Integza's 3D-Printable Ion Thrusters Can Blow Out Your Birthday Candles with Style

Originally designed for high-altitude aircraft and space exploration, these desktop ion thrusters make for an impressive solid-state fan.

Gareth Halfacree
9 months agoHW101 / 3D Printing

Pseudonymous maker "Integza" has designed an ion thruster, and while it won't be pushing spacecraft to the stars any time soon it does have enough puff to blow out your birthday candles with panache.

"Ionic wind is created when you shoot electrons from one place to the other," Integza explains of the core concept behind the compact solid-state thruster. "The electrons collide with the air molecules [which] are projected in [a given] direction. Stack a bunch of wires in tubes [and] you can actually get a pretty decent fan — but all of this kept me thinking, 'what if I try to turn this bladeless fan [design] into an ionic thruster?'"

The first to propose an ion thruster for spacecraft and aircraft operating at extreme altitudes in a near vacuum was scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in a paper published in 1911. In spacecraft, the engines operate by pulling electrons from a supply of neutral gas and creating a cloud of positive ions then accelerated by either electrostatic or electromagnetic forces — providing, in the process, a propulsive efficiency as high as 80 per cent and up to 130 horse power.

This 3D-printed ion thruster design delivers a flow of air using space-age technology — literally. (📹: Integza)

Integza's design, by contrast, is considerably more modest — designed, as it is, for desktop use rather than in space. Built using 3D printed parts, including a ring printed on a resin printer than plated in copper to reduce its weight compared with a solid copper ring, the battery-powered ion thruster generates a pleasing discharge — and, more importantly, a gust of air capable of blowing out a birthday candle around 16 inches away.

Attempts to use the thruster as an engine for a simple boat proved that it could also deliver usable thrust, albeit slow-going, though efforts to boost the output by adding more modules ran into the problem of weight — the bulk coming from potted high-voltage transformers.

The full project video is available above, while the 3D print files for the thruster have been released on Printables under a permissive public domain license.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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