Students Build 3D-printed Model of Iconic James Watt Steam Engine

James Watt Steam Engine

The design features over 150 3D-printed parts, took more than 800 hours of printing and used 2.2km of printing filament. 

Students from the University of Glasgow have built a working model of one of James Watt’s steam engines using cutting-edge technology.

The team, made up of members from the School of Engineering’s JetX student society, spent five months working on the project which resulted in the creation of a 3D-printed scale model of the Boulton-Watt steam engine.

With more than 800 parts in total, their metre-length model is the largest additively manufactured working model of the design and builds upon an earlier adaptation of Oliver Smith’s drawing for a model-sized beam engine by John Fall.

According to the team, this design also features over 150 3D-printed parts, with the process taking more than 845 hours of printing. More than 2.2 kilometres of printing filament was used in the process. Although the original model used steam for power, the University’s creation uses an additional gear to move and “demonstrates the engine’s range of motion at the touch of a button.”

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The University’s award-winning JetX Engineering society provides engineering students with the chance to design, develop and build models of engines used in the modern aerospace industry.

Chris Triantafyllou, President of JetX, led the design and construction of the model. Triantafyllou commented that the team drew upon previous experience of developing jet engine models.

“The past five months have been very busy but we’re really pleased with the final model,” he said. “The whole building process utilised a lot of design and prototype practices we’ve learned throughout the year of developing jet engine models.”

“The University of Glasgow is rightly proud of its association with James Watt, and his legacy helps make it an inspiring place to study,” Triantafyllou added.

Innovation on Display

The model will be put on display at the University Library from Thursday 6th June as part of an exhibition that celebrates Watt’s life and achievements.

Watt died on the 25th August 1819 at Heathfield Hall in Staffordshire. To mark the 200th anniversary of his death, a year-long series of events have been organised at the University, these include the model display, a symposium and a public lecture.

The world-renowned inventor spent time at the University of Glasgow during the 18th century working as an instrument maker. In 1765, he made improvements to a Newcomen steam engine which saw the addition of a separate condenser – greatly improving the efficiency of the engine. His work in this regard gained him a reputation as a key figure during the industrial revolution.

Professor Colin McInnes, the University’s James Watt Chair, commented: “The JetX team have achieved something remarkable with the construction of this model, which is a fitting tribute to the vision of James Watt in this bicentenary year.

“The engine is stunning, and credit to JetX for their imagination, dedication and diligence, not just in this project but also in their self-directed jet engine designs. The School of Engineering is keen to instil in students the importance of creative thinking in engineering, and JetX are a prime example of how creativity can inspire exciting new projects.”



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