Environmental Science Division (EVS)a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Predictive environmental understanding

3D-printed weather stations could enable more science for less money

December 11, 2020

Weather stations — made up of instruments and sensors that monitor the air temperature, wind speed and precipitation — are potent tools for scientific research. But the high cost of these systems limits their availability and the amount of climate data that can be collected.

New 3D printing techniques and low-cost sensors have enabled construction of lower-cost weather stations, but research is needed to validate these systems to ensure that they can perform as well as their more expensive counterparts.

Adam K. Theisen, an EVS atmospheric and Earth scientist, participated in an 8-month-long project to evaluate the performance and durability of a 3D-printed weather station in Oklahoma compared with a commercial-grade station.

A team at the University of Oklahoma followed the guidance and open source plans developed by the 3D-Printed Automatic Weather Station (3D-PAWS) Initiative at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to print over 100 weather station parts. Theisen, who was based at the University of Oklahoma when the research began, continued to oversee the effort after joining Argonne.

While some of the system components corroded and failed after a few months, its measurements — temperature, pressure, rain, UV and relative humidity — were on par with those from the commercial-grade station.

Theisen's work will help validate the performance of the 3D-printed stations, allowing scientists to expand data collection to remote areas and help educate tomorrow's researchers.

The study, which was funded by the Cooperative Institute of Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma, was published in the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, Sept. 4, 2020.

Read the full article by Christina Nunez.

3D-printed weather station initial installation in the field.
3D-printed weather station initial installation in the field. [Source: Argonne National Laboratory]
portrait of Adam Theisen