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I am using Lego in the classroom to introduce students to geared machines.

As part of this I am asking them to design a winch, using a small 1.5V DC motor and a collection of the common Lego gears, i.e. the 8, 16, 24 and 40-tooth spur gears, and the special worm gear.

Based on rough back-of-the-envelope calculations, I will require about 5 N.cm of torque at the winch drum.

  • Do I have to worry about breaking any gears due to excessive torque?

  • Do I have to worry about gears slipping (skipping teeth) due to high torque?

  • Has anyone performed experimental (destructive) tests to quantify the maximum torque these gears can withstand? Order of magnitude is OK - will the gears break at 1 N.cm, 10 N.cm, 100 N.cm, ... ?

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One thing to bare in mind is that some LEGO gears exist in several variants, each of which may have different torque limits. The following tutorial cites some of these differences: sariel.pl/2009/09/gears-tutorial –  Kramii Oct 14 '13 at 11:18
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1 Answer

Do I have to worry about breaking any gears due to excessive torque?

LEGO Gears are one of the strongest LEGO components. When you apply great amounts of torque, they may slip or grind, but never break.

Do I have to worry about gears slipping (skipping teeth) due to high torque?

If you apply high amounts of torque, your gears will slip. This happens even with moderately high amounts. They may also slide down the axle and grind the side of the other gear, or the axle.

Has anyone performed experimental (destructive) tests to quantify the maximum torque these gears can withstand? Order of magnitude is OK - will the gears break at 1 N.cm, 10 N.cm, 100 N.cm, ... ?

Your gears will withstand the torque quite well - it's probably other components, like the axles and beams, that will give way first. Don't worry about breaking the gears - the worst situation might be that an axle or two might bend.

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Actually it is quite possible to break gears when using very high gearing ratios. See firstroboticscanada.org/main/wp-content/uploads/LEGO-Gears.pdf . It gives some circumstances in which the author has broken gears, though it doesn't include any actual torque measurements. –  Li-aung Yip Oct 16 '13 at 5:52
    
There are more elements to breaking gears than torque, like pressure and speed. –  Timtech Oct 16 '13 at 11:17
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