July 19, 2015 | By Simon

When it comes to ranking some of the best toy designs in the history of toy design, it is oftentimes the most simple toys that rely on basic physics - rather than splashy marketing campaigns - to entertain their users.  Among other toys that come to mind include everything from simple marbles and bouncy balls to more traditionally-manufactured push-cars and simple wind up toys.

Among other toys that rely on basic physics for entertainment include the Walking Gyro, a simple toy that was invented by a man named John W. Jameson in 1981.  The toy, which relies on a spinning flywheel and centrifugal forces move itself forward taking small steps, was patented by toymaker Mattel however never made it into production.  Now that the patent has been expired, enthusiastic makers who don’t mind printing their own can make one for themselves.   

“This amazingly clever walking toy was invented more than 30 years ago by my friend John Jameson,” says Maker Jeffrey Kerr.   

“It consists of two feet that are geared to a spinning flywheel, so that as the flywheel spins, the feet stomp up and down. When one foot goes down, instead of tipping over, the gyroscopic action causes the body to lift up and then precess around the planted foot. When the other foot comes down, the body lifts again but it precesses in the opposite direction, and voila, it walks!”

According to Kerr, John's original version was produced using machining methods - tools that most people probably don’t have laying around their home garage or office...so why not create one that is 3D printed? 

“The (new) one I designed is nearly completely 3D printable,” explains Kerr on the Instructables page for the project.   

“With the addition of some ball bearings, steel rod, screws, o-rings, and also 104 pennies for the flywheel, you can create your very own copy. The overall cost is less than $10.”

Due to the spinning flywheel feature of the toy, a perfectly balanced metal disc would normally be needed in order to ensure that the toy is able to move itself forward - however the use of 104 pennies ensures that each design will have the same weight and that the final working toy walks as intended.


In total, the assembly consists of just 12 separate part files however some additional mechanical components are needed to ensure that the toy functions as intended.  

The additional parts need for the build include:

  • 20 4-40 x 3/8" pan head screws (McMaster 90272A108)

  • 1 4-40 x 5/8" pan head screw

  • 1 4-40 set screw

  • 10 3mm bore, 10mm OD, 4mm thick ball bearings (623ZZ) ......(I purchased 10 for $2.15 at http://www.ebay.com/itm/161255478926)

  • 5 #4 washer, 0.22 OD x 0.031 thick (McMaster 90295A359)

  • 1 3mm rod x 1.9" long (McMaster 5544T222)

  • 1 3mm rod x 2.5" long (McMaster 5544T222)

  • 4 O-rings 1/16" thick x 1 7/8 OD (McMaster 9452K118)

  • 3ft 30# test Spectra braided fishing lines

  • 104 pennies

  • superglue, phillips screwdriver, 0.050" hex wrench

As for assembling the toy, each of the mechanical components are created easily using the considered design features of the 3D printed files - such as slots for the pennies and ridges for the O-rings, among others.  

Finally, once the Gyroman has been assembled, all that’s needed to get him walking is a simple pull of the wound fishing line - which ultimates provides a kickstart for the spinning flywheel and resulting centrifugal forces:

For those who want to create their own Gyroman, Kerr has generously supplied all of the necessary build steps and STL files on his Instructables page for the project.  


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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John Jameson wrote at 2/22/2016 10:00:36 PM:

Hi Simon, Although Mattel was interested I did not sign with them but instead with Bandai, whom then sublicensed to Tonka for the Gobot line in the 80's. But then the whole Gobot line was cancelled shortly thereafter so I was screwed. Bandai sold a bunch in Japan though - but my patent didn't cover Japan. I made about $20K for the royalty advance though. best, john jameson Inventor of the Walking Gyroscope

Simon wrote at 10/28/2015 6:33:20 AM:

Thanks for sharing this detailed guide. Its amazing to think we will soon be able to 3D print everything. It will even be possible to 3D print the 3D printer itself. I guess we need to start looking into sourcing raw material.. What do you think about Hemp fibers? Simon

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