Worldwide, 1.3 billion people lack electricity. More than an inconvenience, this means working and learning all but stop when the sun goes down. In sub-Saharan Africa, the least electrified part of the world, 70 percent of people live in the dark. Other unwired regions include parts of rural Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
In these same regions, where infrastructure is sparse, one form of transportation stands out as efficient, simple and cheap: the bicycle. And anywhere bike wheels are turning, they’re creating rotational energy. So Designs for Hope is working to get a simple device into unwired communities that would help folks harvest this rotational energy and use it after dark for lights, radios and mobile phones. Inspired by the classic pedal-powered bike light, Designs for Hope’s bike generator gleans otherwise-wasted power and stores it in a battery to run small household devices.
With 3D-printed test units already in Uganda and Niger, the nonprofit group of three engineers has found that high-tech prototyping is the most effective way to solve one of the world’s most low-tech problems. FDM technology is helping the engineers give the bike generator the same qualities that make the bike itself ubiquitous: affordability, simplicity and durability. “There are no parts around the corner for a battery holder in Uganda. So we have to be prepared to produce something extremely durable,” Designs for Hope founder Chris Bond says. “That is the life of an engineer. Reducing cost and maintaining quality.”
Read the whole story and see several iterations of the bike generator.