Pedal Powered Electronic Waste Recycling Machine

Bicyclean recycling electronic waste“The bicyclean is a safe, affordable, and efficient alternative for
harvesting electronic waste in developing regions. The bicyclean is a modified bicycle, where a processing chamber replaces the rear wheel and an external steel frame supports the rear hub. Processing of the circuit boards occurs within the sealed chamber and the particles are removed in a covered tray. A feed tube presses circuit board pieces into a large grinding wheel and become pulverized.”

“The particles pass a magnet that extracts ferrous metal particles. The particles then flow over a small eddy current rotor, which is positioned underneath the grinding wheel and powered by a 3:1 gear ratio with the bicycle chain. The changing magnetic fields of the eddy current rotor repulse conducting metal, but have no effect on non-metals; the metal particles are projected horizontally while the nonmetals fall vertically, separating particles in the bottom collection tray. The bicyclean requires a single operator.”

Read more: Bicyclean. Via Co.EXIST.

Human Powered Washer & Spin Dryer

Giradora foot powered washer dryerThe GiraDora is an interesting design for a foot powered washer and dryer that costs less than $40. More here:

“GiraDora is a blue bucket that conceals a spinning mechanism that washes clothes and then partially dries them. It’s operated by a foot pedal, while the user sits on the lid to stabilize the rapidly churning contents. Sitting alleviates lower-back pain associated with hand-washing clothes, and frees up the washer to pursue other tasks. It’s portable, so it can be placed nearby a water source, or even inside on a rainy day. It reduces health risks like joint problems, skin irritation, and mold inhalation. Most importantly, it uses far less water and cleans clothes faster than conventional hand-washing.”

Hat tip to Kaan Ozdurak.

Chinese Wheelbarrow Lives on in Angola, Africa

Chinese Wheelbarrow Lives on in Angola, Africa

The ingenious Chinese wheelbarrow lives on in Angola, Africa. The contemporary design is similar to the Ancient Chinese vehicle, except it uses straight boards and a car tyre.

The machine and the men pushing it are both called “roboteiros”.

Picture credit.

More pictures: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12.

Thanks to Marco Cecilio.

Pedal Powered Wool Carding Machine

pedal powered wool carding machine

The Cyclocarder by Fibershed-contributor Katharina Jolda is a wonderful update to the article on pedal powered machines. The Cyclocarder can turn your backyard, community center, or farm into a human powered wool processing station.

When Low-Tech Goes IKEA

when lowtech goes ikea

What happens when two industrial design students from Sweden end up in Kenya creating a pedal powered machine for small-scale farmers who are often illiterate and speak more than 60 languages? You get a do-it-yourself design that seems to have come out of the IKEA factories – pictoral manuals included.

“Made in Kenya”, the bachelor project of Niklas Kull and Gabriella Rubin, is a textbook example of low-tech made accessible to everybody, regardless of their native tongue and language skills.

[Read more…]

Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-1873)

Barge haulers on the volga

Barge haulers on the Volga“, a late 19th century painting by Ilja Repin.

Human Power Empirically Explored

Knijpkat “Harvesting energy from the users’ muscular power to convert this into electricity is a relatively unknown way to power consumer products. It nevertheless offers surprising opportunities for product designers; human-powered products function independently from regular power infrastructure, are convenient and can be environmentally and economically beneficial.”

“This work provides insight into the knowledge required to design human-powered energy systems in consumer products from a scientific perspective. It shows the developments of human-powered products from the first introduction of the BayGen Freeplay radio in 1995 till current products and provides an overview and analysis of 211 human-powered products currently on the market.”

“Although human power is generally perceived as beneficial for the environment, this thesis shows that achieving environmental benefit is only feasible when the environmental impact of additional materials in the energy conversion system is well balanced with the energy demands of the products functionality.”

Human Power Empirically Explored” (PDF, 12MB), Arjen Jansen, 2011.

Pedal Powered Machines

pedal powered machines

  1. Pedal powered farms and factories: the forgotten future of the stationary bicycle
  2. Bike powered electricity generators are not sustainable
  3. The short history of early pedal powered machines

Hand Powered Apple Peelers

hand powered apple peeler

Hand powered apple peelers can peel, core and cut apples with amazing speed and precision. They were available in a surprisingly large variety.

The 18th and 19th century saw a growing need for apples as a winter staple for both food and drink. Apples needed to be processed for winter storage. Paring, coring, and cutting enough apples for winter was difficult and time consuming.

Farmers used their creative skills to make wooden machines that made the process quick and efficient. Industrialization and the use of iron during the 19th century witnessed an explosion of patented creativity. More than 100 patents were granted from 1850 to 1890. Apple peelers were also used as a kitchen device.

There is a full website dedicated to hand powered apple peelers, explaining in detail the use, history and workings of the devices and showing many pictures and videos.

Hand Operated Vacuum Cleaners


hand operated vacuum cleaner“The easiest way to utilize pump vacuums (picture below, left) was to have two people operate them. One person would pump the vacuum while a second would use the hose and wand or tools to clean. A common sight was a daughter pumping the handle while mom did the cleaning. Most early vacuum cleaners were expensive for the time. The well-to-do often would purchase the cleaning contraptions to ease the workload of their servants or housekeepers.”


Bellows operated vacuums appeared in several styles and shapes. Some early vacuums utilized a single bellows. This made the cleaner less efficient because there was no suction as the bellows closed. Suction was produced only as air rushed into the bellows as it opened. To make the machines more useful, bellows were installed in pairs and offset to allow one to open while the other closed.” Picture right: a bellow-operated Star Vacuum Cleaner.

Hand operated vacuum cleaner 1“In their day, wheel operated vacuums approached the cutting edge of early technology.  They exhibited a sophistication that was not present in earlier vacuum designs.  This style of machine provided powerful and continuous suction for its user.  The increase in vacuum even allowed for larger diameter hoses and bigger cleaning tools.  Typically, one person cranked the wheel while another cleaned with a wand or hand tool.”

Friction vacuum cleaners are based on an ingenious concept conceived by James Kirby. They utilize the driving force of the rear wheels to power the cleaner. This style of vacuum derives its power when the operator pushes it across the floor. The wheels contact the floor and turn the axle. This energy is transferred to the fan via a worm gear during every forward motion of the machine. The front wheels are connected to a brush roller to create a sweeping action. These machines look like an early electric upright vacuum, but do not need electrical current to run. As a result, they have no electric motor, cord, plug, or switch. This makes them lightweight, quiet, and cost free to use. Friction vacuums were popular well into the 1940’s in communities where electricity was not available.”

More: VacHunter galleries. Thank you, Adriana.