A Blast from the Past with a 3D Printed Tourbillon Clock
The past, oftentimes have a very unique and incredible way of coming back to the future. In the case of timekeeping devices, tourbillon-controlled watches have been replaced by battery-operated ones for a very long time already. Because the structure and the wide assortment of gears needed to make a tourbillon work is very complex and expensive to produce, it is a technology that has been left to gather dust on the shelf of modern watchmakers.
The tourbillon was first introduced in watches during the 1800. It was unique in a way that it relies on a spring and a spinning mechanism to make clocks as accurate as possible as opposed to the system found in pendulums, where the swinging mechanism is the main principle behind the precision of time. The combination of very complex mechanisms and rare metals that are used to produce most of the parts has dissuaded most watchmakers, except if the price is right. Thus, this is now a device that can be found in the most expensive watch and is now treated more as an indication of a person’s status symbol rather than an indispensable timekeeping device.
It is quite surprising and impressive that something as cutting edge as 3D printing is used for something that is often labeled by experts as arcane. The complexity in the production of tourbillons remains to be so even with 3D printing, but it means that the materials will no longer be as expensive. Instead of rare and precious metals, anyone can use 3D printing materials to manufacture the necessary pieces of the tourbillon.
The Swiss engineer and Thingeverse fanatic, Christoph Laimer, brings a new meaning to the term “clockwork precision”. He amazingly brought to life a tourbillon clock that is largely made of 3D printed parts and gears. Prior to the printing, the clock was endlessly tinkered with using the Autodesk Fusion 360. It is in this process that 3D printing really shines as Laimer can fiddle with the digital design as much as he wants until he is absolutely sure that everything will work. Once the digital design was perfected, the Ultimaker 2 successfully 3D printed the parts and gears of the tourbillon using PLA. A wide assortment of parts and gears totaling more than 50 of them were 3D printed.
The exact science and amazing skills used in tourbillon were in full display in Laimer’s creation. Although he was now using 3D technology, the complexity does not end with the digital design. He actually had to adjust the settings in his 3D printer so he can produce the delicate spiral plastic components. Most of the parts were 3D printed using the standard 0.1mm resolution, while the more fragile parts were fabricated using 0.06 resolution. The clock will mechanically operate for 35 minutes before it needs to be ho is interested in fabricating the same amazing clock can do so by checking the materials and instructions posted on Thingeverse by Laimer himself. Be forewarned though, that this is something even very skilled designers and advanced practitioners of 3D printing may find hard to replicate.