Thinkiverse plugs itself is a place where creative, innovative people can share designs with the world, and the creators believe that just as computing shifted away from the mainframe into the personal computer, digital fabrication will share the same path.
One of the many interesting creations on Thingiverse recently is the 3D printed stirling engine designed by Thingiverse user dougconnor. Stirling engines pull mechanical energy out of temperature differentials, not specifically heat. So, it’s appropriate to use ABS plastic with low thermal conductivity for the housing.
Doug Conner used a Stratasys printer to print the 11 parts and the few metal ones that he needed, he bought off-the-shelf. Other than a lathe to get the piston and power cylinder in perfect position, a drill press was all that was necessary for the project. One day, Conner hopes to incorporate a telescoping cylinder that may replace the lathe. He might even be able to print the metal pieces through Shapeways or i.materialise.
Optimizing this printed engine means renewable energy is even more accessible.