This triple gear is a real thing, and thanks to some intricate math and the advent of 3-D printing, it exists. Before this, at least as far as I can tell, a triple-meshed gear required one of the gears to turn in the opposite direction as the other two. That is no longer the case.
I can’t for the life of me imagine what this would be used in, but hey … at least we have it now. Get to designing!
(via henryseg on Shapeways)
This is a fascinating, and indeed beautiful, example of applied mathematics in art, solving the problem of three interlocking gears, but to my untrained luddite mind it seems to be functionally useless. First, perhaps I would need to see this construct from a number of other angles, but the device would appear likely to be easily susceptible to misalignment due to exterior forces. Secondly, as depicted, all three gears are of the same size and are thus incapable, in so far as I can tell, of amplifying or otherwise translating the rotational forces put into the system. My tertiary difficulty is the exterior points of contact necessary to translate the forces put into this device, which again fundamentally harkens back to my first point in upsetting what appears to be the delicate balance of this construct. We have here three interlocking gears performing the semi-miraculous feat of rotating in the same relative direction, for which applause is certainly due, but is there any application of this device that cannot be as efficiently produced by three gears on a shared axle?
That being said, I have not been fully able to fathom the functioning of the Wankel rotary engine, but that deficiency in my comprehension has only increased my desire to possess one, and I suspect any devices that were to successfully incorporate this gear into the design would acquire a similar alluring mystique.