3D printed weather station: get the most science with the least money
The researchers found that an inexpensive monitoring system consisting of 3D printed parts and low-cost sensors may not be as durable as a commercial monitoring system, but it can be as accurate as a commercial monitoring system.
Throughout the United States, weather stations composed of instruments and sensors monitor the conditions that produce local weather forecasts, such as temperature, wind speed, and precipitation. These systems are not just weather monitors, they are also powerful tools for researching topics ranging from agriculture to renewable energy production.
Commercial weather stations can cost thousands of dollars, which limits their availability and the amount of climate data that can be collected. But the advent of 3D printing and low-cost sensors makes it only cost a few hundred dollars to build a weather station. Can these cheap domestic versions perform as well as their expensive counterparts?
The answer is yes. According to the researchers, they put the 3D printed weather station in Oklahoma for testing. Adam K. Theisen, an atmospheric and geoscientist at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, led the project, which compared the printed monitoring stations with commercial-grade stations for eight months to see their accuracy And goodness
3D printing uses digital models to dynamically generate physical objects. Its low cost and the ability to print parts wherever a printer can be attached can help expand the number of these sites, help bring data collection to remote areas and educate future researchers.
A team from the University of Oklahoma followed the guidance and open source plan of the Atmospheric Research Company’s 3D Printing Automatic Weather Station (3D-PAWS) program to print more than 100 weather station parts. They did not use the more commonly used polylactic acid in 3D printing. Instead, use acrylonitrile styrene acrylate, a plastic filament that is believed to be more durable outdoors. The combination of 3D printed parts and low-cost sensors provides the basis for these new systems, and 3D-PAWS plans to establish these new systems as promising in earlier experiments.
Theisen said: "In order for this technology to be more widely used, it must undergo similar verification and validation studies."
Although the 3D printing system did begin to show signs of failure about 5 months after the experiment began (the relative humidity sensor corroded and failed, and some parts eventually degraded or damaged), its measurement results were consistent with those of commercial-grade stations in the laboratory. The value is comparable.
Theisen said: "I didn't expect the performance of the system to be as good as before." "Even if the components start to degrade, the results show that this type of weather station is feasible for shorter activities."
When the research started, Theisen worked at the University of Oklahoma and continued to oversee the work after joining Argonne.
In experiments, this low-cost sensor can accurately measure temperature, pressure, rainfall, ultraviolet light and relative humidity. From mid-August to mid-April of the following year, except for a few instruments, this plastic material has always existed in Oklahoma weather. During this time, it experienced strong rain and snow, and the temperature was between 14 and Between 104 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 to 40 degrees Celsius). The performance of a 3D printing anemometer that measures wind speed is not so good, but it can be partially improved by better printing quality.
The project was led by an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma and confirmed the accuracy of the 3D printed weather station and its value as an educational tool.
Theisen said: "Students learned skills they wouldn't learn in class. They made proposals, designed the framework, and did most of the printing and wiring work."
The ability to print specialized components makes weather stations more feasible in remote areas, because replacement parts can be manufactured immediately when needed. Even if a cheaper sensor fails after a few months, calculations are still feasible under low budgets.
Theisen pointed out: "If you want to replace two or three inexpensive sensors, instead of maintaining and calibrating a $1,000 sensor per year, this is a cost benefit that is worth considering."
This research was funded by the University of Oklahoma Mesoscale Meteorological Research Collaborative Institute and was published in the journal Atmospheric Measurement Technology on September 4, 2020.
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