Each person has a unique talent that they strive at but others struggle in. It sets them apart making them irreplaceable and distinguishable from the crowd. A talent could be the ability to make others laugh, a great motivator, storyteller, dancer, or artist. It’s in all of us, we just need to “attain the greatest success and happiness possible whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent,” Dr. Smiley Blanton said author of Love or Perish. Though he may not see it as a talent, Evan Stanford, a computer software engineer from Los Angeles, enjoys the technical aspects of creating 3D printed mechanical gears. Not everyone understands the process of how gears work and how each part connects to the other to make a simultaneous movement. However, this is what Stanford is refining his technique in and something that he is passionate about. Applying his engineering skills and interest in mechanically engineering gears, he wanted to create a fully functional device that was 3D printed. He started off by designing the “Worm Gears” model that he surprisingly found to have operated smoothly and printed well. From this design, it sparked his interest of creating a moving machine that wouldn’t require the use of electrical motors.
After giving it some thought and drawing up a few ideas, “I settled on creating a mechanical laser show. I just didn’t know how it would work yet,” Stanford said. He tampered with several designs “before landing on the current design of actuating the laser with three cams in direct contact”. The cams are the target paths that have a “series of points that the laser will follow” to create a pattern. This was the “most complicated part of the project” that required precise mathematical functions and coding. Once Stanford figured it out, the design for how the gears should be placed came easy for him to put together. He was able to make the device out of ten 3D printed components with only three moving parts.
Even though the device was a challenge, “I was proud to have significantly simplified the design of the mechanical laser show in comparison to my previous designs. Sometimes creating a complex solution to a problem is a great start. But many times the complex solution is not viable,” Stanford said.
“You can see the value of simplicity in all types of engineering and I’ve seen it first hand in mechanical and software engineering. When creating a mechanical device, if you can get to the same end result with one less component it’s a big win,” he expressed. Although the device that Stanford had created looks simple, there was much thought that went into the making of each part of the device. The great Italian painter, Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Sometimes we tend to overthink things that may seem complicated but are actually quite simple. When we put things into perspective, stop thinking of what could go wrong, and face our fears, the solution to a problem can become clear and achievable. See here for Evan Stanford’s mechanical laser device and here for his other models. Check out his website for a more detailed look at the device, how it works, and the coding to make one yourself.