Mar 19, 2017 | By David

We’ve seen 3D printing used many times before to produce or test new ideas for different types of engines- automobile engines, replica steam engines and even rocket engines have all been made with the technology. Now 3D hobbyist Greg Zumwalt has created what could be a first in this field- an engine that can be powered by a balloon. The device was 3D printed from entirely original designs, which he developed and made available online to anyone who wants to make their own Single Cylinder Air Engine.

The initial design for the 3D model of the Single Cylinder Air Engine was done using AutoDesk ‘s Fusion 360 CAD software. An Ultimaker 3 3D printer was used to make the final product, after the 3D model was sliced up into parts using the Cura 2.3.1 software specifically designed by Ultimaker to work with its latest 3D printer. PLA filament was Zumwalt’s material of choice. He has made all the design files available for free download, along with a helpful virtual model to help with the assembly process, and he welcomes any modifications or feedback that might help him improve the project.

Based in Oklahoma, Zumwalt’s career was in software and video game design. Since retirement, he has used his skills to develop a handful of fun 3D printing projects, which are also available for free download on his Instructables page. This latest effort, the Single Cylinder Air Engine, looks to be his best yet. This basic but perfectly functional engine can run on air power from any kind of source, with either an increase or a decrease in pressure working equally well. The deceptively simple design incorporates two ports, an upper and a lower. When pressure is applied to the upper port, the wheel will rotate clockwise, and counter-clockwise if a vacuum is applied. If the upper port is used, the lower port will act as either an intake or an exhaust. Using the lower port will reverse this process accordingly.

His test video shows the air from an inflated balloon making the plastic pistons spin quickly and smoothly. However, if you have access to a 3D printer but not to a balloon, fear not- the engine can be powered by a number of other methods. As any change in air pressure will work, this means that compressed air, a vacuum cleaner or even good old-fashioned lung power can be used. The design features 3 different adapters, allowing for the engine to interface with any of these different sources.

It’s always great to see hobbyists applying 3D printing techniques to make fun products that are also functional, especially when it encourages other people who might get a kick out of them to get involved with 3D printing. And who knows- with the scaleability that is a key feature of 3D designs like these, I see no reason for bigger manufacturers not to take heed of his work, and perhaps balloon powered engines could be the future of the industry.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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