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3D-printed wind turbine captures excess city air

Tue 20 Oct 2015

A 3D-printed urban wind turbine designed by young French designer Léo Sexer exploits wasted city air sources, such as underground grates and air conditioning units, to charge electronic devices.

The Raflesia [French], a small hand-held machine, works by attaching itself to metal grates with its three magnetic legs. The ‘parasite’ turbine gathers the wind through a system of gears and motors, collecting enough energy to power smartphones, mp3 players and other devices via USB.

The project’s main aim is to raise public awareness around wasted energy resources across cities, and highlight the role that design and technology can play in response to climate change.

All of the individual parts, including the propeller and legs, can be printed from a desktop 3D printer ; in this case Sexer opted for a MakerBot Replicator 2. It is powered by an electronic boost system, which charges batteries with up to 5V. “I wanted the object to be as simple as possible. It’s not much more than a motor turned generator connected to a few batteries…” Sexer explained [French] during an interview.

According to the designer’s estimations, a small electronic device could be powered for 30 minutes after 20 minutes charging.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 15.48.52Sexer’s interest for sustainable design was sparked by Michael Rakowitz and his inflatable homeless shelter, paraSITE, which attached to HVAC vents. As a student at ENSCI (National School of Industrial Creation, Paris), the 24-year-old was tasked with producing an innovative turbine project. “I was interested in energy as a resource, and like every other resource it is highly coveted,” said Sexer, explaining the inspiration behind his ‘parasite’ idea.

The Raflesia project will be available over open-source, where contributors can add and make changes to the initial design. Sexer also hopes to launch a collaborative map to help locate air sources in cities.

Although the turbine is not yet released to the general public, Sexer proposes a pre-made assembly kit for those without access to a 3D printer.

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