This Instructable presents a design for a 3D-printed centrifuge. It also contains discussion of the design, and centrifuge design in general.
A couple of months ago, I read an article on Popular Science about one of their writers, Paul Adams, who was lucky enough to tour the Modernist Cuisine test kitchen. Among other really awesome equipment the Modern Cuisine chefs/mad food scientists have at their disposal is an $8000 Sorvall RC-5C Plus High-Performance Centrifuge, which they use for culinary purposes. It turns out that when ordinary food items are subjected to extreme centripetal forces in a centrifuge, some interesting things can happen. Paul Adams did a follow-up article demonstrating how he used a small centrifuge to separate the solid and liquid components of pea puree and made pea butter.
After reading that article, I got really interested in what other foods could be put into a centrifuge to produce strange and enticing new flavors and textures. I started scouring the web for other cool examples of molecular gastronomy dishes made by spinning food in a centrifuge. The pea butter in Paul Adam's article certainly looks very tasty, but I wanted to see more than just a green spread for toast. Unfortunately, there are very, very few other examples of centrifuge recipes to be found; even after extensive searching, all I was able to find were a few random forum posts vaguely describing centrifuge experiments. I was not even able to find any pictures (other than more pictures of pea butter).
So, decided to get a centrifuge for myself and start hacking food. But there was a problem: centrifuges are quite expensive. Even low-powered bench-top models cost over $200. Good-quality bench-top models can cost twice that. Since I didn't want to blow my entire quadcopter fund on a centrifuge, I set about designing my own centrifuge. This Instructable presents that design and a discussion of the ongoing process of formulating and refining it.
So far, the design only exists virtually. Unfortunately, I do not own a 3D printer and creating multiple developmental prototypes, and eventually a finished product, using services like Ponoko would be both extremely expensive and extremely slow. That is not meant to be a criticism of Ponoko, I like their service a lot and I have used it for several projects in the past, it is just not ideal for creating multiple prototypes. Over the summer, when school is out and I have more time to work, I may get a membership to a local hackerspace called Sector 67 where I would have access to a MakerBot Thing-o-matic and I could begin making physical prototypes of the centrifuge. I will make another Instructable once I have a finished device to document the physical build process and some recipes.
In the meantime, if you are interested in making your own 3D printed centrifuge, you are welcome to use the designs in this Instructable either wholesale, in parts, or by creating your own derivative designs.
Instructable Table of Contents
Step 1: Background and General Design Considerations
Step 2: General Safety Considerations and Features
Step 3: Rough Calculation of Applied Centripetal Force and Sample Tangential Speed
Step 4: Non-3D Printed Materials
Step 5: 3D-Printed Parts
Step 6: Plexiglass Cutting Patterns
Step 7: Centrifuge Drivetrain
Step 8: Rotor
Step 9: Safety Enclosure
Step 10: Virtual Testing and Simulation