Working Oscillating Steam Engine MKI

by cbabbage, published

Working Oscillating Steam Engine MKI by cbabbage Jun 25, 2012

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Here is a fully functional, printable, oscillating steam engine.

I started first building a horizontal double action steam engine (you can see it in the background of the video link below,) but while working out some bugs on that one, I decided to knock this one out quickly and post it first.

You can see a video of it in action here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIfqFAG5olU&feature=share

I will call this engine the Mark I, just in case I build an enhanced model down the line.


There is an included instruction sheet. Follow that and it should answer most questions about assembly and extra hardware needed.

If anything is unclear, please feel free to post a comment or message me, and I will answer your questions.

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how long to build?

For all people having problems finding the spring: simply use a spring from a ballpoint pen! It works like a charm

Have you posted the horizontal engine in background or have link? Thank you

will it run with an aquarium air pump ?

Ace Hardware no longer sells the springs required for this model. Does anyone have any suggestions on where else to source this?

Home depot has a spring assorment for cheap. I found it in the hinge gate hardware isle

What does the spring do? Do I need to buy one?


I'm currently printing this, any idea where I can get the spring from in the UK?

Also, can you confirm the diameter of the tubing please?


Im having some trouble finding the spring, I looked on ace.com but couldn't find it. Does anyone know where to find them?

i printed in pla at .1mm , once assembled it worked great. runs very fast just by blowing in to it

Comments deleted.

Would PLA be ok to print this in?

How does it work? I don't see the water being heated.

Oh, it's compressed air, does anyone know of a steam engine that runs on a candle or something that could be printed in copper or something?
I don't know if anyone has done it, but it would be cool.

I'm pretty sure that copper filament still has plastic in it as copper melts at 1,085 °C so I don't its got much copper in.

You could get a fizzy drinks can and work around that. or a bean can and drill into that to extract the contence and leave in hot soapy water over night to clean it. and then work around that.

I have been wanting to make a boiler for some time so I may share some non plastic designs with you when completed.

But most filaments have higher melting points than the boiling point of water. They might get soft but not too bad.

Also, You need too look at the pressure resistance to and also you wish to put a 600+C Flame under plastic huh? Well lets see what happens there lol.

Do you go to post the present background engine ?

What's that engine in the background??

hello i built one but for some reason every time i put any air to it it blows the piston out the bottom any ideas > ?:)

I'm struggling to find where I can purchase the correct spring in the UK, can anyone send me a link where I can purchase one in the UK please?
It really would be very appreciated!
Thank you for the amazing model and detailed instructions,
Lewis, Dorset, UK

I made this engine and it works pretty well. I would like to make some modifications. Are there editable 3D solids available? Solidworks? IGES?

I can see in the video excellent horizontal machine.
could you please share its files?

I am glad so many people have taken the time to download and print this model. It was an experiment to see if I could make something functional on what by today's standard is a very primitive printer. It was designed to be printed on my original Makerbot Thing-O-Matic using 3mm filament. The tolerances designed in were what was necessary to get working parts straight off the printer. Of course with newer Makerbots and other higher end machines these tolerances may seem excessive. At some point I may revisit and redesign to work with modern printers that are more dimensionally accurate then my little old Thing-O-Matic.

Your horizontal double action steam engine looks fantastic! Have you posted it yet? I'd love to print one!

Comments deleted.

For those looking to cast this in aluminum using the plastic parts as patterns, Bre Pettis assures me that PLA burns out of a mold just like wax and is non-toxic. Instead of lost wax casting, you get 'lost PLA casting'.

Nice design and well done with the instructions, but like Bluemetal commented back in 2012 the clearances are a bit on the generous side. On the STL's all the holes are 1mm bigger diameter than all mating parts. If your printer is accurately calibrated then all the fits will be very sloppy. It will work but it wont be smooth, and it will take a lot more air to run than it should. Perhaps if your printer tends to print holes a bit on the small side and OD's a bit on the large side then it will work better. My only other comment is that the cylinder block could be a bit wider so that it covers the air supply port all the time. As it is, the air can escape when the cylinder is at its CCW extreme travel. I have a lathe and have bushed the main bearings with a brass tube. I plan to re-make the piston and cylinder so that I can make it work efficiently with a pump up garden sprayer as the air supply. I will be making the piston large enough diameter so that I can sand the surface smooth, as the ridges from the print layers act as a rattle going in and out the cylinder.

I built this, and managed to get it to run only to immediately drop it on a cement floor and break it. :(

I made this and sanded down the contact surfices till they were smooth and oiled the berrings . I can run it just by blowing into the tube ... turned out great (hope oil doesnt eat abs lol) going to hook it up to some air duster and spin it up tomorrow and if that goes whell my dads air compressor till it breaks then ill see if i cant tweak the design .... really great design tho thank you!

where is the stl for the piston? i would really like to build this but i dont want to have to design my own piston....

It's there. Piston.stl

ya its named piston but thats not the piston its the connecting rod we also neen a wrist pin

Please refer to the assembly instruction PDF in the downloads to see how this engine works. Because the cylinder oscillates, The piston can be one piece. No need for a separate piston-connecting rod assembly.

I'm using sli3er and the top housing doesn't slice correctly I don't have netfabb can someone please post a fixed stl for lowly sli3er users like me lol.

slic3r reports quite a few of the pieces as non-manifold. My current printer isn't accurate enough to print this but maybe by the time I build my new one in a few months the issues will be fixed. fingers crossed.

ABS should be able to handle the temperature of steam right? Water boils at 100c and we print at 190+ depending on type of ABS. Just curious if the plastic would get too soft running actual steam through it.

Also instead of pennies in the flywheel, how about Rare Earth magnets? Then mount something like http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:55321http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... to it. Put that engine to work!

Low RPM Axial Flux Generator Cell v3

Steam can get a lot hotter than 100C, though you have to do a little more work to get it up there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superheated_steamhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S...

Lol, someone finally replied. That was pretty informative. Don't know why I didn't just google it myself.

I'll try it and see what happens. Worse comes to worst, I'll melt it and have to re-print it.

This Thing as well as the LightCycle are the VERY BEST examples of a EXCELLENT support! Tolerances are easily met by a PLA printer. The model instructions are well documented. I WOULD DEFINITELY PAY YOU for more!!! $5-$10 per model! EASY!

I can see casting this from the printed parts in aluminum, attaching some magnets to the flywheel and hooking up a three phase generator. Hmm, I'm sure I saw a generator for a wind turbine somewhere else on here that could be re-purposed.

I tried sending the stl file for the upper frame to the program for solidoodle printer and it printed all the way unitl about half way up the first hole, it then skipped about 1/4" and tried to start printing and it was just falling but wasnt working properly. is there a fix for this. Thanks Ryan

I had the same sort of problem. Half way up the fist hole mine started printing solid all the way through instead of continuing the hole. I had to run a few of the stl files through netfabb and check the gcode path in pronterface before I started the print to be sure what was going to happen.

I am wondering if it would be worth making a couple of pistons and combining them. (would need to make some crank with different positions of the pin. )

Sir, you might have mentioned this but I didn't see it. When do you plan on posting the other motor that's in the video?

Printed on my Replicator, it took a little (and I mean a little) bit of sanding to get the piston to slide and the axles/pivots to turn easily, but it all went together so beautifully, I'm so impressed.

Nice work, cbabbage.

I created an STL with all the parts on one plate so it can be printed in one go, if anyone wants a copy, email me at pintokitkat at gmail dot com.


Here is my version 8-)



I printed it on my replicator with 30% infill .15mm layers and 2 shells on piston and cylinder. I have scaled the piston up to 1.035 and the crank bushing to 1.05.
All parts are glued together with hotglue.

Great piece!

I am struggling to get the piston to match the cylinder.

In the STL's the piston diameter (10mm) is exactly 1 mm smaller than the diameter of the cylinder opening (11mm). The same is true for the frame bushings (OD 20.7mm) and the frame opening (ID 21.3 mm).

I needed to scale the piston up 11%
to get a reasonable fit but that makes it 11% longer and therefore unusable.

Have anyone else encountered the same issues on the build?

Fix your filament diameter. You're laying down too much plastic so make your filament diameter thinner.

There should be no need to resize the parts. I recommend against it. 1mm of clearance is a huge amount of slop for parts that need to move freely against one another. That said, depending on your plastic and printer, the amount of clean up will vary. If there is a clearance issue, I recommend to look at the flashing created by building on a heated platform. Also, you can take a wood dowel with sandpaper on it to help clean out any printing imperfections inside the cylinder. Also, printing imperfections on the piston can be cleaned up by chucking it up in a drill and lightly sand while spinning. I would like to mention that I did not have to do anything other than sand off the HBP flashing. Everything was straight off my TOM with little or no sanding. I feel the tolerances are pretty ample. When printed on my Replicator at work, everything is a bit loose.

How do you explain the different dimensions in the stl files?

I'm sorry, I guess I'm not clear on the problem. What dimensions are confusing? The piston to cylinder dimension are supposed to have a 1mm difference, and the frame bushings have a slightly smaller tolerance so that they "press fit" into the frame. Those don't need to move like the piston.

I am sorry for not being clear. I also did not understand that the 1 mm gap is supposed to be there. I was expecting the fit to be tighter between the piston and the cylinder. In my printer, the cylinder opening came out at 11.20mm (against the stl file measurement of 11mm) and the piston at 10.20mm (against the stl file measurement of 10mm).

If it is supposed to be that way, I will put it together and see how it does. Thank you for the explanation.

What software did you use? Source files would be nice regardless. Thanks!

I used Animation Master. Not anything standard.

You sir have done well with providing such a nice instruction sheet. I wish others even provided simple directions to complete the build, let alone make some awesome .pdf.

Thank you. I can't wait to build this

Has anyone printed this on a Cupcake?

Congratulations to print your piece, if I can blow a permit in bronze and experiment driven by steam.

sorry for bad english.

This wil be fun to print on a z406 powder printer. Should be lovely.

This is a really great thing 8-)

Thank you for sharing...

Seems really awesome, but how can I build this (Read: Assembly directions, please?) without already knowing how? Thanks ;)

Download the PDF in the file list at the left.

Upper frame has self intersecting facets... and doesnt print correctly.

It printed just fine for me, so I must have not noticed. I will see if I can fix that.

Any idea how you will solve friction issues? There's bond to be some tiny ball bearings available somewhere that you can design around. Plastic rubbing on plastic is quite funny, but not particularly useful.

Friction? I just used lots of lube :) Works great!

Fair enough.

Amazing! My son will go crazy when we print and assemble this. Thanks a bunch for sharing!

How do you attach the CO_2 bottle, and what type is it?

In the video I was using an 20 lbs. industrial Co2 bottle with a regulator on it. I would recommend just using a regular air compressor regulated down to about 15 or 20 PSI max.

You can also use one of those compressed air duster cans for blowing off your keyboard. I was able to get it to run with one of those. I just used a small piece of 1/4 inch ID vinyl tubing to connect the air can to the hose barb on the engine.

Thanks a lot for the info.

Nice! :)

Could this really run under steam? Wouldn't the steam temperature (~100 C) and friction undo it?

I don't think running it with real steam would be a good idea, melting is about guaranteed ;)

What's the recommended print settings for this? (Infill/Shells etc.)

I just used the defaults for my TOM, 1 shell, 30% infill. No raft or support needed.

Very cool. Nice work. Must. Print. It.... :)

How many RPM is that thing going in the video? AWESOME!!

Truly awesome! Nice job!