3D Printed Air(Steam) Powered Engine

My First Mechanical Design

After watching a video sent to me by a friend I became very interested in the idea of a steam powered bicycle. I knew with my skills at that time I could never design one for a bike. So to start, I made the goal to design and print a working pneumatic engine. This engine works in the same way a slide valve steam engine would. Essentially, it was the first step of learning how they work, and how to design them.

Screenshot 2023-04-16 171841
Screenshot 2023-04-16 172044

I worked in a free CADD design website called OnShape. Through what I had learned in CADD classes in school, and what I looked up on the internet, I was able to get a basic design sketched up into a 3D model. From there I worked out how to simulate motion in OnShape, and I adjusted everything until I felt the tolerances were close enough that the engine would work with some fine tuning. Then I loaded the STL files into my slicing software and threw them onto my 3D printer for what was the biggest print I had done so far.

After assembling all the components of the engine, I adjusted the valve timing, put graphite in the piston, and took a deep breath. I blew as hard as I could to try and get it to run. I adjusted the timing over and over until I got it to almost run. After realizing the main air inlet had printed with supports inside it I knew what was wrong. Those supports were causing the air to flow much slower. This meant that not enough air was let through to allow the engine to run. I redesigned the air inlet with a curve instead of a box design, allowing the printer to simply print a slight overhang, making it so that supports were not needed on that part. That left it hollow and let all the air I would blow into it through to the cylinder chamber. Finally, through trial and error, this project ran flawlessly, and is my favorite thing I have designed from scratch.


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