Aug 6, 2015 | By Alec

Making challenges are always a fantastic place to find inspiring, genius and sometimes seemingly impossible designs. And Thingiverse’s Catch the Wind competition is no different, as various makers have contributed some amazing 3D printed creations capable of harnessing the power of the wind. However, perhaps the most remarkable design has sprouted from the 3D printer of Mike Blakemore, who has developed an ingeniously simple wind energy storage unit; essentially a 3D printed battery without any electronic parts involved.

Mike himself is a software developer at the startup Hyperplane Interactive, which specializes in next-generation software solutions – including a 3D development platform called Touch Control System for personalized creation. However, his 3D printed creation can also be seen as a next generation solution.Called Wind Energy Store in Gravity, this amazing concept essentially captures the energy of the wind in a few plastic parts, before releasing it at the moment of your choosing. How on earth is that possible, you wonder? Well, Mike’s creation is essentially riding on a new trend in the energy sector that tackles problems associated with wind and solar energy. For while the sun is plentiful everywhere, it isn’t exactly available in the middle of the night (and its not always windy). How do you effectively store those green energies for later use without relying on expensive, toxic batteries that need to be replaced all the time?

The solution is harnessing another power, that of gravity. ‘Using the principle of exploiting the force of gravity, it is in theory possible to store vast amounts of surplus energy, relatively cheap, environmentally friendly, maintenance free, totally safe and without disrupting landscape or taking up horizontal space,’ the team behind explain. ‘The concept of exploiting the force of gravity has been around for centuries in the form of the pendulum clock, which stores the energy that a person puts into the system and then distributes it slowly over a long period of time. The gravity battery acts in a similar way, it stores the surplus energy obtained from solar panels during long periods of time, and then delivers it whenever it is needed. It is literally the best possible way of storing large amounts of energy for an indefinite period of time.’ As you can see in the clip above, Bill Gates is also a big fan of this remarkable concept.

While this concept can take huge shapes, it is perhaps best illustrated by something as simple as Mike’s Wind Energy Stored in Gravity. This 3D printed contraption generates basic energy through the wind turbine on the left. That energy is immediately expended to lift the central plastic beam up. However, the energy equivalent used to lift it up, can also be expended at a moment of your choosing by letting it drop – powering the propeller on the right side. ‘We can use generated energy to lift heavy objects and later retrieve the energy using the weight of the lifted object to turn gears on its way back down. A gravity battery is considered full when the heavy object is lifted all the way up,’ Mike explains.


This amazing plastic battery in action.

It is, essentially, a plastic battery. Of course, on a real-world scale, this battery will be huge to get your money’s worth. ‘Real world implementations of this concept usually involve weights that are either lowered into deep holes in the ground or held in above ground silos,’ Mike adds. One of Bill Gates’ examples revolved around lifting water up a mountain and letting it flow down to generate electricity. However, even Mike’s concept can be theoretically expanded indefinitely. ‘Multiple copies of the rack gear can be glued together to increase the storage capacity of the battery indefinitely,’ he says.

As he explains to, Mike developed virtually all of the concept on paper, as he does with all his ideas and projects. ‘Everything after that is done in 3ds Max,’ he says. 3D printing itself took place on a Da Vinci 1.0 and took roughly three days to fully 3D print in ABS. ‘I recommend printing in ABS with .2 layer height and 30% fill. The rack gears function as the battery weight, so it might be a good idea to print them at 100% fill, and/or attach additional weight to the gear to increase torque,’ Mike explains.

The entire tool, which can be downloaded from Thingiverse here, is also completely modular and can take just about any imaginable shape. ‘I've included full models of the turbine and fan in addition to sliced versions for easier printing. You can reduce the number of fan blades, reverse them, or attach a motor/anything else you'd like,’ he says. Really the only thing that wasn’t 3D printed are a set of skateboard bearings, which you can find here.

While this Thingiverse competition only closed yesterday, we expect that this entry will definitely catch the eye of the jury. And if the quality of this project – as well as some of Mike’s other builds, like this 3D printed submarine – are anything to go by, we’ll doubtlessly see much more of him in the near future. 



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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