A Fleet of Pressure Washers Powers This Interactive Public Fountain

Public art installations can be cool. Adding in audience interactivity bumps up the coolness factor a bit. Throw civic pride, dancing jets of water, music, and lights into the project, and you get this very cool pressure washer powered musical fountain.

The exhibit that [Niklas Roy] came up with is called Wasserorgel, or “water organ”, an apt name for the creation. Built as part of a celebration of industry in Germany, the display was built in the small town of Winnenden, home to Kärcher, a cleaning equipment company best known for their line of pressure washers in the distinctive yellow cases. Eight of the company’s electric pressure washers were featured in the Wasserorgel, which shot streams of water and played notes in response to passersby tickling the sturdy and waterproof 3D-printed keyboard. The show was managed by an Arduino with a MIDI shield, which controlled the pressure washers via solid state relays and even accepted input from an anemometer to shut down the show if it got too windy, lest the nearby [Frau Dimitrakudi] be dampened.

The video below shows how engaging the Wasserorgel was during its weeks-long run in the town market square; there’s also one in German with build details. And while we can’t recall seeing pressure washers in public art before, we do remember one being used as the basis of a DIY water-jet cutter.

15 thoughts on “A Fleet of Pressure Washers Powers This Interactive Public Fountain

  1. I get that it’s a Kärcher product installation, but why on earth use pressure washers for this application? It’s a horrible, inefficient impedance mismatch problem: those pressure washers are capable of pushing water to a kilometer in height, and not at all the right choice of pump to make a fountain (at most) a couple of meters high.

    For a temporary art statement, yeah, OK. I just would have expected better from German engineering.

    1. You are absolutely right. I cannot recommend at all to build fountains with pressure washers – it’s a terrible choice! Unless you want to make art with pressure washers and the best idea you have is to build an interactive musical fountain with them :)

    2. I was more wondering why plywood was used to be honest. Wet wood outside doesn’t typically last long before being covered in mold.

      No way these get more than a few dozen feet high though. Certainly not kilometers. Flow rate is far too low even if the pressure is two hundred bar or so.

      1. 1says sez: “Flow rate is far too low even if the pressure is two hundred bar or so.”
        It may be non-intuitive to those with a poor science education or grasp of basic physics, but flow rate has zip to do with how high a pump can pump water. More flow rate requires more power, but height is dependent on pressure.

        Of course, you’ll never achieve a kilometer pushing water straight up through air with a pressure washer. The air gets in the way. But the pressure washer is *capable* of pushing water to a height of a kilometer (say, in a pipe). It’s its output nozzle that acts like an impedance transformer that converts that high presssure, low velocity water in the hose to the high velocity (but low pressure) stream of water you see. If you use the pump instead to produce the low velocity and low pressure flow you see in a fountain, you necessarily throw away the vast majority of the capacity of the pump.

  2. Pressure washing, a great way to FRACK your stone, masonry, or concrete! Drive water into wood walls like it’s a force 5 hurricane. Let’s ignore the boundary effect, look it’s ‘clean’.

  3. Pressure-washer public art is the best. There was a real pressure washer pipe organ at a street fair in Glasgow in the mid-1990s. Each washer had a flat spray nozzle jetting across the end of a drain pipe. These pipes were cut to length to play a scale. No electronics on this one: the keyboard was made up of hydraulic triggers. I think it had a range of about an octave. Only ever saw the thing once: a shame, as it was loud and soggy fun.

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