3D Printing Compressed Air Tanks

Using PVC pipe as a pressure vessel for compressed air can be a fun and enjoyable hobby. It’s safe, too: while there are are reports of PVC pipe being the cause of accidents, these accidents include a black powder potato gun[1], and welding too close to a PVC pipe containing compressed air[2]. Compressed air stored in a PVC pipe is never a proximal cause in any accident, and the OSHA’s Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries bear this out; there was no industrial or occupational accident recorded in these summaries where a pressure vessel made out of PVC was the cause of any injury or death[3].

Although PVC pipe can be a perfectly safe, effective, and cheap pressure vessel for hobby applications, it’s not always the best choice. A group of students in Renens, Switzerland are building autonomous robots for the Eurobot competition, and this year’s robot uses pneumatics. That means compressed air, and that means a pressure vessel. Since just about everything else on this robot is 3D printed, they asked the obvious question. Is it possible to 3D print a tank for compressed air?

The tank for this robot would only be used up to about 4 bar (400kPa), and after a few quick calculations, the team discovered the wall thickness – even in a pressure vessel with corners – would be pretty low. The first prototype, a 40mm cube with 20% infill and a hole drilled in the side, held 6.5 bar (650kPa) for an hour. This success didn’t last, though: he second prototype, a 65x40x80mm rectangular prism printed without as much infill, exploded at 5.5bar (550kPa).

The third time’s the charm, and with filleted ribs inside the tank, the third prototype was able to hold pressure up to 6.5 bar. Of course no 3D print is perfect, and the third prototype did leak, but a bit of acrylic spray paint applied to the outer surfaces held the air in.

While it’s not as fun, easy, cheap, rewarding, or safe as using PVC pipe as a pressure vessel, the team did manage to build a 3D printed pressure vessel with a custom shape. You can’t do that very easily with round pipe. And 3D printing opens up all manner of internal structure to experiment with. We’d like to see this developed even further!

Sources: [1], [2], [3]

A Structural PVC Cyr Wheel

PVC is a great building material that can be used for everything from yurts and geodesic domes to pressure vessels. One thing we haven’t seen a lot of is bending PVC pipe. [Lou] wanted to build a Cyr wheel for his daughter, and instead of shelling out five hundred big ones for an aluminum version, he build one out of PVC using techniques usually reserved for woodworking.

A Cyr Wheel is usually a large aluminum hoop built for acrobatic performances. These performances are pretty impressive and look like a lot of fun, but the wheels themselves are rather expensive. Figuring PVC was a good enough solution, [Lou] built his own Cyr wheel for $50 in materials.

The build started off by laying out a jig on the floor. Two sheets of plywood were laid out, a radius for the wheel traced, and a bunch of blocks were glued to the perimeter of this mold. With the mold in place, a few pieces of PVC were flexed into position, clamped, heated with a hair dryer to relieve stress, and glued to a second course of PVC.

The process [Lou] used to build his Cyr wheel isn’t that different from extremely common woodworking techniques. In fact, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for [Lou] to build a wooden Cyr wheel with the same jig. We’re wondering how well this project will stand up to abuse, so if you have any insight to the uses of structural PVC drop a note in the comments.

Electronic float valve keeps the horse’s feet dry

[Bob] built this simple device that can best be described as an electronic float valve. He was wasting a lot of water from overflowing water troughs and buckets around his farm. He would usually put the hose in the container, turn on the water valve and carry on with his work. By the time he remembered to come back, the area would be flooded. It’s obvious that there’s many different ways to solve a problem. For example, a simple mechanical float valve might have worked, but it’s not horse friendly and liable to get damaged soon.

The electronics is unabashedly minimal. An ATtiny85 controls a relay via a common variety NPN transistor. The relay in turn switches the solenoid valve. A push-button tells the microcontroller to start the water flowing, and when the water level gets high enough that it touches two hose clamps, the micro shuts it off again.

There’s some ghetto engineering going on here. The electronics is driven by a 9V battery, although the relay and the solenoid valve that [Bob] used are both rated for 12V. He’s not even using any sort of voltage regulation for the ATtiny, but instead dropping the voltage with a resistor divider. (We wonder about battery life in the long run.)

He built all of it on perf board and stuffed it inside a small enclosure, with two wires coming out for the level sensor and another two for the solenoid, and it seems to work. Check the video below where [Bob] walks through his build.

While some may point out the many short comings in this build, [Bob] found the one solution that works for him. Sometimes the right solution is what you’ve got on hand, and we’re glad he’s hacking away and sharing his work. And check out this wireless water level sensor that he built some time back.

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Homemade Bazooka Has Earned Its Stripes

Many of us dream of launching rockets from our shoulders, but [John] here actually did something about it.

This bazooka build started with a 6″ diameter PVC pipe. He mounted a length of 80/20 T-slotted aluminum extrusion to the pipe through a couple of wood blocks. [John] installed rail buttons on some Estes Alpha rockets which slide along nicely inside the T-slot. He welded a PVC cleanout fitting and plug to one end for easy access and gave her a nice paint job.

The ignition is simple: an irresistible red push button is wired to a 9V battery and a pair of alligator clips. [John] loads up a rocket, puts the gators on the wires of an igniter, pushes said button, and Bob’s your uncle. All he needs now is a pair of gun boats. Video of the build and some demonstrations we don’t necessarily recommend are after the jump.

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Paintball gun silencer

In paintball, the element of surprise can make the difference between victory and defeat. While we can’t help you with the sounds of labored breathing and shuffling feet as you waddle across the field, we did find this guide on how to make a silencer for your paintball gun.

To build this you will need two lengths of PVC pipe, one slightly larger in diameter than the barrel of the gun, the other about 1″ beyond that. You will also need PVC reducers that fit the pipes, cotton balls, and various cutting and finishing tools. Cut the stopper tab from the smaller pipe and put into a reducer, hammering the reducer into place. Cut the pipe about 1″ away from the reducer, being careful to make the cut as even (perpendicular to the length of the pipe) as possible. Now drill six straight lines of ten holes along the pipe with the smallest drill bit possible. Sand down the inside of the pipe by wrapping sandpaper around a cylindrical stick and move the stick in and out of the pipe. Cut the larger pipe so that it is slightly shorter than the smaller pipe. Fit the two pipes together and fill the area between the two with about 20 cotton balls. After that, fit the second reducer to the other end. At this point the silencer is functional, but guide author [MrAngryPants] suggests painting it black.

As the paintball and CO2 are expelled from the gun, the cotton baffles dampen the resulting sound wave.