Print your own "Machine With Concrete" and produce a gear ratio of 244.14 quintillion to 1

A fanciful post to Thingiverse from 3DTOPO allows you to print out your own version of Arthur Ganson sculpture Machine with Concrete , a system of wormgears that produces a gear-ratio of 244.14 quintillion to 1.

This is a printable version of Machine with Concrete. The sculpture is a series of twelve 1:50 worm gears, with each gear reducing 1/50th of the previous gear. With 12 gears, the final gear ratio is a mind boggling 244,140,625,000,000,000,000 : 1 (244.14 quintillion to 1). With the first gear spinning at 200RPM it would take over 2 TRILLION years for a single revolution at the end of the machine, so the final drive shaft can be embedded in concrete or plaster.

I emailed Arthur Ganson a link to this page and he replied "looks FANTASTIC!".

Printed Machine with Concrete (via JWZ)



    1. You can print a lot of the parts.  The original idea behind the Reprap was that a printer could print a printer, or anything else, therefore act as a meatspace equivalent of copying data.

    1. How strong would you have to be to get that sucker moving from the other end?

      Wouldn’t the Machine be more interesting if the final gear were somehow embedded in the works of the motor powering it? Perhaps not more interesting, but making a completely different statement.

      1. Like it!  Maybe the final gear could not be embedded, but with a little finger attached to it, threatening to flip the power switch to “off”.

        1. Like it!  Maybe the final gear could not be embedded, but with a little finger attached to it, threatening to flip the power switch to “off”.

          What I love about this is the idea of a Most Useless Machine which is so useless it won’t complete the only task it’s designed for inside the likely life span of the universe.

      2. Sadly, worm gears are one-way, you can only pass energy from the helix to the gear, and not the other way around.

    2. A worm and gear drive turns only one way. From worm to gear. One of the reasons it is used in drive systems. – Old Leica cameras, and some others, took advantage of this to make a spring tension adjustment that required no other locking mechanism.

      1. Rubbish. They just have higher friction in the reverse direction. Cascaded worm drives or drives with very fine pitch will tend to jam, yes, but a well designed mechanism with appropriate materials / lubricants will function fine in the ‘up gear’ mode.

    3. Best case, you move the island. Worst case, you wind up in a Tunisian desert 10 months from now.

    4. I did some quick calculations and if the first gear was 10 cm wide and you turned the last gear one time around in one second, the teeth of the first gear would be moving at over 200 billion times the speed of light.

      But sadly that wouldn’t work for a multitude of reasons.

  1. I like this a lot. It’s not quite “irresistible force meets immovable object”, but it’s pretty close. Given the torque at the end, I’m curious to know which will break first, the concrete, or the shaft going into the concrete.

    1. I’m putting my money on either the worm gear itself or the teeth on the gear meshing into the worm (final gear unit obviously).

      1. I’d bet that the teeth on the gear will just slowly deform out of shape over the billions of years.  Either that, or the whole thing will just be a pile of rust.

  2. Given the quality of 3d printing, it will take about 200 billion years just to take up the slop in those 12 gearsets. 

  3. This just a ridiculous and tiresome contraption trying to get a cheap, arty ‘wow’. Speculation about it’s ultimate functioning is about as worthwhile as betting on the outcome of some flagellum-driven bacterium on a round the world race of the oceans. Many, many, many orders of magnitude more futile in fact. The drive side will wear to nothing in decades; beautifully engineered, in the hardest known materials, it may survive centuries at best. Meanwhile the output side will just cold-weld together or fossilise into a clump depending on conditions, billions of years before even the backlash is taken up. How about trying to build a mechanism that can actually keep functioning for (at least) billions of years? Now that would be impressive. Hey I think they call it biology.

    1. Sort of.  Because, as far as we know, there are no still-functioning anythings after billions of years.  There are lots of replicants, but not the originals.

    2. yeah, it’s not a life-changing experience, but seeing the piece in person is kind of interesting (interesting enough for MIT to exhibit it, at least). lighten up. i don’t think the point of it is to imagine what happens in the limit, but rather to make a kind of joke about human patience and our desire to see things break.

      btw, despite the very safe gearing, the piece was still enclosed in thick plexiglass just in case. perhaps that was more informative about humanity than the piece itself.

    3. It also gives us an opportunity to indulge in dismissive snark, a rare opportunity available only when someone else does something you might not do.  For many it is a rare but crucial boost to their egos, and as such this is an essential public service.

    4. This just a ridiculous and tiresome contraption trying to get a cheap, arty ‘wow’.

      When you say “this,” are you describing the mechanism or yourself in the act of posting?

    5. A couple of thousand miles under your feet there’s a dynamo that’s been working for about 3.5 billion years; it’s been providing a cosmic roof over biology’s head for all that time.

  4. It’s a sculptural imaging of homeopathy – multiple dilutions ending up with no discernible action, not in a billion years.

  5. The brutal inefficiency of worm drives will keep it from moving at all. At 50 percent efficiency (a very conservative number for these gears) with 12 stages, the power will be used up long before the end of the gear train. Sheesh, it’s as if the engineering were done by an artist! But I still love it.

  6. For those who lack the je ne sais quoi to have these 3-D printed, LEGO (and many other construction toys) have worm gears and star gears and shafts and yadda yadda yadda.

  7. It might not move very fast, but it has a fuck-ton of torque!

    That sentence is also, coincidentally, my least successful pickup-line. 

  8. This reminds me of the piece by Tim Hawkinson:
    Twenty-four interlocking gears, the larger of which use wide-wale corduroy for teeth, serve as a giant clock of sorts. The first miniscule gear spins at 1400 revolutions per minute. With each successively larger gear in the chain, the number of revolutions per time cycle decreases rapidly, until the final gear rotates once every century.

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