Christoph Thetard has developed a mechanical flywheel drive to power a set of kitchen appliances for his Diploma in Product Design at Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. The kitchen machine, coffee grinder and hand blender chosen for this device would under normal circumstances need to be plugged into an electrical wall socket, but there's no electricity needed for R2B2. Pumping the pedal spins the flywheel, which in turn provides the energy needed to operate the three cooking aids.
The target of the project was to create a set of kitchen appliances that could be powered without using electricity. R2B2 consists of three appliances considered to be amongst the most frequently-used in a kitchen – a multi-functional kitchen machine, a glass and ceramic coffee grinder and a hand blender – and a central drive unit mounted in a wooden frame. The open construction was deliberate so that observers can see what's going on and how it works.
At the heart of the drive unit is the pedal-driven flywheel. Pumping the pedal can power the flywheel up to 400 rpm, generating the equivalent of 350W of energy to power the appliances by direct mechanical rotation. The flywheel is capable of retaining energy to continue providing power for a short while, before needing to be topped up with pedal-action again. A switch dial to the front of the unit controls the speed of the gears, with fast, slow or neutral being available.
All of the components are made from polished or sandblasted stainless steel, oiled wood, glass and ceramics, and the belts made from silicon. It's been designed for extended life – even the drive chain turning the flywheel shouldn't require oil lubrication.
The hand blender can take various attached ends for different tasks and the transmission gives the device up to 10,000 rpm. The multi-function kitchen machine includes different blades, a slicing disc and whip, and was designed to do as many different jobs as possible with the least possible parts. The coffee grinder features a glass chamber for the beans and one for the ground powder, and a porcelain outer shell which joins them both to the mill. Shelving within the main body of R2B2 can be used to store the various attachments.
Thetard admits that any future production model would benefit from some efficiency modifications. "I am a designer, not an engineer. I want to say I built it as good as I could and it works," he told Gizmag. "But for production, there is a lot of engineering to do till everything works 100 percent. And I am sure it is possible to optimize its speed to store more energy."
Although the proof of concept prototype was designed for a specific kitchen setup, Thetard told us that it should be possible to modify the outer design and install it into any kitchen. He also sees the flywheel drive being used as the starting point for numerous grid-less energy solutions, such as providing power to shavers in the bathroom or a washing machine in the basement.