While most wind turbines are getting bigger—like this U.K. design with blades as long as a football field—a few are going in the opposite direction and aiming to become as small as possible. A new 3-D printed wind turbine is small and lightweight enough to fit in a backpack.
Now raising funding on Kickstarter, the AirEnergy3D is portable enough to take on a camping trip, or move from a rooftop to a balcony to catch the biggest breeze. It can be fully assembled without any tools. Devices like a laptop or phone can plug directly into the turbine to charge, or it can send electricity back into a household power system.
When the turbine is fully developed, the plans will be open source so others can customize the shape of the blades or continue to improve the design. "We want to make it as easy to develop upon the original project," says Kamil Dziadkiewicz, an engineer from Omni3D, the Poland-based 3-D printing manufacturer developing the design. "Thanks to 3-D printing, everybody as a community can experiment and prototype better solutions for the machine."
The vertical shape of the turbine is designed to capture the most energy possible from the lower wind speeds that come through city roofs and backyards. The team is still refining the shape of the blade itself; so far, they've built a proof of concept that can charge a lightbulb, but they're aiming for a final design that can produce 300 watts, enough to charge computers and other larger devices.
Those with the requisite DIY skills can use the plans to buy a few electronics and print the blades of the device themselves, and others can buy a basic kit with electronic parts from Omni3D. It's not cheap—early-bird versions of the kit on Kickstarter went for about $480—but it can slowly pay for itself over time in lower energy bills, and eventually even help pay off the cost of a 3-D printer used to make it.
The company will also be donating fully-working versions of the turbine, with pre-printed 3-D parts, to rural parts of Africa that are currently off the grid. "We were already contacted by a few organizations that told us that the fact that this is very mobile and easy to set up, compared to solar power, is one of the reasons that it makes sense," says Dziadkiewicz. "It can also be used in natural disaster situations, where it's hard to set up solar power."