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In the Fold: Autodesk news and opinions

Hydrobee Generates Personal Power from Nature with Autodesk Fusion 360

Autodesk
September 30, 2014

Burt Hamner, president of Hydrobee, is on a mission to help anyone anywhere in the world generate personal power from nature. To accomplish this, the Hydrobee team has developed the PowerBee, a USB battery pack that is recharged by water, wind, sun, fire, bicycles, muscles and more.

The PowerBee provides USB 3.0 power and serves as a useful device for those in developed countries seeking to charge cellphones, a tablet PC or a LED lamp all night long. In emerging nations with no regular electricity, the PowerBee may be the only source of dependable electricity to recharge a mobile device.

Hydrobee phone body closeup

Seattle-based Hydrobee uses Digital Prototyping tools from Autodesk including Autodesk Fusion 360 and Autodesk Inventor software, which is part of Autodesk Product Design Suite, to develop the PowerBee. For their innovative work, Hydrobee is being recognized as the Autodesk Inventing the Future recipient for September.

Autodesk seeks Inventing the Future candidates each month from its Manufacturing customer base through a brief Q&A interview on a company or individual addressing their business, products and inventive spirit. Here is what Hamner had to say about Hydrobee’s technology and experiences leveraging Autodesk software:

Autodesk: What do you develop, and why is it important to the world?

Hamner: Hydrobee produces a personal renewable power plant, the PowerBee, which is the size of a soda can and harvests USB energy from multiple free natural energy sources. The PowerBee stores the energy in a battery that powers USB phones, LED lamps and any USB device. With the PowerBee, you always have power for your USB devices. We have also made it mobile-enabled, so it can be turned on and off by text message and can be sold on a pay-as-you-go basis to people living in poverty.

This is important because more than 1.5 billion people have no regular electricity, but almost one billion of them have mobile phones and must pay every time they need to charge their phones. According to the World Bank, those users spend over $30 billion a year in charges! The PowerBee can supply them with free power from nature, and they can afford it because they can pay for the PowerBee like they pay for their phones: with micro-payments made over time. The financing system is already there. We hope we can reach more than 50 million people with our PowerBee and make it a global brand and a valued possession for many.

PowerBee Collage

Autodesk: How has adopting technology helped your business evolve?

Hamner: We aggressively adopt new technology to increase our capabilities. In fact, we are moving everything we do into the Cloud. We are designers and business developers, but the product is made with foreign suppliers. We don't need our own factory or even a physical office now that we can work together virtually and meet in cafes for coffee.

Autodesk: What Autodesk software do you use and why?

Hamner: As members of the Autodesk Cleantech Partner Program, we received a subscription to Autodesk software that we use including Inventor as part of Autodesk Product Design Suite. We also use Autodesk’s cloud-based design software, Fusion 360. We plan to use Fusion 360 to run design events around the world and share the designs in real-time in multiple locations. The reason is that there are lots of ways to spin the PowerBee’s little generator, but users will probably do it differently in Uganda than in Bangladesh. With Fusion 360, we can help different groups design the system that works best for them. Because our PowerBee rotors are so small, most of them can be 3D printed right from Fusion 360.

Autodesk: Where do you see your business five years from now? In 10 years?

Hamner: In five years, we hope to be a big brand in Latin America where more than 30 million people live without electricity and need our PowerBees. We will expand sales south from Mexico. In 10 years, we hope to be well established in Africa and South Asia where there will be a billion people still living without utility grid electricity.   

Autodesk: What does being an entrepreneur mean to you? [You fill in blank with your occupation.]

Hamner: I learned how to create a business from scratch and raise money from investors. Hydrobee is my second company. Now that I know how to do this, I will never work for someone else again! Being an entrepreneur means being free to set my future and to do good things that make me happy about my impact on the world. Inventing and making clean tech solutions is simply too much fun to quit.

Do you think you have what it takes to be recognized by Autodesk for Inventing the Future? If so, send in your submission to inventingthefuture@autodesk.com.

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