Repurpose your used 250 mL ‘slim’ drink can as the water supply tank in this fully functional 3D printed water wheel model.
Inspired by #FuelingInnovation, I wanted to look back at an ancient innovation that had a profound and lasting impact on human civilisation: the humble water wheel. For thousands of years, this technology has enabled us to harness the energy in a flowing stream or river to accomplish a variety of tasks that would otherwise require hard manual labour.
In this model, I use a mechanism for converting the rotation of the water wheel into vertical up-down motion, known as a camshaft. This design replicates a stamp mill, which was used for crushing ore in the process of extracting useful minerals from mined rock (read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stamp_mill). The camshaft here is driven by an overshot-style water wheel, with water gravity-fed from a raised tank (in our case a standard slim 250 mL drink can, e.g. RedBull).
Print the provided files and assemble (with super glue) to create your own.
Detailed assembly instructions:
(1) Prepare can:
- Drill a large hole in the bottom of the can. The can will be used upside down so water flows from the pre-existing opening. The drilled hole will allow the can to be filled from the top. - Optional: spray paint the can. I used a light layer of etch primer, followed by a few layers of silver paint and then a clear coat.
(2) Print parts
- Print multiple copies where instructions are given in the file names. - Most pieces do not need supports. - Most files are oriented properly for printing. You will need to use the ‘lay flat’ option for ‘Water_chute’ and ‘Brace’. - Print in multiple colours as desired. - Some pieces are a tight fit, so use a file or sandpaper as required.
(3) Assemble the base
- Sand the edges of the base pieces so they fit neatly against one another. Note that the bases print upside down. - Glue ‘Wheel_base_left’ and ‘Wheel_base_right’ on either side of ‘Trough_part_1’. The left/right designation applies when looking toward where the water tower will be (i.e. when the stopped end of the trough is toward you). - Glue in ‘Trough_part_2’, and the ‘Tank_stand_bases’. Glue the ‘Stamp_base’ off to the side, making sure the slots for the camshaft stand line up with the equivalent slots in ‘Wheel_base_right’. - The join between the trough parts 1 and 2 can be sealed with silicone. - Use the provided images for guidance as to the exact placement. Note that, in my case, I had some alignment issues due to a problem with my printer. Yours should fit together more neatly.
(4) Assemble the wheel
- Fit the buckets into the slots in one side of the wheel. Secure with super glue. The other side of the wheel should fit on top. Make sure the spokes and square hole in both sides are aligned. - Fit the ‘Wheel_stand’ prints in place in the slots of ‘Wheel_base_right’ and ‘Wheel_base_left’. - Push the ‘Wheel_rod’ through the hole in the ‘Wheel_stand’ from the left, through the wheel and the right-side ‘Wheel_stand’. - Push the ‘Wheel_rod_end’ onto the end of the ‘Wheel_rod’ through the hole in the right-side ‘Wheel_stand’. - Glue the ‘Wheel_gear’ in place on the end of the ‘Wheel_rod’.
(5) Assemble the camshaft
- Set the ‘Camshaft_stand’ prints in the appropriate slots in the base. - Feed ‘Camshaft_part_1’ through the right-side ‘Camshaft_stand’. Push a cam all the way down the end. - Glue ‘Camshaft_part_2’ after the cam on the end of ‘Camshaft_part_1’, and place another cam on the end. Make sure cams are oriented so that they are pointed 120 degrees apart, in sequence. - Likewise, glue in ‘Camshaft_part_3’ and the third cam. - Feed ‘Camshaft_part_4’ through the left-side ‘Camshaft_stand’, glue in place and glue the ‘Camshaft_gear’ on the end, so that it meshes with the ‘Wheel_gear’.
(6) Assemble the stamps and stamp frame
- Fit the three stamps into the ‘Stamp_frame_board’ prints, with a board on either side of the protrusions. The proper orientation is with the protrusions more than halfway up. - Glue the boards into the slots in the ‘Stamp_frame_posts’. It might help to fit the posts into the base first. - Make sure the protrusions on the stamps face the camshaft. - Fit the ‘Stamp_feet’.
(7) Assemble the water tank tower
- Fit the pieces of ‘Tank_stand_part_1’ into the slots in the base. - ‘Tank_stand_part_2’ glues in place above part 1. - Glue the ‘Can_holder’ on top, making sure the outlet hole is pointed toward the wheel. - Glue the ‘Brace’ in the slots in ‘Tank_stand_part_2’. - Fit the can into the ‘Can_holder’ upside down, sealing with silicone or hot glue.
(8) Attach the water chute
- Glue the ‘Chute_funnel’ below the hole in the ‘Water_chute’. In my version, this is glued the wrong way around (alas!). The ‘Chute_funnel’ should point straight down when the chute is in place, rather than back at an angle. It seems to work either way, however. - Glue the ‘Water_chute’ into the slot in the ‘Can_holder’, and to the top of the ‘Brace’. Seal the edges with silicone to stop leaking if desired. - Finally, fit the ‘Flow_restrictor_plug’ into the hole of the ‘Can_holder’. This gives you flexibility in controlling water flow. Make the hole larger to increase flow, or smaller to decrease it. The current setup is tuned for my setup to turn the wheel relatively slowly. Depending on how your setup differs, increased hole size may require adjustments to the water chute design as well.
I printed in PLA, most pieces with 0.2 mm layer heights. Small pieces may benefit from smaller layer heights (e.g. the chute funnel or flow restrictor plug). I have a small printer, so everything is broken into small pieces and assembled later. If you have a larger print bed, I would suggest combining some of the base pieces and printing as one to save on the assembly.
Most parts do not need supports.
Print multiple copies if indicated at the end of the file name.
Most files are oriented properly for printing, but you will need to use the ‘lay flat’ option for ‘Water_chute’ and ‘Brace’.