Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Contributed by
Jacky Wan

The Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) model was launched alongside the Ultimaker 2+ models. A simple model with great implications. On the surface, it’s an aesthetically pleasing demo piece. But deeper, we have a concept that is wonderfully empowering.

Imagine If we could create a turbine that is open source, inexpensive and easily reproducible anywhere in the world via desktop 3D printers. We would be able to make small scale renewable energy production instantly available with no requirement of a distribution center.

Valcrow's Vertical Axis Windmill Turbine and Ultimaker 2+

Without a 90 degree corner in sight, this model exemplifies the ease in which 3D printing is able to create complex precise curved shapes that function in an assembly. It isn’t without it’s challenges however, as it requires specific settings for optimal results. Follow along with this guide to see how you can print and assemble your own wind turbine.

3D Design Philosophy

The turbine is intended to be printed fully hollow so it can be as light as possible while maintaining the cleanest external surface. It is to be printed and snapped together without any external fasteners. Note, a bearing is required for the smooth turning of the turbine, two are required if you want the mock generator inside the stand. This is a conceptual model, it is not a fully operational design for producing electricity – yet.

3D Printed Windmill Design

What you'll need

Start by downloading the wind turbine files for free from YouMagine.

You will need to print the following groups of parts:

Group A - Turbine Wings

  • 3x Wind Turbine Top Wing
  • 3x Wind Turbine Bottom Wing

Group B - Turbine Stand

  • High Stand

Group C - Connectors

  • Connector Top
  • Connector Shaft
  • Generator
  • 3x Pin Short
  • 3x Pin Long

Bearings

Ultimaker 2 Axis Rod Bearing

You will also need bearings with the following dimensions:

  • 16mm external diameter
  • 7.95mm internal diameter

We're using Ultimaker axis rod bearings, which happens to have that exact size.

Print Settings

3D Printed Windmill Group A
Group A
Group B
Group B
Group C
Group C

Group A - Turbine Wings

Print individually with the following settings:

Quality
Layer height0.09 – 0.15
Lower layer heights may result in worse quality
Shell thickness0.8
 
Fill
Bottom/top thickness0.6
Bottom/top thickness is essential for hollow objects
Fill density (%)0
This object was designed to be printed hollow to save weight
 
Speed and temperature
Print speed40
Supportnone
No supports will result in the best quality possible
 
Advanced
Nozzle Size0.4
 
Quality
Initial layer thickness0
Anything greater than 0 will result in elephants foot
which would create an unsightly seam in the center
Initial layer line width100
 
Speed
Travel speed200
Fast travel speed will reduce the stringing between
the small and large airfoils
Bottom layer speed15
Infill speed0
Top/bottom speed0
Outer Shell Speed0
Inner shell speed0
All advance speed should be set to 0, we don't
want any back pressure causing oozing, this
would cause excess stringing
Minimum Layer time10

It is essential that your bed is leveled precisely for these objects, particularly the bottom part as there is a tiny triangle piece that needs to connect to the larger whole.

Group B - Turbine Stand

Print by itself with the following settings:

Quality
Layer height0.15
Shell thickness0.8
 
Fill
Bottom/top thickness0.8
Fill density (%)10
 
Speed and temperature
Print speed45
SupportNone
 
Advanced
Nozzle size0.4

Group C - Connectors

Print on one plate, using the ‘one at a time’ setting:

Quality
Layer height0.12
Shell thickness0.8
 
Fill
Bottom/top thickness0.8
Fill density (%)0
 
Speed and temperature
Print speed40
SupportNone
 
Advanced
Nozzle size0.4

Printing Materials

We suggest using PLA due to its low warping properties. If you use ABS or other more warpy materials, the corners of the airfoils can lift up and as it gets closer to the top it could knock the whole wing over.

We used standard Ultimaker profile settings for materials:

  • 210° C nozzle
  • 60° C bed
  • Clean glass bed

Post-Printing Cleanup

If you used a brim, you will need to clean up the edges especially in the channels where the pins go. The tolerances are quite tight to ensure structural rigidity. The pins should ‘squeeze’ the two halves together. We printed without brims so they were ready to go.

3D Printed Windmill Detail
3D Printed Windmill Detail

You will also need to clean up any strings that form when the head travels the large gap between the airfoils. This is easily done with an exacto knife or a large knife.

Cleanup 3D Printed Windmill
Cleanup 3D Printed Windmill

Lastly you want to sand down the slight bumps quickly for a nice finish. The amount of cleanup you will need will vary from printer to printer and layer height settings. Printing with lower travel speeds will increase your stringing. You may further reduce your stringing by decreasing your temperature.

Tip: You can print yourself a sandpaper holder with a big piece of leather to make your life easier.

Sandpaper holder

Only the wings require cleanup, the other objects should be good to go as is.

Assembly

Now that you have all your pieces printed and prepped it’s time for the fun part, assembly!

Assembling the 3D Printed Windmill
3D Printed Windmill Connector Top

Arrange your wings (top or bottom) so they are flush with each other and the middle forms a hexagon. Place the appropriate ‘cap’ on the hexagon to lock them into place.

The top wing set requires the “connector top” while the bottom requires the “connector shaft”. You can tell it is the bottom because of the hole.

Bottom of 3D Printed Windmill
Bottom of 3D Printed Windmill

Once you have these two halves connected they should be stable enough to move around as an assembly. Flip the bottom set right side up and place the top piece over it aligning the two halves. Align and insert the pins starting from the outer edges. They do not need to go in all the way yet, just get them into place. Once you’ve inserted the outer pins, insert the short pins the same way.

Pins in 3D Printed Windmill
Pins in 3D Printed Windmill

Once all the pins are in place, tap them in with a hammer or screw driver. Everything should now be nicely interlocking and flush.

Hammering a 3D Printed Windmill
Assembled 3D Printed Windmill

3D Printed Windmill Generator in Stand
Press fit the bearing into the top of the stand. And then fit another bearing (optional) to the bottom of the generator piece. Insert the generator into the stand. The bearing should seat the generator in the right position.

Lastly, slot your wing assembly into the bearing, making sure the square shaft connects with the generator. Your turbine should now spin freely! Congrats!

If you want challenge yourself even more, attempt to print the turbine wings with a 0.25mm nozzle, only 1 shell and with 0% infill. This will allow you to create a super-lightweight turbine blade, weighing in at only 19 grams. These settings may create more stringing in the final results and the prints will generally be more fragile to work with. But this lets you make a full turbine section that weighs only a little over 120 grams. The much lighter weight makes it far easier for the wind to move the turbine, thus increasing the efficiency.

3D Printed Windmill Generator

If you've successfully printed and assembled this Vertical Axis Wind Turbine model, don't forget to share your results with the rest of the community!

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