Hackaday Podcast 040: 3D Printed Everything, Strength V Toughness, Blades Of Fiber, And What Can’t Coffee Do?

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams opine on the coolest hacks we saw this week. This episode is heavy with 3D printing as Prusa released a new, smaller printer, printed gearboxes continue to impress us with their power and design, hoverboards are turned into tanks, and researchers suggest you pour used coffee grounds into your prints. Don’t throw out those “toy” computers, they may be hiding vintage processors. And we have a pair of fantastic articles that cover the rise and fall of forest fire watchtowers, and raise the question of where all those wind turbine blades will go when we’re done with them.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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What Will We Do With The Turbine Blades?

As the global climate emergency continues to loom over human civilization, feverish work is underway around the world to find technical and political solutions to the problem. Much has been gained in recent years, but as global emissions continue to increase, there remains much left to do to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Renewable energy has led the charge, allowing humanity to continue to enjoy the wonders of electricity with a reduced environmental impact. The future looks promising, with renewable sources becoming cheaper than traditional fossil fuel energy plants in many cases, both in the US and abroad. At the same time, the rise of renewable technologies has brought new and varied challenges to the fore, which must be dealt with in kind. Take wind energy, for instance. Continue reading “What Will We Do With The Turbine Blades?”

Building A Wind Power Generator In Your Backyard

For many environmental enthusiasts, horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) — the kind that look like windmills slowly spinning in the distance — are a pretty familiar sight. Unfortunately, there are quite a few caveats that make them harder to adopt despite the fact that harvesting renewable energy sources is more sustainable than relying on natural gas and fuels that can be depleted. Since they face in one axis, they need to be able to track the wind, or else trade off the ability to maximize energy output. In turbulent and gusty conditions, as well, HAWTs face accelerated fatigue when harvesting.

The development of the vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) solves several of these issues. In addition, the turbines are typically closer to the ground and the gearbox replacement is simpler and more efficient. Maintenance is more accessible due to the size of the turbines, so no heavy machinery is typically necessary to access crucial components on-site. In addition, the gearbox by nature of its operation takes on less fatigue and is able to function in turbulent winds, which reduces the rate of failure.

For a simple version of a VAWT that you can build yourself, [BlueFlower] has published several mechanical drawings that detail the layout of the design. The wind power generator uses 24 magnets, copper wire fashioned into coils, and a metal plate for the main generator. The coils are arranged in a circular formation on a static plate, while the magnets are equally spaced on a moving circular plate. As the magnets pass over coils, the flux induces a current, which increases as the plates spin faster.

The blades of the generator are made from blue foam with a metal bar running through it for structure. Three of the blades are attached with triangular bars to a central rod, which also holds the spinning magnetic plate.

In [BlueFlower]’s initial trials using the VAWT for charging a battery they were able to generate a max power of 15W on boost mode and 30-70W when charging in PWM mode. Not bad for a home-made wind power generator!

There aren’t only pros to the design, however. While VAWTs may be cheaper, more mobile, and more resistant to wear and tear, there are some design features that prevent the generators from functioning as well as HAWTs at harvesting energy. The blades don’t produce torque at the same time, with some blades simply being pushed along. This produces more drag on the blades when they rotate, limiting the efficiency of the entire system. In addition, higher wind speeds are typically found at higher altitudes, so the VAWTs will perform better if installed on a towering structure. Vibration forces close to the ground can also wear out the bearings, resulting in more maintenance and costs.

 

 

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3D Print A Complete Wind Generator

For many of us our landscapes are dotted with wind turbines, the vast majority of which are horizontally aligned as if they were giant aircraft propellers. A much rarer sight is the vertical wind turbine, which remains a staple of the wind power experimenter. [Troy] and his brother have posted a video showing a small wind 3D printed vertical turbine, which unusually includes an alternator made from scratch as well as the rotor itself.

The machine adopts a Savonius rotor design with three scoops, which offers simplicity and high torque at a lower rotational speed than some of the alternatives. The scoops are assembled from a number of 3D-printed sections, and directly drive the generator which uses a large number of coils on a stator encircled by a rotor containing an array of magnets. A simple rectifier and three-terminal regulator produces a 5-volt output.

Sadly there was not enough wind to give it a decent test for the video, but they demonstrate it with a very large fan standing in. We like the alternator design but we’d be interested to see how the sectional rotors hold up in outdoor conditions, and perhaps that regulator could benefit from a switch-mode component. If you fancy a go he says he’ll release the files as open source if there’s enough interest. We’re interested [Troy], please do!

Many wind turbines have passed through these pages over the years, and for contrast here’s a horizontal 3D printed example.

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Turn A Ceiling Fan Into A Wind Turbine… Almost

It’s not uncommon to drive around the neighborhood on trash day and see one or two ceiling fans haphazardly strewn onto a pile of garbage bags, ready to be carted off to the town dump. It’s a shame to see something like this go to waste, and [Giesbert Nijhuis] decided he would see what he could do with one. After some painstaking work, he was able to turn a ceiling fan into a wind turbine (of sorts).

While it’s true that some generators and motors can be used interchangeably by reversing the flow of electricity (motors can be used as generators and vice-versa) this isn’t true of ceiling fans. These motors are a type called induction motors which, as a cost saving measure, have no permanent magnets and therefore can’t simply be used as a generator. If you make some modifications to them, though, like rewiring some of the windings and adding permanent magnets around them, you can get around this downside of induction motors.

[Giesbert] does note that this project isn’t a great way to build a generator. Even after making all of the changes needed to get it working, the motor just isn’t as efficient as one that was built with its own set of magnets. For all the work that went into it, it’s not that great of a time investment for a low-quality generator. However, it’s interesting to see the theory behind something like this work at all, even if the end result wasn’t a complete wind turbine. Perhaps if you have an old ceiling fan lying around, you can put it to better use.

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Generating Power With Wind, Water, And Solar

It is three weeks after the apocalypse. No zombies yet. But you do need to charge your cell phone. How do you quickly make a wind turbine? If you’ve read this project, you might reach for a few empty water bottles. This educational project might not charge your phone without some extra work, but it does illustrate how to use water bottles to make a workable air scoop for turning a crank and possibly generating electricity.

That takes care of the wind and water aspects, but how did we get solar? According to the post — and we agree it is technically true — wind power is a form of solar power since the wind is driven by temperature differences created by the sun. Technically true!

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Breathing Underwater Using Wind Power

As hackers, our goal is to reuse something in a way in which it was not intended and [Rulof Maker] is a master at this. From his idyllic seaside location in Italy, he frequently comes up with brilliant underwater hacks made of, well, junk. This time he’s come up with a wind-powered pump to move air through a hose to a modified scuba mask.

The wind turbine’s blades look professional but you’ll be surprised to see that they’re simply cut from a PVC pipe. And they work great. The air compressor is taken from a car and the base of the wind turbine’s tower started life as a bed frame. As you’ll see in the video below, the whole setup is quite effective. It would have been nice to see him using his leg mounted, beer bottle propulsion system at the same time, but the air hose may not have been long enough to make good use of them.

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