Jan 11, 2016 | By Alec

While we here at 3ders.org see a lot of cool electronic projects featuring a lot of 3D printed parts, we are always especially interested in fully mechanical ones too. Unfortunately, most fully mechanical builds tend to be quite simple, but that is not a word even slightly related to an amazing watch project by Swiss designer Christoph Laimer. As a tribute to centuries of handcrafted watches, he has designed and 3D printed a huge, highly intricate and fully mechanical tourbillon watch that can accurately display the time for up to 35 minutes using nothing but a winding system.

Of course we’ve already seen a number of impressive 3D printed watches, but this particular creation is definitely the most inspiring of its kind – and not just because it features a mechanical winding mechanism. By incorporating the tourbillon mechanism, Christoph Laimer 3D printed what is probably one of the most complex watch designs. Developed all the way back in 1795 by French-Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet (patented in 1801), the tourbillon mechanism is an ingenious method for solving a problem that typically affects fully mechanical watches: gravity. A watch is always fighting a losing battle when needing to climb upwards and downhill while continuously displaying the correct time, and Breguet solved this by adding an escapement and balance wheel to the watch, in a rotating cage. By continuously rotating the entire balance wheel/escapement assembly at a slow rate, the positional errors caused by gravity are averaged out.

Nowadays, you rarely see this complex mechanism anymore. Battery-powered watches already have the power necessary to fight gravity, while other solutions have also been developed over time. The tourbillon mechanism has become something of a cool rarity. “However, a tourbillon is more a technical gadget for showing off. There seem to be other, more effective solutions to improve accuracy,” the designer admits. However, that makes it all the more impressive that Laimer has decided to breathe new life into this classic concept.

This particular 3D printed tourbillon watch (which is obviously far too large to wear, but illustrates the technology very nicely), features a Swiss lever escapement and is almost completely 3D printed. The 3D printed spring gives it enough power to run for 35 minutes before needing to be wound up again, though a steel spring would give far more power. As Laimer explained, he simply wanted to show off what 3D printing can do nowadays. “The project demonstrates that the 3D printing technology is developing. Compared with earlier generations of 3D printers, the process works more reliable and more accurately,” he explains.

What’s more, Laimer has shared all of his designs on Thingiverse, should you be willing to tackle such a challenging project. He designed all parts in Autodesk Fusion 360, and 3D printed them on an Ultimaker 2 (no rafts or supports, a default resolution and a 30% infill, though a few parts will need different settings.). In total, it involves 51 different 3D printed files (as well as some pins and screws). The case itself is 3D printed in the shock absorbing PETG, while the rest is done in PLA filament. “Printing on heated glass-bed. Used a mix of alcohol and water to clean it. Adhesion is exceptional. For removing the parts from the build plate I poured a few drops of the same alcohol mix into the groove between plastique and glass. The effect is miraculous and the part can be removed immediately without applying any force,” he advises.

All in all, it’s bound to be a very challenging 3D printing project, especially as the assembly process will be very complex indeed. Fortunately, Laimer has provided detailed assembly instructions in the clips above. This tourbillon watch could be one of the most challenging 3D printing projects you could make without resorting to electronics. For more information, check out his page on Thingiverse here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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