3D Printed Engine Chugs Away on Balloon Power

So often, 3D printer owners buy their machines with the promise of freeing themselves from the shackles of commercial manufactured items, and making all sorts of wonderful and useful things to improve their lives. Then they proceed to print a menagerie of good luck cats and toy elephants, that little tugboat, and a host of other pretty but ultimately useless items in garishly colored filament.

Perhaps this is an unfair assessment, but if you have the sneaking feeling that it might just describe you then could we point you at something that while it still has little use is at least interesting to play with. [Gzumwalt]’s single cylinder air engine is as its name suggests, a piston engine that runs on compressed air. You don’t need a shop compressor though, your lungs or an inflated balloon will suffice.

It’s a simple enough design, but it does incorporate two connecting rods, one of which drives a sliding valve. All the files are available for download, and there is a video we’ve placed below the break showing it chugging away nicely from a balloon. It might not be the most useful of engines and it may not bring you good luck, but it beats a plastic menagerie in the interest stakes.

We’ve featured a very similar engine made from lasercut ply in the past, but most impressive is this very practical engine converted from a lawnmower unit.

32 thoughts on “3D Printed Engine Chugs Away on Balloon Power

  1. the fact that the writer still thinks people get no practical use out of 3d printers says more about his imagination than it does other people…
    i mean quite literally a third of this article is about that.

    we have had dozens of posts with a similar gist and every time pretty much anyone with a printer in the comments refutes it, finding that out was the point of one of those posts, how come those lessons haven’t been incorporated?

      1. i didnt take anything said as an insult, i am full well aware that what the various writers of HaD thinks makes no impact on what i can print.

        you could say i was insulted at how HaD, even after asking the question of their readers, disregarded the answer and went with whatever they felt like, irritated or annoyed would probably be a much better fit than insulted though.

    1. oodain, why not flood the Hackaday site with all those practical and useful products you have made?

      Actually I have several friends who has 3D printers, and NOT A SINGLE ONE has made something useful that is better then a product that you can buy for $1 from china.

      NOT A SINGLE ONE of them has produced anything that really has a value.

      Sure, I used one to print out a housing for my Raspberry, but still ended up buing one on flebay that was much better, I didn’t the finish and strenght on 3D printed parts he made for me

      1. some of them are going up on thingiverse, a lot of other stuff was made from models others made or modified from them, i hold no right to upload those, the point is i shouldn’t upload them to hackaday anyway, they should go to a personal site or some 3d print forum, if it is interesting enough HaD could then cover it in an article.

        if you really want some concrete examples then the recent thread about this exact subject would be a good place to start, me and many others listed dozens each of actual projects, i see no reason to repeat it all here but for a quick example the last thing i printed was a camera plate and motor mount for a macro focusing slide.

        which was my entire point to begin with, it is clear that for some they end up as trinket makers and a rarely used curiosity, but those are probably the same people that would buy an airbrush and only use it a couple of times or an expensive routing kit and only make that one piece of furniture, it says more about the people proclaiming it is generally so than it does the tool they are talking about.

        for people with enough problems to solve they are as capable a tool as any other, better than some for specific tasks and projects.

  2. Cute. Even if it isn’t practically useful, it’s a neat weekend project to workout your engineers neurons.
    Having a little kid, I bet he’d love that too. If that can get your kid busy for an hour, I’d say it’s well worth it!

  3. Challenge:

    Print a working Sterling engine, and keep it running for as long as possible.
    Points for longevity.
    Extra points if you print it in one go.

    Reward: A case of notoriety, and the envy of those around you.

  4. This is not the first time I’ve heard the statement that most people 3D print useless or not-very-useful items. That makes me scratch my head. Maybe I’m in the minority, but the things I print are very useful in that they serve a specific purpose.

    For example, here are a few things that come to mind :

    – A series of treble clefts for my wife — She’s a music teacher, and she needed a dozen or so treble clefts that she could use on a magnetic whiteboard. I printed them off, glued some neodymium magnets to the back, and she uses them weekly.

    – A set of 32 tanks as part of a chess set I made my son for Christmas.

    – A Jinghu (Chinese music instrument) for my daughter for Christmas.

    – Replacement parts for my car (visor clips, etc).

    – Cases for DIY projects and for kits I’ve purchased and assembled.

    – Bunches of “bumpers”, holders, cases, etc for my Arduino and ESP8266 projects.

    – A bunch of stuff to go on our Halloween HO train table (aka, “The Haunted Train”) :
    – LEGO-like skeletons (to go with the other LEGO stuff on the table).
    – A light-up TARDIS from Doctor Who.
    – A bunch of “weeping angels” from Doctor Who.
    – Various skulls, etc…
    – Tanks, police cars, etc…

    – Some big “Push Me” buttons for activating various Halloween props.

    – Stuff for Christmas such as C7 shells to go on the electric candles (that I’m converting over from real 120VAC C7 bulbs to LEDs).

    And this is just what comes to mind — I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of other stuff. I’m not trying to gloat or anything; I’m just giving some examples of useful stuff I’ve printed.

    Anyone else want to chime in and tell us about useful stuff they’ve made?

    1. I’m a director of a thriving hackspace. Which means a room full of 3D printers and 3D printer owners. They print lots of useful stuff. But I’ve seen a *lot* of tugboats, cats, elephants, and other toys.

      I should say though there was an air of irreverent humour about my writing rather than indictment of the 3D printng community.

      1. it apparently wasnt funny to some folks, not that it was insulting as some above suggested, but it is head scratchingly nonsensical as a piece of entertainment.
        i had no idea there was anything joking about it, no offence, but considering that this exact discussion has been running for a couple of months and recently had an entire article dedicated to it, do you really think that was unreasonable of me?

      2. Ah, sorry. I missed the humor. No offense intended (or taken).

        That is interesting that lots of people print off the tugboats, etc… In your experience, is there a correlation between experienced/inexperienced 3D folks and what they print? For example, if someone new to the hackerspace shows up, I could see why they would print a quick trinket to get the concept of 3D printing (think “novelty”), while people who have been around 3D printers for a longer time would focus more on useful things?

        What has been your experience with 3D printing familiarity vs what is printed?

        Enquiring minds want to know… :-)

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