3D-Printing the History of Mechanisms

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Physical models of machines have played an important role in the history of engineering for teaching, analyzing, and exploring mechanical concepts. Many of these models have been replaced today by computational representations, but new rapid-prototyping technology allows reintroduction of physical models as an intuitive way to demonstrate mechanical concepts. This paper reports on the use of computer-aided modeling tools and rapid prototyping technology to document, preserve, and reproduce in three dimensions, historic machines and mechanisms. We have reproduced several pre-assembled, fully-functional historic mechanisms such as early straight line mechanisms, ratchets, pumps, and clock escapements, including various kinematic components such as links, joints, gears, worms, nuts, bolts, and springs. The historic mechanisms come from the Cornell Collection of Reuleaux Kinematic Models as well as models based on the work of Leonardo da Vinci. The models are available as part of a new online museum of mechanism, which allows visitors not only to read descriptions and view pictures and videos, but now also download, 3D-print and interact with their own physical replicas. Our aim in this paper is to demonstrate the ability of this technology to reproduce accurate historical kinematic models and machines as a tool for both artifact conservancy as well as for teaching, and to demonstrate this for a wide range of mechanism types. We expect that this new form of ?physical? preservation will become prevalent in future archives. We describe the background and history of the collection as well as aspects of modeling and printing such functional replicas.

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Cornell Library Technical Reports and Papers


History of Mechanisms; machine models; education; kinematic models; Reuleaux-Voigt models; rapid prototyping


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technical report

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