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solarstirlinganiEach and every day, I am blown away in yet another way by all of the new innovations that have quickly been coming into existence within the 3D printing space. It seems as though just a couple years ago no one even knew what 3D printing was, and today we have everything from 3D printed houses to 3D printed cars, prosthetic hands, electronics, and more. It makes me wonder just how much further along we will be in the next five or ten years. Perhaps we won’t only have 3D printed cars, but their motors and engines will be 3D printed as well. Today we get a step closer, as we introduce you to a German aeronautical engineer named Andreas Haeuser and his incredible 3D printed creation.

Haeuser himself is known for designing and creating several unique 3D printable devices, such as the “RepRap Windturbine.” His latest creation, however, may just take the cake.

Haeuser has designed and created the world’s first known 3D printed solar powered Stirling engine, an engine that runs completely off of the sun’s heat. The typical Stirling engine operates by using cyclic compression and expansion of air at differing temperatures. We have seen other 3D printed Stirling engines created before which have operated using hot water, but this unique version by Haeuser may just open our eyes to the idea that we may one day soon be able to power different machines, devices, and systems using objects that can be created on virtually any desktop 3D printer. Better yet, it is 100% green energy.

“At the moment, a lot of people try to build Stirling engines with a 3D printer,” Haeuser explains to 3DPrint.com. “And there are good designs on the way, but no one has tried to build a low-temperature Stirling engine for solar use, so this was my goal. The Stirling engine by itself is a very old engine. It’s powered by heat. You can produce the heat in different ways; hot water or sun rays. In my engine no water is involved.”

solarstirling3His engine is powered using the solar rays of the sun to provide the engine with enough heat to make it run. It is built almost entirely of 3D printed parts, except for some screws, nuts, and bearings. All of the non-printable parts are things you can easily obtain at a local hardware store or online. Haeuser also offers a manual, including a complete parts list and the 3D printable files, via his website.

As for what such a creation could mean in the future, the possibilities are endless. The ability to 3D print an environmentally friendly engine could lead to a lot of innovation, especially in third world countries where it is impossible for some to afford expensive machinery. While the engine that Haeuser 3D printed probably could not provide enough power for very much, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to utilize his creation to do so.

“At this moment it’s a small engine,” Haeuser tells us. “It’s too small to power a vehicle but it is easy to scale to a bigger one.”

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Could such an engine be scaled up to a point where it could run a small vehicle? Could it be used to run other equipment as well? Those questions will certainly be tested in the near future, as 3D printing makes its way more and more into mainstream use. Haeuser is quick to point out that the Stirling engine is not a new invention. In fact, it has been around since 1816, but the idea that this piece of machinery can be 3D printed from virtually any desktop, be assembled, and then be put to use in a matter of hours, could have a tremendous benefit to society, and future innovations.

solarstirling2Right now Haeuser has no specific future plans for his creation, although he did tell us that he may optimize it to run off of body heat as opposed to the sun. You would basically put the engine on your hand, and the heat from your body will power the engine.

What do you think about Haeuser’s unique creation? Will we one day see 3D printed vehicles running off of similar 3D printed, solar powered engines? Discuss in the 3D printed solar powered stirling engine forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of this engine in action below.

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