Redditor designs and 3D prints his own desktop wind tunnel

Spain-based 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 upcycled components.

Of course, due to the scale of the wind tunnel and the lack of advanced sensors, it won’t produce any realistic streamlines or facilitate useful calculations but it certainly makes for 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 made this to experiment. Some people read books, others need to experiment, I prefer the latter over the former.”

The 3D printed wind tunnel. Photo via dannyesp.
The 3D printed wind tunnel. Photo via dannyesp.

Making aerodynamics accessible

In the fields of aerospace and automotive, testing the aerodynamics of a design is key to evaluating its performance. A lower drag coefficient on a plane or car means it will experience less air resistance while in transit, leading to improved fuel efficiency.

To determine the drag profile of a structure, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to utilize wind tunnels. These are essentially just large tubes with air blowing through them to simulate the airflow around a vehicle in the sky or on the road.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts looking to set up shop at home, wind tunnels can cost several million dollars so it’s not the most practical hobby. Even scaled-down wind tunnels can put a strain on the wallet but with 3D printing, dannyesp has shown how the aerodynamic itch can be scratched using low-cost electronics and some 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 line with the accessibility ethos, the wind tunnel is largely 3D printed and features a salvaged brushless motor from a broken drone. The motor is mounted onto the rear of the tunnel and works to suck the air out, creating low pressure at the back to draw in fresh air from the front. This design consideration was a very deliberate one, as placing the motor at the front would’ve resulted in turbulent flow throughout the tunnel.

To create the wispy smoke effect, dannyesp fixed an atomizer from an old vaporizer onto the intake of the wind tunnel. The atomizer is used in conjunction with a honeycomb-style grid filter that forces the airflow into clean-looking laminar streamlines. Even the windows of the wind tunnel are made using recycled glass from broken photo frames.

While the wind tunnel does showcase the airflow around whatever object is inside, the only measurement apparatus in use is a simple anemometer that measures wind speed. As such, the design doesn’t lend itself to industrial use or even basic fluid dynamics calculations.

The maker has already tested a number of small parts inside his wind tunnel, including model plane 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 custom, low-cost Crocs. Made of flexible TPU filament, the shoes integrate a number of custom design alterations such as embossed wording, a high-grip sole, and even a spoiler on the rear.

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

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