Create your own electrostatic motor using a 3D printer

May 31, 2015 | By Simon

While the wide range of 3D print-based DIY projects could keep anybody busy for the rest of their life, some of these projects aim to solve some of the more pressing problems that we’re dealing with as of late – such as climate change and energy usage.  With Elon Musk’s recent announcement of the new Tesla Powerwall, his call for action to find solutions for energy-related problems only became more apparent.

Among other alternative energy solutions, wind turbines have been a consistently reliable source of energy that have been around in some form or another for over 1,000 years.  While some of the earliest wind turbines were simple windmills for powering a single operation such as gathering water, today’s wind turbines feature state-of-the-art materials and technologies to ensure that they are a reliable supply of power for an electrical grid.  Regardless of what form they take on however, a wind turbine is simply a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into usable electrical power for both domestic and industrial use – and can very easily be made by hand.   

Thankfully, 3D printing has enabled a generation of makers to create their own wind-powered solutions whether the end result is a one-off for their own usage or if it’s a project that they have decided with the world of Makers.  Among other projects we’ve seen in recent memory include wind turbines, such as the Hero Electronics Wind Turbine by Instructables use ‘Soliton’ that is capable of powering small appliances or charging smartphone batteries using nothing but wind power.

More recently, an Instructables user by the name of ‘Joehan’ shared a 3D printable solution for what is perhaps the only component that is more important than the actual wind turbine itself – an electrostatic motor that can reside within the wind turbine.     

Electrostatic motors were developed in the mid-1700s by Andrew Gordon and Benjamin Franklin and are based on the attraction and repulsion of an electrical charge.  Similar but different than a conventional electric motor, electrostatic motors are capable of being made without the need for expensive parts – which ultimately makes them ideal for makers who are looking to create 3D printed systems on the cheap.  

So whether you decide to use this electrostatic motor in your next wind turbine project or simply just want to create to learn more about how they work, this is definitely one Instructable that you’ll want to keep handy.

While Joehan has supplied users with the necessary STL files to get their parts 3D printed using their own 3D printer or through a third-party services such as Shapeways or 3D Hubs, he has also outline some additional parts that are needed to get the motor up and running.  

In total, the non-printed parts needed for this project include:

  • 1x 3mm screw about 10mm long (for instance, an unused screw from an old PC)
  • 1x 50mm wire (0.5-1mm)
  • 1x aluminum foil or copper foil (such as self-adhesive aluminum tape for sealing or plain foil to glue)
  • 1x HV power source (Wimshurst, Van-de-Graaff, Flyback Transformers)

The printed parts needed for this project include:

  • 558.384 base.stl
  • 58.984 electrode.stl – you need at least two printed
  • 287.884 rotor.stl
  • 258.384 screw_top.stl – to fix the wire for the rotor

According to Joehan, once you have sourced your STL files and are ready to print them, they should be printed with a 100% infill using your printer’s standard printing settings.

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Once the prints have been created, the assembly is fairly straight forward, however just like any other project that involves electricity and/or moving parts – always remember to wear safety goggles and educate yourself on basic electrical safety!

For the full build instructions, be sure to head over to the Joehan’s Instructables page.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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