Redditor designs and 3D prints his own desktop wind tunnel

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Spanish Reddit user dannyesp has designed and 3D printed his own small-scale wind tunnel.

The hobby project is probably one of the most impressive to ever grace the r/3Dprinting subreddit, and leverages a 3D printed frame and a whole host of recycled components.

Of course, due to the scale of the wind tunnel and lack of advanced sensors, it won’t produce realistic streamlines or facilitate useful calculations, but it sure is a cool desk toy.

Explaining his motivations in a Reddit comment, dannyesp wrote, “For a project, I just wanted to understand fluids better, so I did this to experiment. Some people read books, others need to experiment, I prefer the latter to the former.

The 3D printed wind tunnel. Photo via dannyesp.

Making aerodynamics accessible

In the aerospace and automotive fields, testing the aerodynamics of a design is essential to assess its performance. A lower drag coefficient on an airplane or car means that it will experience less air resistance during transport, resulting in better fuel efficiency.

To determine the drag profile of a structure, it is not uncommon for manufacturers to use wind tunnels. They are basically large tubes that air blows through to simulate the airflow around a vehicle in the sky or on the road.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts looking to move into their homes, wind tunnels can cost millions of dollars, so they’re not the most practical hobby. Even scaled-down wind tunnels can strain the wallet, but with 3D printing, dannyesp has shown how aero itches can be scratched using low-cost electronics and a little willpower.

Close up of a Dodge Viper model car in the wind tunnel.  Photo via dannyesp.
Close up of a Dodge Viper model car in the wind tunnel. Photo via dannyesp.

The 3D printed wind tunnel

In keeping with the philosophy of accessibility, the wind tunnel is largely 3D printed and features a brushless motor salvaged from a broken drone. The motor is mounted at the rear of the tunnel and operates to draw air in, creating low pressure at the rear to draw in fresh air from the front. This design consideration was very deliberate, as placing the engine at the front would have resulted in turbulent flow throughout the tunnel.

To create the vaporous smoke effect, dannyesp attached an atomizer from an old vaporizer to the inlet of the wind tunnel. The atomizer is used in conjunction with a honeycomb style grid filter that forces airflow into clean looking laminar stream lines. Even the wind tunnel windows are made from recycled glass from broken picture frames.

Although the wind tunnel presents the airflow around any object inside, the only measuring device used is a simple anemometer which measures the speed of the wind. As such, the design does not lend itself to industrial use or even basic computational fluid dynamics.

The manufacturer has already tested a number of small parts inside its wind tunnel, including model airplane wings, rudders and a scale model of a Dodge Viper.

The maker community is a great source of innovation when it comes to technologies such as 3D printing. Earlier this year, YouTuber Austen Hartley designed and 3D printed his own pair of low-cost custom Crocs. Made from flexible TPU filament, the shoes incorporate a number of custom design changes such as embossed words, a high grip sole and even a rear spoiler.

Elsewhere, Akaki Kuumeri recently created a 3D printed adapter for the PS5 DualSense controller that allows users to play games with one hand. The add-on can be applied non-destructively to game controllers to enable non-standard hand positions and make video games more accessible to people with physical disabilities.

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Featured image shows the 3D printed wind tunnel. Photo via dannyesp.

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