Across the United States, weather stations made up of instruments and sensors monitor the conditions that produce our local forecasts, like air temperature, wind speed and precipitation. These systems aren’t just weather monitors, they are also potent tools for research on topics from farming to renewable energy generation.
Commercial weather stations can cost thousands of dollars, limiting both their availability and thus the amount of climate data that can be collected. But the advent of 3D printing and low-cost sensors have made it possible to build a weather station for a few hundred dollars. Could these inexpensive, homegrown versions perform as well as their pricier counterparts?
The answer is yes — up to a point, according to researchers, who put a 3D-printed weather station to the test in Oklahoma. Adam K. Theisen, an atmospheric and Earth scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, led the project, which compared the printed station with a commercial-grade station for eight months to see whether it was accurate and how well it could hold up against the elements.
Three-dimensional printing uses digital models to produce physical objects on the fly. Its low cost and the ability to print parts wherever you can lug a printer could help expand the number of these stations, helping to bring data collection to remote areas and educate tomorrow’s researchers.