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Shino Onodera's Laser-Cut MDF Omni-Wheel Design

Gareth Halfacree

Shino Onodera's Omni-Wheel

The massive mainstream interest in 3D printing technology - a market flooded with companies ranging from multi-billion-pound industrial giants to hobbyist concerns like the RepRap project, and with Mattel's recent announcement even toy companies - there's a fair amount of confusion in the air. Chiefly, this concerns the ability to create 3D objects: many believe that a 3D printer is a requirement for this, but that's simply not true: while it operates on flat materials, the humble laser cutter is more than capable of producing some impressively three-dimensional structures.

We've previously covered Aaron Porterfield's experiments with lattice hinges, a way to use a laser cutter to produce a smoothly curved surface, and now we've got a new project at which to marvel: Shino Onodera's impressive omni-wheel. Built entirely from laser-cut MDF - our material of choice, thanks to its robustness, low cost, and environmentally friendly nature, plus its excellent compatibility with laser cutters - the wheel is capable of moving backwards, forwards, and sideways.

Amazingly, when we say it is constructed entirely from laser-cut MDF, we mean it: there isn't a single screw, bolt, or ball-bearing to be seen, with everything being friction-fit tight and all cut from the same piece of 2.5mm MDF. Despite this, Shino's videos showcase the capabilities of the design: it moves smoothly and cleanly in any direction, even though its 'bearings' are simple wood-on-wood and unlubricated. The same design can also be found in Shino's Wheel Stool project, which adds the wheels to the base of a similarly laser-cut stool to allow for ease of movement.

All Shino's designs are avaialble for download and immediate cutting on your own laser cutter - or that of your nearest hackspace, if you're not lucky enough to have one sat in your workshop, shed, or living room - from her Instructables profile.

This omni wheel is made of MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). Plastic and metal are not used.

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