Sep 28, 2017 | By Tess

The Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond is now home to a fully functioning 3D printed weather station. The weather measuring and monitoring device cost only $400 to make and could help improve farming in developing regions of the world.

Scientist Paul Kucera installs the 3D printed weather station at the Science Museum of Virginia 

(Image: Dean Hoffmeyer / Times-Dispatch)

The 3D printed weather station was designed and created by scientist Paul Kucera, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Martin Steinson from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Together, and using their joint expertise in meteorological and mechanical engineering, they have demonstrated the feasibility of affordable and accessible weather stations.

Traditionally, a weather station of the same caliber as the one Kucera and Steinson made could cost around $15,000. Unfortunately, this high cost has made the machines scarce in certain parts of the world, meaning that many regions do not have access to up-to-date weather forecasts or conditions.

By using accessible materials and 3D printed parts, however, the scientists were able to create a fully functioning weather station for only $400. They apparently used PVC pipes, a solar panel, and 3D printed white plastic instruments to assemble the device.

Impressively, the duo were able to build the weather station at the Science Museum of Virginia in just a few hours and, in almost no time at all, the partially 3D printed device reported an accurate reading of the temperature and relative humidity.

In addition to reading the weather, the 7-foot-tall weather station can reportedly measure minute-by-minute pressure, rainfall, solar energy, as well as wind speed and direction.

Scientist Martin Steinson with 3D printed weather station components, 2015

Additionally, if a part of the weather station fails or breaks, the scientists say they can quickly and easily replace the component with a new 3D printed part.

Similarly, if a sensor fails, a replacement can be installed quickly, efficiently, and cheaply—for around $10.

The affordable weather station project has been underway for some time and has received support from various organizations and government agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and others.

The weather station set up at the Science Museum of Virginia is the first to be installed in the eastern U.S., though others have already been deployed across the globe.

In 2015, for instance, the first 3D printed weather stations were established in Zambia, where they have helped to provide forecasts and weather conditions to locals. Since then they have also been implemented in Kenya and the Caribbean.

One of the first low-cost weather stations installed in Chikankata, Zambia in 2015

Ultimately, the scientists believe their low-cost 3D printed weather station can help farmers in developing regions to access weather forecasts, which could in turn allow them to better predict rainfall and monitor water usage.

"It’s a major opportunity to provide weather information that farmers have never had before," said Paul Kucera about the initiative last year. ”This can literally make the difference when it comes to being able to feed their families."

From an educational perspective, the $400 weather device could also be used in math or science classes to teach meteorology as well as 3D printing basics.

Importantly, the research duo will be making their research and the designs for the 3D printed weather station open source. They are expected to release the design files and build instructions as soon as the end of 2017.

At the Science Museum of Virginia, the weather station will enable visitors to see real-time weather data within the context of climate displays. The museum’s website will also feature up-to-date weather information for people from the community to check.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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