Hey! This thing is still a Work in Progress. Files, instructions, and other stuff might change!

Portable WInd Powered USB Charger

by TheSoup, published

Portable WInd Powered USB Charger by TheSoup Jul 27, 2015
5 Share
Download All Files

Thing Apps Enabled

Order This Printed View All Apps


Liked By

View All

Give a Shout Out

If you print this Thing and display it in public proudly give attribution by printing and displaying this tag.

Print Thing Tag

Thing Statistics

31256Views 2435Downloads Found in Gadgets


I've been wanting to do a project like this for a while now, and I started trying out some things with it, but then I got distracted with work and everything and put it on hold. Then I saw Makerbot's Catch The Wind challenge the other day and decided it was time to go back and actually make something of this.

Basically it's designed to be a wind powered USB charger. It harnesses the power of the wind, and uses a small motor to turn it into electricity. For those who don't know, motors and generators are essentially the same devices. If you put electricity into a motor it will spin the shaft, if you spin the shaft of the motor yourself it will put out electricity. So this design uses the power of the wind to spin the shaft of a motor, and then I've designed it to allow the electricity to run to a USB port on the side of the box.

This was designed to fit two other specific pieces. I've put the link to where those two other pieces can be purchased in the instructions, but since it's a work in progress still, I might change the parts as I experiment with new ones, but I have still gotten it to work as is.

I have a portable battery charger, and when I leave this sitting next to my AC it charges it. I've learned that this won't be able to directly charge an iPhone. Iphones have a built in mechanism that prevents them from being charged like most other USB devices.

I've experimented with a few turbine designs, but from previous experience, I've found Savonius cups tend to work best at smaller sizes like this since they tend to require a smaller amount of wind to start spinning, and they'll only spin in one direction.

As I've said, it's still a work in progress, so I have some work to do. Things I'm thinking of doing include:

-A lid, which I'm working on right now, and will have done pretty soon.

  • Fits for more kinds of motors

  • Different boxes that can be attached to other things like a bike or maybe even a car since those will have a lot of wind resistance while they're moving.

  • Possibly a gear system since the output is a little lower than I'd like. This'll take some time though since I want to make sure I get a good ratio that doesn't make it too much harder to spin. I've also ordered a voltage regulator, so my hope is that I'll be able to incorporate that into the design and then easily regulate the output from there. I will of course update the design if that pans out.

I'm also planning on making a hand cranked and a solar powered version, but those will be separate things. The solar powered version will be an easy change, but the hand cranked version will require gears to get any meaningful power of it, so I'll have to do some more modifications to it first.

I am of course open to suggestions, especially when it comes to the electronics, there's a few parts I'm going to order that I want to experiment with too in order to see what works best. I didn't upload STEP files though since this is a contest entry. I definitely will once the contest is closed though so that people who know more about this than me can help improve it.

So I uploaded a second turbine design. It's almost identical except the motor fit for it is tighter. I realized my printer bed was a little close, so the first layers were a bit messy, and that's why I needed the hole as big as it was. After spinning for a while though it would break off the little pieces and the turbine would spin on the shaft instead of spinning the shaft like it should. I'm keeping the old one up there too though, in case your printer is a little less precise. Turbine Savonius Cups is the newer tighter file.

I've finished the lid.I was distracted playing around with some other projects and stuff, but I finally put it up. It's a friction fit and it should just slide in no problem. I made two though, one with two side fins to make it easier to pull off, and one without the side fins. I've also tried another USB port that I've been testing all day, and it works well so far, I'll link to it in the instructions.

My knowledge of electronics if amateur at best. If you leave this connected to a phone or something for too long it might melt, or explode, or turn into a Decepticon. I really don't know, so use it at your own risk. I've had a portable charger hooked up to it for a while now though, and so far it's been fine. The voltage this produces is pretty low, so I don't think it's dangerous, but just in case, I want to avoid liability.


Everything should print as is. I used a Makerbot Rep 2 for these, and I didn't need any supports or rafts. The top of the Savonius cups were a little stringy, but I just cleaned it up with some pliers and it was fine (I also printed it on a mini, and it was much less stringy). There's two savonius cup files. "Turbine Savonius Cups" is newer and the hole is a bit tighter, I kept the old one (Just called "Savonius Cups") up just in case your printer, like mine was, is a little messy and needs a slightly bigger hole. I do recommend using Turbine Savonius Cup instead though and just playing around to make the hole bigger if you have to (I didn't).

I used 5% infill (I would recommend more, but I was doing a lot of prototyping so I just did 5% for the sake of speed. It's still plenty sturdy though), and .2 layer height.

All of the fits should be fine, however the USB was a little loose. I had to make it that way so that it would fit in, so you'll need to use a little glue, some tape, or just hold in place with your fingers while you're plugging it in and out. The motor should fit perfectly, mine slid into place and stayed unless I applied a bit of force. Using a little bit of glue to hold it in place too wouldn't be the worst idea ever though either.

The wiring is simple. Just connect the wire from one end of the motor to one of the inputs on the USB chip. I know the first USB (with the green chip) has a small light that lights up if you blow on the turbine, so that's how you can tell if it's connected properly (The second one doesn't light up with this device, but it'll still charge). If it doesn't light up just switch the wires, since the polarity might be backwards. You can see how the wires should go in the picture above.

I've found it's easiest to connect all the wires before putting them into the box, then sliding the USB in through the motor hole before sliding the USB into its slot.

I've learned that this will not charge an iPhone though. USB plugs have 4 pins, 2 for power, and 2 for data. Most devices just need power to the 2 power pins in order to charge a device, but iPhones also need to detect 2 volts from the data pins otherwise it just gives you the "Accessory not supported" message. Running the two volts requires that you 1) are generating enough voltage, which this is not curruently; and 2) that you run another circuit and more carefully regulate the voltage going to it. So if you want to charge an iphone with this, you'll need to run the power to something else first. I use a battery which I will link to below.

As for the other pieces:

This is the motor I used as a generator:

This is the USB port:

I've also used this USB plug with success. I like the first one better, but if you don't want to get it as an add-on item you can use this one instead.

This is the battery I've been using which I then use to charge my iphone:

The first USB port is an add-on item with a purchase of $25 or more, so now's a great time to buy that extra spool of filament you need if you want that. Really any USB port should work so long as the chip fits inside the box. I'm waiting for more that I've ordered to arrive to try out though too, so I'll let you know for sure. These were just parts I had extras of, but I'm sure there are better ones, so I'll keep experimenting, and I am open to suggestions.

More from Gadgets

view more

All Apps

3D Print your file with 3D Hubs, the world’s largest online marketplace for 3D printing services.

App Info Launch App

Auto-magically prepare your 3D models for 3D printing. A cloud based 3D models Preparing and Healing solution for 3D Printing, MakePrintable provides features for model repairing, wall thickness...

App Info Launch App

Kiri:Moto is an integrated cloud-based slicer and tool-path generator for 3D Printing, CAM / CNC and Laser cutting. *** 3D printing mode provides model slicing and GCode output using built-in...

App Info Launch App
KiriMoto Thing App

With 3D Slash, you can edit 3d models like a stonecutter. A unique interface: as fun as a building game! The perfect tool for non-designers and children to create in 3D.

App Info Launch App

Print through a distributed network of 3D printing enthusiasts from across the US, at a fraction of the cost of the competitors. We want to change the world for the better through technology, an...

App Info Launch App

Quickly Scale, Mirror or Cut your 3D Models

App Info Launch App

3D Print a wide range of designs with Treatstock. Easy to use tools to get the perfect result. The global 3D printing network that connects you with high-quality and fast working print services nea...

App Info Launch App

Is there any way you could hook up several LEDs to this that light up based on speed? For example, a 5 mph wind lights up the first led, a 10 mph wind lights up the second, etc.

or maybe a way to convert the voltage to wind speed on a digital readout?

I'm not circuit-savvy

That would be a cool addition, im not a circuitry talent myself but I would think it would like like this:
If LED lights are connected in series, the total amperage should be a constant and the voltage should be higher for every LED added. Sooo if you choose the LED's in such a way (or add resistors in a way I can't think of right now) that you need the max voltage output from the motor to power all say 5 LED's, then if the motor starts giving less then max voltage there won't be enough power for all LED's and since they are in series I think they will start dying out one by one.

Im hyped about this thing, if Ive made one and figured out the LED idea ill post a remix :)

Does anyone know the dimensions of the fan part as in size

Comments deleted.

did you get the cups to bite onto the motor shaft because my cups aren't biting on the shaft and its just spinning around the cups. I know from prior knowledge that super glue wont work because it doesn't grip to the steel

Walking through the University library and see to seperate people looking at this object !!

It might be worth trying Adafruit's MintyBoost in place of the USB power controller you currently use. It has the necessary resistor network to provide higher power to devices like iPhones. And while you COULD use the MintyBoost as nothing more than a real-time power manager you could really jack up the utility of your power harvesting designs by using something to store power, be it a supercap, LiIon pack, alkalines, NiMHs, or whatever.

VERY nice work! PLEASE continue to rev it, and I very much look forward to your other designs!

Thanks. And yea, I've just been away all weekend and been busy with work and working on a solar powered version (just a lot of experimenting with different panels and different set ups to see which ones are the most effective right now), so I haven't gotten too much time to work on this lately. I do want to rig up some kind of pulley system to increase the RPM of the motor so I can up the voltage a bit, and ideally it'll run to a battery system like you suggested and I'll put a switch just to turn it on to start charging. I will check out the MintyBoost like you suggested though, I don't know if I'll use those pieces for this design, but at least for the sake of getting better ideas of how I can wire the whole thing.

Now that the Catch The Wind challenge is done I do think I'm gong to focus on the solar powered version a little more first since it'll be a little easier to work on in my spare time while I'm busy with work.

cool idea and design! perhaps try some sort of crankshaft for the winder?

This is very cool, but I have some questions:

  1. How do you know what voltage is being produced (I did notice that you plan on incorporating a voltage regulator)?
  2. Where does the current go if the battery in your phone is already fully charged?
  3. How much current can it produce? Is this something that would charge a cellphone in an hour? 4 hours? a day?

So the reason I chose that particular USB port at first is because it is supposed to automatically regulate the voltage to 5 volts if you input between 2.5 and 6 volts. Since the motor is a 6 volt motor I figured that would make the circuit as simple as possible, however when I put a multi-meter to the motor I was definitely getting less than 2.5 volts out of it, so to be entirely honest, I don't know what exactly is coming out quite yet. The Voltage regulator I bought, which is coming tomorrow, has an LED display which will clearly indicate what is coming in and what is going out, so that will give me a much better idea of what voltage is coming in and going out.

My understanding is that the electricity will likely turn into heat if it has nowhere else to go. I doubt the heat it produces will be enough to melt your battery or anything unless you leave it for a VERY long time (like days at a time after it's been fully charged), but running the power to a portable charger and then having that go to your phone once it's charged definitely isn't the worst idea ever.

Considering the voltage is almost definitely pretty low right now, it's definitely not going to be the fastest way to charge a phone, and like I said, I haven't been able to successfully test it to a phone yet. My plan was more to run it to a portable phone charger I have (I'll link to the one at the end of the comment), and I know it does charge that battery, however I haven't had a chance to charge it all the way yet. It would also depend on how much wind you're getting, whether it's constant the whole time, etc.

I do wish I had more solid answers for you, but this is still more of a prototype than a fully completed market-ready machine.

Honestly, the other factor is that wind simply isn't the most effective way to produce energy at smaller sizes like this since the turbine isn't large enough to catch as much wind as is ideal, hence you don't see a lot of wind powered phone chargers for sale either. I do like wind though since it's easy and very cheap to produce, which is why I want to make this work, I just have some more progress to make, and I am open to any suggestions.

I am still working on a hand cranked and solar powered version (solar panels are also coming tomorrow), and those will probably be a little bit more reliable right off the bat since the output will be more steady.

This is the portable charger that I use, just in case you might find it useful:

Hi Anthony, cool concept! It's been a little while and I'm wondering if you ever got back to this project. In particular I'm wondering if there is an alternative motor that might work better. I do think that the size of this unit is a big limiting factor but I'm printing it as is to try to prove the concept for myself before scaling up. My printer supports 10x8x8 prints there is some room to grow.

It would be helpful to know what kind of voltages you are getting from the motor directly and from the voltage regulator to see how tenable the project is.

Hey, to be honest I haven't done a ton of actual work on this project lately. I've been taking a few circuitry classes, so I wanted to hold off on this until I learned a little more. As it is, I was able to get between 1 and 2 volts at the highest speed. directly out of the motor. I've tried using higher RPM motors before, but they tend to generate less power per spin. What I really need to do is work out some kind of belt or gear system to get a higher RPM out of the generator. It's a 6V motor, so hypothetically it could get to around 6 volts if I could get the RPM high enough, but since the USB plugs I used were designed to step up the voltage, it only needs like half of that. I have a couple of ideas as to how I could do this, mainly I want to try using ball bearings to minimize the friction between the moving parts. I also want to find a good battery I could attach to it, and a switch, so that you could just leave it out and have a battery fully charged.

I also want to be careful to keep the cost of building one as low as possible in order to make sure it's practical to use over a regular wall outlet charger. I do still have a bit more to learn, but I definitely haven't forgotten about this, I've still been doing a bit of work on a solar powered version too, but just like this one, I want to wait until I'm more comfortable with my knowledge of electronics before I post more designs.