3D Printed Wind Turbine Has All The Features, Just Smaller

For anyone with even the slightest bit of engineering interest, wind turbines are hard to resist. Everything about them is just so awesome, in the literal sense of the word — the size of the blades, the height of the towers, the mechanical guts that keep them pointed into the wind. And as if one turbine isn’t enough, consider the engineering implications of planting a couple of hundred of these giants in a field and getting them to operate as a unit. Simply amazing.

Unfortunately, the thing that makes wind turbines so cool — their enormity — can make them difficult to wrap your head around. To fix that, [3DprintedLife] built a working miniature wind turbine that goes a bit beyond most designs of a similar size. The big difference here is variable pitch blades, a feature the big turbines rely on to keep their output maximized over a broad range of wind conditions. The mechanism here is clever — the base of each blade rides in a bearing and has a small cap head screw that rides in a hole in a triangular swash block in the center of the hub. A small gear motor and lead screw move the block back and forth along the hub’s axis, which changes the collective pitch of the blades.

Other details of full-sized wind turbines are replicated here too, like the powered nacelle rotation and the full suite of wind speed and direction sensors. The generator is a NEMA 17 stepper; the output is a bit too anemic to actually power the turbine’s controller, but that could be fixed with gearing changes. Still, all the controls worked as planned, and there’s room for improvement, so we’ll score this a win overall.

Looking for a little more on full-size wind turbines? You’re in luck — our own [Bryan Cockfield] shared his insights into how wind farm engineers deal with ice and cold.

32 thoughts on “3D Printed Wind Turbine Has All The Features, Just Smaller

    1. Yeah kind of a joke to consider a wind turbine that consumes more energy to point itself into the wind, than it could ever hope to generate, a win. By definition that’s a literal loss.
      An interesting exercise for sure, but a failure in the one metric that really counts for energy generation.

    2. It’s amazing how quickly people jump to deride mode. Instead of looking at how a development might be improved if they identify shortcomings in what’s proposed or announced, they look hard for ways to prove/argue why it won’t work.

      For instance; why not suggest that affixing a wind lens to those turbines might be looked into in order to increase their generation output?

      That static addition to a small scale turbine is proven technology.

      Just look up windless turbine
      , Japan.

      Think improvement not dismissal..

      Got any other ideas to improve what is an attractive development, if fir no other reason than that 3D Printed equipment is much less expensive than mechanically fabricated ones?

      We have, as a species very negative and very ugly

    1. I’m not sure how you define “efficient”, but I would guess wave and tide generators would generate more power *in* the ocean, rather than *next* to it.

      It’s like how my wife washes dishes. She stacks them next to the sink, shows them the water, and expects them to do the right thing… Doesn’t work so well. (I’m lucky she’s good at other things.)

  1. Negativity has is rarely bad for progress as it spurs inventive brains to higher levels of ingenuity. If I was the driver behind this concept I would be thankful for all the deadbrain comments above.

    1. Horizontal axis wind turbines are generally considered to be more efficient for the same swept area as compared to vertical axis wind turbines. That’s how the math works out if you look at individual turbines in isolation, although some claim that arrays of counterrotating vertical turbines can be more efficient.

    2. Vertical kind needs to motor to get started.

      Generator is usually used, but that complicates things. Complications can be expensive.

      You can make the any generator face the wind aerodynamically, I’m sure he knows how. Make a brake/hydraulic damper to stop it spinning in high winds. Those loads will break blades.

      He’s ‘pointing it’ to be micro version of big ones.

      1. Also he’s pointing it to avoid the rotating power connection issue. Note the cable.

        I’m skeptical of his swashplate setup. It’s 3d printed, which means the bolt is the hard part of that rubbing pair.

        I looked at the drawings…
        Some of those parts need to be metal. ‘Cowling’ carries all the load, and isn’t even maximized for bearing length where the blade rotates to change pitch _and_ aero load is transferred. Needs 2 bearings/blade, as far apart as possible. Not one ball bearing each. There is room, as much as needed, can expand out. Most inner part of blades do nothing.

        Anyhow, good effort.
        Need to experiment with lost PLA casting. Don’t burn down the city (or do, but don’t get caught, your call).

  2. It’s amazing. You made a gorgeous team engineering alone! Your humor is clever, not loud. It was just pure fun to listen to your video. :)
    I definitely want version 2!
    (I don’t understand comments here, all bitter, they don’t get the potentials.)

      1. Version 1…finished???
        I guess I’ve finished more than I give myself credit for.

        I, for one, would need net power generation before I could call it ‘finished’. Otherwise it goes on the ‘abandoned’ or ‘back burnered’ piles…

  3. Wouldn’t counting the zero crossing before the power gets to the rectifier allow for knowing the rotational speed? Maybe even use a comparator just before the cap and use that signal to feed into the microcontroller.

  4. What we really need is a 3D print design (stackable?) for turbine blades that can be affixed to a scrap yard alternator to make very inexpensive power. Efficiency is trumped by cost effectiveness. Somebody show me a wall of 3D printed turbines spinning up alternators or charge controllers to charge lithium or lead acid batteries so I can do some real stuff with that energy and I will be impressed. This seems more like an academic exercise more than anything.

    1. Wind turbines that size (car alternator, 400W to 1kW-assumption) are obnoxious. Want to turn 600-800 RPM. Need strong AF blades. Loud and dangerous.

      Also cool, all the girls will look at YOU! Loud and dangerous! Welding! Fire…

      Consider them as weapons. Spin them up in wind then ‘accidently’ break axle, letting them fly with at 800RPM (into a bunch of KPop boy bands…Calm down Beavis…heads would be flying).

  5. I’m not sure that I understand all the comments so far 🤔🤨 It seems to me that most people are just not interested in anything else than to make comments for the sake of making comments. It is thus with tongue in cheek that I refer serious people to search thingiverse for a working 3D printèd model that actually produces nett output, albeit not much.

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