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3D printed weather stations predict flash floods

3D printed weather stations predict flash floods

The rise of 3D printing has been celebrated for its ability to take manufacturing to the desktop, enabling the quick construction of toys, tools, and other industrial gadgets at the touch of a button.

Lately, it’s acquired a new mission: saving lives. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is using the technology in working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners are using the technology to build weather stations in underdeveloped countries to help predict flash floods. 

For regions that that do not possess – or cannot afford – the necessary forecasting tools to predict flash flooding, citizens are exposed to even greater danger because they cannot take necessary precautions. 

However, by using 3D printers, the components of weather forecasting stations can be built locally and relatively cheaply – for about $200. The technology works by creating a 3D computer design for each part of the weather station.

With the help of technicians from the National Science Foundation-supported Joint Office for Science Support, the components are “manufactured” using a microwaved-sized 3D printer. The printer layers threads of melted plastic to build the components. Once printed, the individual pieces are put together by hand, and low-cost electronic sensors are attached.  

Data collected by the station, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, rainfall and wind, are stored in a Raspberry Pi and transmitted to weather experts.   

“The bottom line is that 3D printing will help to save lives,” said Sezin Tokar, with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. “Not only can they provide countries with the ability to more accurately monitor for weather-related disasters, the data they produce can also help reduce the economic impact of disasters.”

Posted by Mark Pomerleau on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:51 AM


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