Motors Utilizing Wood? - RC Groups
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Sep 05, 2012, 02:30 AM
Registered User

Motors Utilizing Wood?

Is it possible to build a serviceable D.C. motor with a wood core and casing?

Has this been done?
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Sep 05, 2012, 03:16 AM
Frequent Flyer
whitecrest's Avatar
Welcome to the forum.

I suppose anything is possible. However, it is not the optimal material to construct a practical motor for mechanical, thermal and electrical reasons. Aluminum and thin iron are much stronger, and necessary to complete the magnetic circuit within the motor and to efficiently conduct heat away from the motor's core to avoid overheating. Wood is too brittle and weak (not good at high RPM and for true bearing support), and thermally and electrically non-conductive to serve the purpose well.
Sep 05, 2012, 06:31 AM
modisc's Avatar
Originally Posted by DAN 1
Is it possible to build a serviceable D.C. motor with a wood core and casing?

Has this been done?
There are.

Carbon fiber is actually some kind of wood, simply less H2O, and more compact carbon atom matrix.
Sep 05, 2012, 06:58 AM
Frequent Flyer
whitecrest's Avatar
"Carbon fiber" is more than just that. How about the polymer it reinforces? Is diamond also wood by your definition?
Sep 05, 2012, 09:40 AM
low tech high tech
vtdiy's Avatar
One of the coolest things I ever came across on the Internet, nearly ten years ago. Glad I finally got the opportunity to draw attention to it.

It was built as a wooden alternator, but you get the idea........

Also, non electrcal, but interesting, Kurt Shrekling's pivotal model airplane gas turbine engine, completely detailed in his first book, used a laminated compressor stage. It was both wood and carbon fiber, with the tow bonded as a tension ring on the hub. These early turbine compressors are operating in the 50,000-100,000 rpm range.

Lignum Vitae wood has been widely used for ships prop shaft bearings in the past, and wooden bearings are surprisingly usable for a lot of things.

All materials are good if used with an eye to their specific characteristics and advantages.
Last edited by vtdiy; Sep 05, 2012 at 09:58 AM.
Sep 05, 2012, 10:27 AM
modisc's Avatar
Originally Posted by whitecrest
"Carbon fiber" is more than just that. How about the polymer it reinforces? Is diamond also wood by your definition?
forgive me, i mean they are all made from "C".

I give this example, which may not seem appropriate to you, is because i think DAN is looking for somekind of material that is non-conductive, hard and light, comparing with conventional materials for motor construction. My point of giving such an example is, wood is not a good material for RC motor construction. Weak heat tolerance (because of the H2O in the wood, the wood may change shape when heated), elastic nature (not hard enough), etc.

But carbon firber motor case is already seen in some Hackers.
Last edited by modisc; Sep 05, 2012 at 10:56 AM.
Sep 05, 2012, 10:44 AM
low tech high tech
vtdiy's Avatar
Metals are used in R/C motors because of their electro-magnetic-heat conductive characteristics.

Other than the bearing tube or motor mount, or maybe an end plate on a typical outrunner, it's hard to imagine where any insulator material would have any use. These motors just don't have or need a lot of non-magnetic or insulator mass.

On the other hand, as in the alternator above, if the project was wood oriented, just for the challenge of doing it, I bet a motor of some sort using wood could be made to fly a fairly large model plane of low power requirements and high weight tolerance.
Last edited by vtdiy; Sep 05, 2012 at 10:51 AM.
Sep 05, 2012, 10:51 AM
I think I'm inverted. Maybe.
acetech09's Avatar
The slow stick's slogan has always been 'Do what you want to it. It'll fly.'

Build a motor out of wood and put that to the test
Sep 05, 2012, 10:59 AM
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vtdiy's Avatar
Just noticed, the request just said "DC motor," and didn't say anything about flying.

So I guess just a "yes -- assuming you allow metals and magnetic materials, too" would answer it.
Sep 05, 2012, 03:07 PM
Registered User

Responding to all the responders

Thank you for the welcome to the forum "Whitecrest". And my gratitude to all who who took the time to share their knowledge and opinion regarding my question here. I was surprised at the amount of response.

The reason I asked this question is that I got to thinking about running out of certain non-renewable resources, such as copper, iron, aluminum, etc., on a national level and planetary level. While thinking about this, I wondered if "renewable resources" could be used in place of "non-renewable resources". This led me to think of wood as a possible replacement for some of the metal parts in a generator, alternator or motor. Specifically the core and case.

Not just any wood, but certain woods that might have good properties, such as what "vtdiy" mentioned when he said "Lignum Vitae". This wood is very tough and durable and produces its own lubricant, to some degree, if I remember right.

But I had not considered the importance of "conductivity" and "heat transfer". Wood would be insulative in this respect. But, I wonder if it could be "grooved" to expedite heat transfer with air? Or done in strips with air gaps between structural design?

In considering these things, I wasn't thinking of using these wood motors to fly with, but rather to operate ground vehicles with. Or garage doors, (short operating times), or gently moving solar panels, (light loads through certain gearing) and such as that.

In the same vein of thought, I am looking at building vehicles mostly out of wood too. Or maybe glass? Lots of sand on Our World.

Thanks to all of you for your response. I have much to learn about the construction of motors. Do you guys wind your own?
Sep 05, 2012, 03:32 PM
low tech high tech
vtdiy's Avatar
I think the closest thing you're going to find is that wooden alternator I referred to earlier. However it uses fairly exotic materials in the magnets, wire, etc. No getting away from that. And while bearings can probably be made of wood for certain cases the shafts, collars etc will be metal.

I don't think motors are the major area where wood will make a difference in material usage. There is a lot more materials in structures than in motors that work in those structures. And in an apocalyptic future, probably garage door openers will be low on the must have list.
Sep 05, 2012, 03:58 PM
Registered User

Good Points "vtdiy"

So far, it looks like the best We can hope for is a reduction in the amounts of metals used.

I went to the link you provided and was very pleased by what was there. What a beautiful mechanism that innovative man has built. Bookmarked the site for sure.

I do think that an South American Ironwood shaft might serve. But I might be wrong. This wood might be too rare anyway.

Humanity might just be mining metals from other spheres, by the time we begin to experience exhaustion of same on Our World. I hope copper is out there.

Thanks for your response "vtdiy".
Sep 05, 2012, 08:09 PM
Suspended Account
Where exactly are these non renewable resources escaping to?
Interesting that you think in such finite terms. But not to worry anti gravity technology is right around the corner. That translates to travel faster than light. Finding new resources in this infinite universe will be a challenge but we need something to keep us busy. Don't worry be happy
Sep 05, 2012, 11:51 PM
Registered User

Not So Much As "Escaping" As Just Being Not Enough.

Hi "zeroback". I don't think of the non-renewable resources as "escaping", so much as being used up, as far as extraction goes. Human population continues to increase, which I think would place a larger and larger demand on Our Planet's resources. Eventually, since this is a finite world, the non-renewable resources might well become exhausted.

I know I look ridiculous being concerned about this possibility at this time. The "exhaustion" that might happen is probably another thousand years down the road. I will be long gone.

But it is my understanding that copper is already getting harder and harder to quantities that would be commercially viable. Isn't it true that copper wire is now being replaced by aluminum wire?

I just wonder what future generations will do to counter this depletion. Its interesting to me.

That will be great about "anti-gravity technology". Thanks for reminding me of this.

Thanks for the response.
Sep 05, 2012, 11:53 PM
Wake up, feel pulse, be happy!
Piece's Avatar
Great idea. I'll start drawing up plans when the world runs out of copper, iron, and aluminum. I mean, we can only land so many rovers on Mars before our stocks of iron are totally depleted...

Metals are one of the most renewable resources we have. They don't burn, evaporate, or decompose. They just sit there until someone grinds them up, melts them down, and turns them into something else...

But let's roll with it. Pretend we're far, far in the future (November 2012?) and all our stocks of iron and aluminum are depleted. Make a motor... out of wood.

The price of growing, harvesting, cutting, drying, shaping, treating, and manufacturing a wooden motor is astronomical, and the end product is guaranteed by the laws of physics to be terrible at its job. Remember, to carry this idea through to its logically intended end we have to do it sustainably; for every tree we cut down to make motors we have to plant at least one and ensure that it grows up safely. Also note that the milling tools for this wood, and the machines that use them, must also be made of alternative materials because they do wear out and must be replaced periodically.

We can't grow copper wire. The material for the windings has to be metal unless we find a tree whose wood conducts electricity and can be drawn into fine strands. Thus, our plan already has a fatal flaw, but this is fantasy so we'll accept it and pretend we still have copper or silver or titanium or something.

... Until right now I was planning to take this little thought experiment through to the end, but I think that these key materials are so infinitely more likely to survive their own apocalypse than we are that it's not even worth my time Running out of iron alone would end modern society as a whole; electric motors wouldn't even be a footnote.

I still don't understand where the metals are GOING, though. Is this like the reverse of the theory that manufactured goods are weighing the Earth down?

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