Monday, October 19, 2015

Wild Gears!


Having you been noticing a gradual increase in the popularity of Spirograph toys recently?
Maybe it’s just me; my kids’ manual coordination has developed enough that they’re just now able to work the gears on their own.  I’ve seen a couple recent iterations of the traditional setup for sale – it looks like the new “Cyclex” toy by Spirograph reduces the required dexterity, though without the ability to mix and match gears the patterns all look pretty similar. 
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I  noticed this set for sale and appreciated the mathematically accurate name. 
hypotrochoid set
For the last few months I’ve had fun playing with “Wild Gears,” designed by Aaron Bleackley and manufactured through Ponoko, a laser cutting service.   Wild Gears come in a variety of versions, including the Compact Gear Set that my kids and I have been enjoying.   The laser cut precision makes for very smooth motion, and the clear acrylic makes it easy to see your design progressing underneath.  They’re a bit pricey, but Aaron’s working on simplifying the designs to reduce cutting cost, along with other improvements in Version 2.0 – check out his Kickstarter.
My favorite feature is the ability to nest different gears, allowing you to produce designs that lack some of the symmetry of spirograph patterns – not all nestings will do this, so it’s often a surprise to see what turns up.
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