James Jefferies and ShedCode Ltd

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Steam Powered Arduino Part 1

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Following on from getting Cathy & Heathcliff, our internet enabled thermal printers up and running as part of the Happenstance Project, I wanted to see if I could get them running on steam power.

Steam power

Of course most electricity we get from the national grid has been generated by a steam turbine in a power station. I though, was thinking more of this kind of steam engine!

mamod in the kitchen

This is stationary steam engine, hand built in the West Midlands by a company called Mamod founded in 1937.

Mamod 1335D SP5

This specific model comes with a dynamo, dual cylinders and a generator, a 1335D. I wanted to see how much power it would output with the standard dynamo. The bulb was a 1.5V bulb, so I wasn’t expecting it to power an Arduino out of the box. I realise as well that the output would require stabilising and regulating. Cathy & Heathcliff’s Arduino’s require 7-16V.

testing the voltage

And I was right! I lit the boiler using three of the solid fuel pellets and waited for pressure to build in the boiler.

Pressure builds

Once the pressure did start to build, it soon became obvious that there were a few leaks which meant that some pressure was going to be lost. I kept on attempting to start the engine, but it was a while before it was ready, around 10 pounds per square inch of pressure.

After starting, the generator produced a rather paltry, 0.7V, hardly enough to light the light!

Best results

I managed then to stop the engine and hold it, to let the pressure build. Once it reached about 15 psi, I started the engine again and tested the voltage. This time it made it up to 1.5V

After that run, the pressure dropped and the fuel began to run out, so that was that.

Next Time

The plan for next time will be to not even start the engine until the pressure reaches 15 psi. I might also try and extra fuel pellet to see if that helps maintain the pressure.

I’ve ordered some sugru to try and fix the leak too! Will be interesting to see if it works.

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