3D Printers Help Provide Remote Regions With Energy

published: 2014-01-10 12:35 | editor: | category: News

As a sensation, lots of applications printed by 3D printers try to find blue seas around the world. Stratasys, a 3D printer manufacturers and dealer, uses 3D printing technology to compress supply chains, minimize materials and energy use, and reduce waste. But beyond streamlining production processes, the company also uses 3D printers to bring innovative, low-cost energy solutions to the market itself – including portable solar arrays and bicycle-powered generators.

Organizations such as Peppermint Energy and Designs For Hope have used 3D printing technology from 3D printer manufacturer Stratasysto help individuals spur economic development, participate in emerging industries, and access educational opportunities in areas of the world that don’t have reliable access to electricity.

Worldwide, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. South Dakota-based Peppermint Energy is determined to change that with its flagship product called the FORTY2. Like a solar plant in a suitcase, the FORTY2 is a portable array that draws enough energy from the sun to provide light, refrigerate medicine or food, or power a laptop. A battery connected to the array stores power for use when the sun is down.

Photo Credit: Business Wire / Peppermint Energy / Stratasys Fortus

For real-world design testing of the FORTY2, Peppermint Energy’s development team used Stratasys 3D printing technology to 3D print functional prototypes. At three feet wide and roughly 60 pounds, the FORTY2 required a robust housing strong enough to hold all of its components. The first full-scale prototype, built in a Stratasys Fortus 3D Production System, revealed some of the design considerations that led to the FORTY2’s simple operation.

“It’s only when you see it in physical form that you realize the form and function should be the same,” said Peppermint Energy co-founder Brian Gramm. Using Stratasys FDM 3D printing technology, the team was able to quickly make modifications, allowing for fast improvements and saving an estimated $250,000 in tooling costs.

Another company, Designs For Hope in Alabama, has developed an inexpensive, durable device that enables rotational energy to be harvested and stored from bicycles – one of the simplest and most readily available forms of transportation. The device holds a generator on a bike, harvests its power and conditions the electricity for storage in a battery. Prototypes have been making on a 3D printer from Stratasys. One recipient is a Uganda orphanage whose only power comes from a small solar-panel system. Orphanage workers ride bikes very often and this product will definitely help improve the local situation. What’s the most, the energy is all free.

Related information:

How Peppermint Energy created its product with 3D printing (video)

Read the Peppermint Energy case study

Read the Designs For Hope case study

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