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ETH Zurich students create PeakBoil kettle with internal flame

Innovating wind-resistant camping stove design was made possible by additive manufacturing

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ETH Zurich is a true hotbed for ideas in innovative AM applications. We’ve recently covered their work in robotic additive construction but AM clearly offers opportunities in many other segments, especially in metal AM. Now an ETH doctoral candidate and students from the ETH Zurich Design and Technology Lab and from the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) have used AM to develop a novel stove that operates even in strong winds: the PeakBoil concept is a kettle shaped like a Bundt cake tin that encloses a gas burner.

Meanwhile, other advanced design features – easier to implement through AM – make the kettle extremely energy efficient: the wall of the gas burner is rippled, like a citrus juicer. “This increases the contact area between the flame and the jug,” explains Julian Ferchow, the project leader and a doctoral student in ETH Professor Mirko Meboldt’s group. “That,” ETH student Patrick Beutler, who wrote his Bachelor’s thesis on the project, adds, “plus the fact that the wall is very thin, makes heat transfer to the contents of the jug ideal.”

In the images above, the burner is rippled to increase its surface area; the complex interior structures enable efficient air and gas supply to the combustion chamber. The interior of the burner is also packed with engineering expertise: the gas nozzles are what are known as Venturi nozzles. “Their geometry causes a localized drop in pressure. This increases airflow, which improves the quality of the flame and boosts efficiency,” says Ferchow.

The researchers built a prototype of the kettle together with “inspire”, the organization at the interface of ETH Zurich and the Swiss mechanical industry. They call their kettle “PeakBoil”. Appropriately, they tested the prototype this spring while on a ski tour of Säntis, the highest mountain in the Alpstein massif in northeastern Switzerland. “It was windy and it was lots of trouble to get a conventional stove to work. But we had no difficulty heating water with our prototype,” Ferchow says.

Layer by layer
PeakBoil’s special design wouldn’t be possible without additive manufacturing. Ferchow and his colleagues built the gas kettle layer by layer out of stainless steel using selective laser melting. “This technique gives us a huge amount of design freedom, which you just don’t get with conventional manufacturing techniques; with metal casting, for instance, we could never achieve channels that are as thin as the ones inside our gas burner,” Ferchow explains.

PeakBoil recently won a prize in the 3D Pioneers Challenge competition. An international jury of design experts and engineers honored the kettle in the competition’s Design category. According to its organizers, this competition, which is sponsored by the Ministry for Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Society of the German state of Thuringia, is one of the most generously endowed awards in the field of 3D printing innovation.

“The jury admired our idea for a resource-saving burner with a particular view to how the outdoor application we realised could serve as an example for industrial applications of additive manufacturing, which holds great potential,” Ferchow says: “We can use PeakBoil as a demonstrator to show companies just what additive manufacturing is capable of and what you need to pay special attention to in your design.” With further development, PeakBoil’s design could be used in gas-fired tankless water heaters or even gas turbines.

But first, Ferchow and his colleagues want to stick with their gas kettle and improve it in the Design and Technology Lab, which is what they will spend their prize money on. “I think we should be able to further increase the efficiency of the burner by optimizing the flows of gas and air. We also hope to find industry partners who will work with us to further develop the product,” Ferchow says.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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