3D printed gears are essential components in many complex 3D printing projects, serving as the backbone of working mechanisms.

Whether you’re creating cool fidget toys or embarking on a larger project, crafting reliable and durable gears is often the key to success.

In this article, I’ll share how to make 3D printed gears, delve into different gear types, and provide helpful tips for successful printing.

We’ll also showcase all of the most common single gear parts for you to use in your own creations, alongside some of my favorite 3D printed projects using gears (like the Spider-Man Web Shooter).

By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to confidently 3D print your own gears for any project that requires them!

Types of 3D Printable Gears

There are a lot of gear design options, each with their own ideal purposes. Knowing which one is best for you is important for making sure your mechanism works at peak performance.

While it’s unlikely you’ll be 3D printing generators or high-end water pumps, we’re going to briefly go over what kinds of gears best fit which uses so you’ll have a better idea going forward. Remember, one gear is usually useless by itself, so be sure to save these STL files for future use.

Spur Gears

  • Download: CGTrader
  • Designer: cbspicer
  • Price: $16.00
Spur Gears 1

Spur gears are what most of us picture when we think of gears, and are the most common type of gear to 3D print.

Spur gears are simple toothed cogs that move with each other for mechanisms like pulleys and clocks, and are very useful in a variety of sizes to keep machines ticking along nicely with minimal wear.

Helical Gears

  • Download: CGTrader
  • Designer: cbspicer
  • Price: $4.00

Helical gears are best described as curved spur gears. They are capable of withstanding more torque than their simple counterparts, and are commonly used for more high load bearing machines like generators and high-strength pumps.

Worm Gears

  • Download: CGTrader
  • Designer: cbspicer
  • Price: $4.00

Worm gears employ a changing parallel design. Unlike standard gears, they can be manipulated to lock in place. This means that worm gears comes in handy for self-locking mechanisms like doors and hard packaging.

Worm gears effectively work against each other, and require a lot more care and maintenance as this causes a lot more wear over time.

Bevel Gears

  • Download: Thingiverse
  • Designer: GregFrost
  • Price: Free

Bevel gears are cone-shaped gears that work perpendicular to each other. The curved teeth and size difference between two touching gears mean they can handle a lot more speed than most other gear types with ease.

Bevel gears come in a lot of different types on their own, which we’re not going to go over here. The most common uses for these are in fast-moving machines and tools like vehicles and power drills.

While bevel gears can be 3D printed for fun and practical uses, their most common uses aren’t ideal for 3D printing as the heat generated by high speeds is too much for most filaments to handle.

This means you’re unlikely to be using 3D printed gears for any kind of high-pressure task.

Rack and Pinion Gears

  • Download: Thingiverse
  • Designer: janssen86
  • Price: Free
Rack and Pinion

Rack and pinion gears involve one gear moving with a straight tooth line. Designed to move back and forth seamlessly, they work best as guides for steering mechanisms on tools and vehicles as well as weighing scales and seesaws, which need to move in two directions with ease.

My Coolest 3D Printed Gears Projects

Spider-Man Web Shooter

  • Download: Thingiverse
  • Designer: MediWolf123
  • Price: Free
3D Printed Web Shooter

Maybe not the first thing that came to mind when thinking about 3D printed gears, but definitely the first one I wanted to talk about.

This working Spider-Man web shooter uses small 3D printed gears originally designed for watch repair to shoot webs just like everyone’s favorite web-head!

Walking Cat

  • Download: Thingiverse
  • Designer: JohnThinger
  • Price: Free
Gear Cat

Gears are an important part of many moving mechanisms, and this walking cat, featured in our top picks for 3D printing projects for engineers, makes for a great project both in general and also for testing out your skills with 3D printing gears.

As well as being a fun toy and a great way to get used to the more complex designs 3D printing is capable of, the walking cat also uses plenty of different gears at different sizes and angles.

Cat 2

This makes it both a great project to sink your teeth into, as well as an excellent learning resource to see how different gears interact with each other in one mechanism.

Planetary Gearbox

  • Download: Thingiverse
  • Designer: Gear_Down_For_What
  • Price: Free
3D Printed Gearbox

Another great learning resource, as well as a fun print, is this planetary gearbox. It works like a numbered padlock, but with the inner workings visible to you.

This not only looks cool, but also makes for a good introduction to the basics of gear functionality as well as a learning tool for children or beginners in mechanical engineering.

Lotus Automata

Lotus Automata

One of the coolest (and prettiest) 3D printed gear mechanisms I’ve come across is the lotus automata, a hand-cranked display piece that opens up like a real lotus flower.

While you’ll need plenty of different prints with different colors, the outcome is a great centerpiece that works well with different kinds of gears to make a fun and beautiful print that’s well worth the time and effort.

Why Use 3D Printed Gears?

In this electrical age of ours, it can be hard to think about what gears are actually used for these days. Generally speaking, when we think of gears we often think of old factories, steampunk settings, and ancient Indiana Jones-style trap mechanisms.

Gear Tyoes 3

But gears do still play an important part in a lot of machines and tools even now. Most mechanical locks still need durable gears and tumblers to work and help transmit power, as do analog watches, pulley mechanisms, and tools like woodworking and car repair equipment.

Even fun things like homemade fidget toys use 3D printed gears as a primary staple. The mechanical concepts of speed and torque are applied to gears to make toys like Beyblades too, which you can also 3D print.

3D Printed Beyblade

You can even use 3D printed gears as an ideal solution to repair or enhancment for other machines like this geared extruder and this gluing gear print for general maintenance. Any of these designs are worth saving if you plan on working with mechanical prints for a while yet, but they also work well as one-off projects to further your 3D printing journey.

Gear Types

These kinds of gears are much cheaper than visiting repair stores or getting custom-made designs from professionals. As 3D prints vs. traditional metal gears, they won’t last as long, but they’re a good option if you’re on a budget or just prefer to fix or make things yourself.

Which Filament is Best to Use?

Different 3D printing filaments are better suited to different projects. Gears are designed to be in near-constant motion, so the filament you use should be durable to ensure longevity and reliability.


The nature of 3D printing means you’ll be using plastic material that will never really be as strong and tough as something factory-made and metal, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things to keep in mind to ensure you get the best results.

Naturally, the best material for 3D printing gears is usually going to be the strongest filament available to you.

These include filaments like:

But, if none of those are available you can actually 3D print gears using PLA if that’s all you have available.

3D Print PLA Gears

PLA may not be the first choice when it comes to strength, but with careful measurements and post-processing, you’d be surprised at how well it holds up over time. While it can’t usually take on high loads like those that Nylon can deal with, it can still have good mechanical properties and help with smaller projects.


If you’ve got the means, though, then I recommend using PLA+ if you can. PLA+ is an enhanced version of PLA in terms of durability and longevity. While more expensive, and a little trickier to find, PLA+ has been proven to make surprisingly reliable 3D printed gear mechanisms before.

Some Helpful Tips

As you’ve probably already guessed, 3D printing gears requires more preparation and precision than the average print. To make sure you get working gears, you’re going to need to think and plan ahead, especially if you’re printing your gears from scratch.

Here are some helpful steps and tips to make sure you get reliable results.

Plan Before You Print

Careful planning is an important step in any 3D print, but it’s even more important when you’re printing working mechanisms with moving parts.

While a millimeter or two in any given direction won’t make much of a difference in most 3D printing projects like statuettes and ornaments, with gears it can mean the difference between a functioning mechanism and a weird paperweight. So be sure to check important settings like layer height and print speed while making gears.

3D Gear Mechanism

Always double-check your measurements before you 3D print gears. You can do this with particular precision if you have particularly good STL editing software that can test your mechanisms before they’ve even been printed. You don’t want to end up with a smaller gear than necessary, for example.

Test and Prototype

There’s nothing worse than having a great design only to find out all too late that it doesn’t quite work. The waste of both materials and time is always frustrating, which is why testing and prototyping your plastic gears is a great way to avoid this annoyance.


Scaling your design down before printing is one way of prototyping. The print will use less material overall and take less time to print. What you’ll have will be a miniature version of your gears so you can see for yourself if they fit well together and work as they should.

Just be sure to scale the model down exactly without tweaking anything else, otherwise you’ll get inaccurate measurements that will ultimately be useless as prototypes. You may need to make adjustments to account for other things like dramatic changes in gear ratio, for example.

Gear Sized 3D

It’s not just the gears you’ll want to test, though, so be sure to also scale down the shaft on which the gears will be turning. The distance between the gears is just as important as the teeth fitting together, so be sure to test every inch of your mechanisms before beginning what will hopefully be the final print.

Make Notes and Save the Files

Once you’ve got a working file, be sure to save it as is so you can return to it at any time. This will help for not only duplicate prints, but also later repairs and sharing with your friends.

Turning 2

As mentioned above, 3D printed gears won’t last as long as traditional metal ones, regardless of what filament you use. So keeping the file safe and easy to find will be handy when you need to make replacement gears if they wear down too much.


Are 3D printed gears any good?

Generally speaking, 3D printed gears won’t be as durable as store-bought metal gears. This isn’t to say they’re not good, however, and with enough careful planning, 3D printed gears will be perfectly workable.

Is PLA strong enough for gears?

Despite being one of the weaker filaments, PLA can be used to make 3D printed gears. While other filaments like nylon and PETG are preferable, PLA will still do the job. If you must use PLA, we recommend looking into PLA+ for any 3D printed gears and moving parts.

How do you 3D print gears?

3D printing gears is as simple as any other project, the main thing to keep in mind is the precision of both the gear teeth and the shaft. With enough planning and prototyping, you can make working gears with just about any FDM filament.

How do you attach 3D printed gears to a shaft?

If you’re working with a pre-existing design, your gears and shaft should already fit together easily. However, if you’re designing your gears from scratch, you’ll need to make sure the shaft and the gear opening match in size.

Gears can be attached to shafts using screws or adhesives. For 3D printed gears, adhesives work better as they will be easier to remove for future repairs.

Is ABS or PLA better for gears?

For general use, PLA is the better filament for 3D printing gears due to its high strength and resistance to wear. However, high-pressure mechanisms work well with ABS, which has a high melting temperature compared to PLA, and so will perform better in the short term in hot projects.

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