3D Printing Hailstone Molds For Science

Hollywood would have you believe that tornadoes are prevalent in the Midwest. We’re much more likely to see hail in the springtime—balls of slushy ice that pelt our roofs and dimple our cars. [Dr. Ian Giammanco] and his wife and fellow scientist [Tanya Brown-Giammanco] have been studying hail at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s research lab since 2012. In 2013, their team created over 9,000 artificial hailstones and fired them at a mock-up of  a house in the first indoor full-scale hailstorm.

As fun as it sounds to shoot balls of ice at different things, they did it to better understand the humble hailstone and the damage it can do to insurable goods. Those hailstones from a few years ago were created manually by injecting molds and freezing them. Recently, [the Giammancos] and  have taken a more advanced approach to creating artificial hail so they can study the physical characteristics. They scan actual hailstones in order to create models of them. Then they make a 3D-printed mold and use it in a hail-making machine that uses diffused carbon dioxide to mimic the layering that occurs when natural hailstones are formed.

While it would be nice to be able to control hail, the next best thing is mitigating the damage it causes. The better that scientists understand hail, the better materials will become that can withstand its impact. Perhaps someone can perfect a shape-shifting building material and make it resistant to hail.

8 thoughts on “3D Printing Hailstone Molds For Science

  1. the thing that comes to mind for a layer of protection is some kind of a material that can match the properties of a non-newtonian fluid like cornstarch and water. A company used the same principal on a stab-resistant vest that would hold the Kevlar fibers together when any force was used against it. This could actually be used on roofing and possibly be an addition to tyvek or a new type of roofing felt with this silicon/glycol additive.

    Essentially the harder the hail hits, the tighter those fibers bind thus protecting your house and your head.

    BTW the glycol is used to keep the viscosity of the “fluid” active and is used in many automotive industries(antifreeze).

    I’d really like to see what they could accomplish with their testing on this kind of a substrate.

  2. perhaps cheaper for certain goods that can quickly be protected to invent a long range hail detector? thinking strong metal curtain that can fold/unfold itself from a spool or a zigzag onto a rail or smth to protect solar panels, such that it takes up little area when the sun shine, but protects a large area when it detects hail…

  3. Tornadoes are prevalent in the mid-west in the same way as hurricanes are prevalent on the east coast. I mean, really, it isn’t just Holly wood, the mid-west is named tornado alley for a reason.

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