Forget the Apple smartwatch. How about a watch, with a tourbillon, that’s almost completely 3D printed? Swiss engineer Christopher Laimer has you covered. Laimer has created the world’s first fully functional 3D printed winding watch. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, it uses a tourbillon, a marker of high-end watchmaking developed in 1795 by famed French-Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet to counter the effects of gravity.
Tourbillons work with the earth’s gravitational pull to affect the regularity and accuracy of the watch’s internal mechanisms. Though Laimer’s 3D printed watch only has a lifespan of 30 minutes and has a one second deviation within one minute, it’s still an impressive feat of additive manufacturing. Better yet, the plans are available to download on Thingiverse, so you–yes YOU–can re-create this watch. Bound to allow for improvements.
To create the watch, Laimer used an Ultimaker 2, a consumer level desktop 3D printer, and made the design using Autodesk Fusion 360. From there he exported the watch parts as STL files and loaded them into Quora, which creates layers for the object that allows the guiding path for the 3D printer. Considering all the parts of the watch including, the Mainspring, the escape wheel, the hands, barrel, and tourbillon cage, the device took quite a while to complete–45 minutes alone to print the balance wheel. There is a total of 50 different parts, 15 pins, 14 washers, and 21 screws. Laimer even printed the mainspring which, he admits, isn’t the best since it quickly tires out the spring.
Aside from the inclusion of the tourbillon, the reason the watch works so well is Laimer’s vertical strategy. Instead of spreading out the parts horizontally like traditional watches, he layered them on top of each other. This is why it’s so bulky, but is also why it’s completely functional. Laimer says the vertical design is driven by symmetry and wanting to keep the non-printable parts as simple as possible.
Okay, so it’s too big to be a wrist watch. The whole thing is 98mm in diameter and 93mm tall, it looks like something Flavor Flav’s kid would wear as a necklace. It’s not the most accurate watch, but you can wind it, set the time, and carry it with you if you have big enough pockets. This set some exciting precedent for horology and custom watch building in general, let alone 3D printing. It seems he really wants to see what others will do with his design by making the source files free. But if you don’t have a 3D printer or any patience, you can order a watch from Laimer for a limited time available in four different styles. Visit his site at laimer.ch to snag one of the limited editions. It comes customized, in a hardcase and with a 1 year replacement warranty. It may no be efficient, but it’s definitely unique and innovative.
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