I wanted to build a table top stirling engine for my project. I’ve been wanting to make one for a long time, but never got around to making it happen. There is a lot of documentation online on how people have made their own using a variety of designs and materials. My goal was to make one for as little cost as possible while making it also unique. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I am a fan of surrealist art. I also love the idea of combining art and engineering together to create things that are both useful and beautiful. With these ideas in mind, I decided to make a surreal stirling engine.
The critical component of this project is the engine itself. After doing some research online, I found a few homemade engines using glass syringes for the pistons and cylinders. This was a great idea because glass syringes are well made, can handle heat relatively well, and reduced the number of parts I needed to manufacture. For the other components of the engine, I wanted to try to use the 3D printer as much as possible. So, I designed flywheels, connecting rods, mounting brackets, and bases to be printed on a MakerBot. These parts were relatively quick to print, although most holes had to be cleaned up with a drill afterwards.
Using hardware found in the ITLL Project Depot, I assembled the engine. To test the engine, I used an alcohol burner that I bought online. For fuel, I used Everclear, thanks to it’s 95% ethanol alcohol content. Apparently, burning isopropyl alcohol is toxic, whereas Everclear is only toxic if you drink it.
I quickly realized that the plastic bases and brackets were not sturdy enough to keep the engine stable while trying to jump-start (which involves physically spinning the flywheels while heating the bottom cylinder). For testing, I solved this problem by using clamps. There were still some flexing in the plastic mounts, but it was significantly reduced.
The whale was made by making a wire frame in the general shape of the head. The wires are held together using masking tape. Then a layer of clay is put over the frame and hardened by heating it. This is to serve as a platform for molding the final shape of the whale.
A second layer of clay is placed over the first, and molded to give the whale its final shape.
What an innovative solution to use Everclear. Probably the best use of the stuff I’ve ever heard! I was super impressed by your sculpture when you presented it. I have no artistic ability in that sense so it really impressed me. Bummer that you couldn’t get it working, but as someone who also tried to make an engine I feel your pain! Best of luck and hopefully you’ll get it working someday.