactly what planetary gears do.

How They Work

In the case of planetary gears, there’s a central “sun” gear meshed with surrounding “planet” gears, which ride along an outer “ring” gear. Generally speaking, planetary gears can be used to change the torque and speed of a rotating shaft, as would be seen in a gearbox.

The advantage of planetary gears is that they’re much less prone to jumping teeth or stripping out under higher loads. They’re also more compact than similar “linear” gearboxes.

If you just need to have one of the following gears but don’t have the setup to have it precisely made, consider reaching out to a 3D printing service. Through Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP, you can find the best prices and services to get your model printed in your choice of a huge variety of materials and finishes. The best part? The service is free, meaning you only have to pay for the cost of printing and shipping the parts.

Now, let’s launch into the list of the best and most interesting 3D printable planetary gearboxes!

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

1,048,576:1 Planetary Reduction System

This 1,048,576:1 planetary gear is absurdly useless, but still cool nonetheless
This 1,048,576:1 planetary gear is absurdly useless, but still cool nonetheless (Source: mgg942 via Thingiverse)

Now, we know what you’re thinking. Why in the world would you need a gear reduction ratio of 1,048,576:1?

It turns out (like with many 3D printed objects) that there is no particular reason, other than that it can be done. But don’t scoff until you’ve seen for yourself how 2,000 turns results in 2.6 mm of end rotation.

This kind of precision gives even the most expensive positioning stages a run for their money.

Who made it? mgg942 (remixed from a design by aubenc)

Who printed it? At least three makers, judging by the associated Makes, but the real number is surely higher, given the 5,500 downloads!

Where to get it? Thingiverse

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Fidget Spinner

This planetary gear fidget spinner is sure to keep your friends occupied for hours
This planetary gear fidget spinner is sure to keep your friends occupied for hours (Source: BDA via Cults3D)

Planetary gears have many uses, such as increasing torque, but this planetary gear fidget spinner is simply meant to entertain (for hours on end).

Although this model isn’t entirely 3D printed, the bearings are pretty standard for makers to have lying around. Overall, while this is a simpler version of a planetary gear, it has caught our attention based on its unique purpose.

Who made it? BDA

Who printed it? This model has been downloaded 94 times, and the designer’s photos clearly show how well it can turn out.

Where to get it? Cults

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

NEMA 17 Gearbox

This planetary gearbox fits a standard NEMA 17 stepper motor for future robotics projects
This planetary gearbox fits a standard NEMA 17 stepper motor for future robotics projects (Source: John Doe via MyMiniFactory)

When we talk about functional 3D prints, nothing could be more functional than a planetary gearbox that actually works with an existing stepper motor.

This 43.3:1 planetary gearbox fits a NEMA 17 stepper motor for use in larger projects. A notable use is for robotic arms.

The size of this gearbox is impressive, as well, with its diameter being about two-quarters of its height. Compact, yet powerful.

Who made it? John Doe

Who printed it? Unfortunately, apart from the designer, no one’s shared any pics of the model, despite it being downloaded over 1,000 times.

Where to get it? MyMiniFactory

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Helicopter Powertrain

With this main gearbox for a helicopter, you're well on your way to taking to the skies
With this main gearbox for a helicopter, you're well on your way to taking to the skies (Source: konchan77 via Thingiverse)

Anyone who’s ever said 3D printing can’t make anything useful has never seen this print. This functional (granted, still plastic) gearbox for a helicopter is a great teaching tool.

A prime example of the many uses of planetary gears, this model demonstrates how rotation in different axes can translate to a spinning helicopter blade. Conveniently, this build comes with many easy-to-follow assembly photos.

Who made it? konchan77

Who printed it? This model has been downloaded 1,473 times with one posted Make.

Where to get it? Thingiverse

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Planetary Calendar

Gear calendar
Take a chance with this unique 3D printed planetary gear calendar (Source: Wash via Cults3D)

Calendars probably wouldn’t be your first thought when you think of planetary gears. And while not a full planetary gear set, this model makes use of the outer ring gear as an incremental indicator.

The planetary gear calendar uses the rotation of the outside ring to change the date for each day of the month. It should be noted that the numbers need to be drawn or painted on in order for this to work.

In addition, it has a manual advancing gear, so you have to change the date by hand.

Who made it? Wash

Who printed it? Difficult to say with Cults, but the model’s been viewed over 300 times.

Where to get it? Cults

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Hyperbolic Gear Set

This hyperbolic planetary gear shows the power of 3D printing to make unique gearing systems
This hyperbolic planetary gear shows the power of 3D printing to make unique gearing systems (Source: jsteuben via Thingiverse)

Most people have never heard of a hyperbolic gear, let alone a hyperbolic planetary gear. However, this alien-like gear set shows some interesting properties, including the ability to arbitrarily set the planet gears at an angle to the central gear, much like our planets do in our real solar system.

Although this device is a toy demonstration, it shows the principles of off-axis power transfer quite well.

Who made it? jsteuben

Who printed it? This has been downloaded almost 25,000 times and has 43 confirmed Makes.

Where to get it? Thingiverse

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Cyberpunk Mask

Although not particularly useful, this mask looks like it would work well for a cyberpunk costume
Although not particularly useful, this mask looks like it would work well for a cyberpunk costume (Source: Nikobotics via Thingiverse)

This model is for those who don’t really need a functional planetary gear system for anything. If you simply like the look of them, why not try out this cyberpunk planetary gear mask?

It has two planetary gear systems on each side of the mask. They’re not particularly functional, but they do look great for a future-meets-past cyberpunk costume.

This model is printed in multiple pieces and must be assembled after printing.

Who made it? Nikobotics

Who printed it? This model has been downloaded 1,108 times, but apart from the designer’s successful print, nobody’s posted a Make yet. Why not be the first?

Where to get it? Thingiverse

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

High Torque Bowden Extruder

This compact bowden extruder is perfect for increasing torque for filament feeding
This compact bowden extruder is perfect for increasing torque for filament feeding (Source: alexspeller via Thingiverse)

As mentioned earlier, planetary gears are great at increasing torque. Applied to 3D printing, this can be extremely helpful in the extruder department.

This planetary gear Bowden extruder increases the torque in a 5:1 ratio, which is impressive considering its small size. With this at your disposal, you should have no problems printing the rest of the items on our list.

Who made it? alexspeller

Who printed it? Judging by the 1,132 downloads, quite a few 3D printer enthusiasts.

Where to get it? Thingiverse

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Water Motor

This planetary gear is a motor powered by water pressure
This planetary gear is a motor powered by water pressure (Source: JOHLINK via Pinshape)

The one problem with planetary gear systems is a power source. You could, of course, use a motor, but what fun is that?

This planetary gear water motor is a 3D printed “concept device”, using running water from a hose to spin a turbine, in turn powering the planetary gearbox. While not particularly efficient or waterproof, it is a cool proof of concept for those hot summer days.

Conveniently, this build includes a demonstration as well as an animated video of its assembly.

Who made it? JOHLINK

Who printed it? Hard to say, but it’s been viewed over 4,000 times.

Where to get it? Pinshape

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3D Printed Planetary Gear Models

Light Switch

This fully functional planetary gear light switch is the perfect thing for the gear head in your life
This fully functional planetary gear light switch is the perfect thing for the gear head in your life (Source: Engineer Dog)

For the hardcore gear heads, this fully-functional planetary gear light switch would be the perfect addition to your workshop or garage.

Aside from being a classy way to turn your lights on and off, this setup uses a wrench as the switch component, an accentuating touch that just makes it that much more awesome.

The print comes in five pieces and has instructions for assembly as well as post-processing. It should fit standard US outlet sizes and is best if printed in alternating colors for a nicer aesthetic effect.

Who made it? Michael Graham

Who printed it? Probably quite a few people, considering it’s been viewed over 5,600 times.

Where to get it? Pinshape

(Lead image source: coltontshudy via Instructables)

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License: The text of "3D Printed Planetary Gear: The 10 Best Models" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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