Vapor Trails And Fan Make For Fantastic Photos In DIY Wind Tunnel

Every wanted a mini wind tunnel to check the aerodynamics of scale model cars, drones, or other small objects? Then check out [dannyesp]’s mostly-3D-printed DIY wind tunnel (video, embedded below). Don’t forget to also browse the additional photos in this Reddit thread.

A junk parts project doesn’t have to look like a hack job.

There’s not much for plans available, since as [dannyesp] admits, this device was very much the product of trial-and-error and junk bin parts. The video and photos are more than enough for any enterprising hacker to work with.

The core of the device is a large fan made from a junked drone motor. This fan is located at the rear of the tunnel. A small anemometer is placed at the front, where some 3D-printed baffles also work to smooth out turbulent incoming air.

The foggy trails of vapor come from a hacked-up vape pen. Vapor gets piped through some tubing to the front of the tunnel. There, the vapor trails are drawn towards the low-pressure area at the rear, traveling over and around the object on the way. [dannyesp] also mentions that the platform holding the object is mounted on a rail, which incorporates some kind of pressure sensor in an attempt to quantify wind drag.

We want to take a moment to appreciate just how clean this “junk parts” project looks — even though it is made from things like broken photo frames. All of this comes down to thoughtful assembly. A hack doesn’t have to look like a hack job, after all. We also love the little control box that, instead of having a separate power indicator, lights up like a little nightlight when it has power.

Hacking vaporizers is a fantastic way to create a small, portable fog machine. These can create fantastic costume effects like this smoking Ghost Rider skull. They are a great way to turn an off-the-shelf consumer item into something that cost quite a bit more just a few years back.

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Homemade Toy Wind Tunnel Blows (Really Well)

Sometimes a kid wakes up on Christmas morning and runs downstairs, only hoping to see one thing: a shiny new wind tunnel. This past December, that’s exactly what [SparksAndCode]’s son found under beside the tree, complete with a bag of scarves, ping-pong balls, and other fun things to launch through it (in the name of physics, of course).

The real story here starts about a week before Christmas, when [SparksAndCode]’s son was enthralled by a similar device at a science museum. At his wife’s suggestion, [SparksAndCode] got to work designing a and building a wind tunnel with hardware-store parts, his deadline looming ahead. The basic structure of the tunnel is three rods which support plywood collars. The walls are formed by plastic sheets rolled inside the collars to make a tube. Underneath, a Harbor Freight fan supplies a nice, steady stream of air for endless entertainment.

After finding a few bugs during his son’s initial beta testing on Christmas morning, [SparksAndCode] brought the wind tunnel back into the shop for a few tweaks and upgrades, including a mesh cover on the air intake to stop things from getting sucked into the fan. The final result was a very functional (and fun!) column of air. Looking for even more function (but not necessarily less fun)? We’ve got you covered too with this home-built research wind tunnel from a few years back.

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Space Shuttle Model In A Hypersonic Wind Tunnel

Mach 20 In A Wind Tunnel: Yes, It’s Rocket Science

Hypersonic speeds are defined by those exceeding Mach 5, and lately there’s been a lot of buzz about unmanned hypersonic vehicles making test flights. Vehicles returning from orbital flight also travel at hypersonic speeds as they do their best to transition back to the terrestrial realm. Before anything leaves ground though, these machines are tested in wind tunnels. [Scott Manley]’s video “How Hypersonic Wind Tunnels Recreate Mach 20” (embedded below) does a wonderful job of explaining the engineering behind wind tunnels for testing hypersonic vehicles.

While the earliest wind tunnels such as that used by the Wright Brothers were powered by simple fans, it is not possible for any propeller to surpass subsonic speeds. This is evidenced by there not being any propeller driven aircraft that can exceed Mach 1. Since an aircraft can’t reach those speeds with a propeller, it follows that a wind tunnel cannot be driven by propellers, fans, or any such device, and exceed Mach 1 wind speed, either. So it begs the question: Just how do they do it?

You might think that the answer lays in Bernoulli’s law – but it does not. You might think it involves compressing the air into smaller and smaller tubes and pipes. It doesn’t. As [Scott Manley] so expertly explains in the video below the break, it has quite a lot in common with actual rocket science.

You may be interested to know that we’ve covered some DIY wind tunnel builds as well as a small desktop wind tunnel in the past. While not hypersonic, they’re exactly what you’d want to have if you’re an aerospace hacker of any kind.

Thanks [Zane Atkins] for the tip!

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Retrotechtacular: Discovering Aerodynamics With The Chrysler Airflow

When you think about it, for most of human history we’ve been a pretty slow bunch. At any time before about 150 years ago, if you were moving faster than a horse can run, you were probably falling to your death. And so the need to take aerodynamics into consideration is a pretty new thing.

The relative novelty of aerodynamic design struck us pretty hard when we stumbled across this mid-1930s film about getting better performance from cars. It was produced for the Chrysler Sales Corporation and featured the innovative design of the 1934 Chrysler Airflow. The film’s narration makes it clear why the carmaker would go through the trouble of completely rethinking how cars are made; despite doubling average engine horsepower over the preceding decade, cars had added only about 15% to their top speed. And while to our 21st-century eyes, the Chrysler Airflow might look like a bulked-up Volkswagen Beetle, compared to the standard automotive designs of the day, it was a huge aerodynamic leap forward. This makes sense with what else was going on in the technology world at the time — air travel — the innovations of which, such as wind tunnel testing of models, were spilling over into other areas of design. There’s also the influence of [Orville Wright], who was called in to consult on the Airflow design.

While the Airflow wasn’t exactly a huge hit with the motoring public — not that many were built, and very few remain today; [Jay Leno] is one of the few owners, because of course he is — it set standards that would influence automotive designs for the next 80 years. It’s fascinating too that something seemingly as simple as moving the engine forward and streamlining the body a bit took so long to hit upon, and yet yielded so much bang for the buck.

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jellyandmarshmallows windTunnel close-up

Perfecting Paper Planes Peering Past Perspex Portals

This wind tunnel is a pile of junk and we love it! When making science and engineering accessible to kids, it really helps to show that it doesn’t require a fancy research lab. [Jelly & Marshmallows] show kids that it takes little more than cardboard, duct tape, and dumpster-diving to up your paper airplane game to NASA levels of engineering.

[Jelly & Marshmallows] built their wind tunnel for a Maker Faire using the aforementioned cheap and free materials for the straightener, collector, diffuser, and fan sections. We especially love the efficient hack of using stacked ceiling light diffusers rather than hundreds of straws for the straightener.

 

The most time went into the working section, custom-built from plywood frames and acrylic windows. Many 3D printed parts came together to convert a smoke-ring gun to emit smoke trails and LEDs were employed to make those trails a little easier to see. We think the magnetic clips for quick changes of aircraft and their position along a steel ruler were inspired.

The kids attending the Maker Faire (we miss those!) loved the exhibit, having the best time hitting a big green arcade button to spin up the fan. It’s the little things in life. How would you get the kids even more involved with analyzing aerodynamics and make the smoke trails more visible?

 

Thanks for the tip [Rómulo Antão]

Desktop Wind Tunnel Brings Aerospace Engineering To The Home Gamer

Computer simulation is indispensable in validating design and used in every aspect of engineering from finite element analysis to traffic simulation to fluid dynamics. Simulations do an amazing job and at a fraction of the time and expense of building and testing a scale model. But those visceral ah-ha moments, and some real-world gremlins, can be easier to uncover by the real thing. Now you don’t need a university research or megacorp lab to run aerodynamic study IRL, you can just build a functional desktop wind tunnel for a pittance.

[Mark Waller] shows off this tidy little design that takes up only about two feet of desk space, and includes the core features that make a wind tunnel useful. Air is pulled through the tunnel using a fan mounted at the exhaust side of the tunnel. The intake is the horn-like scoop, and he’s stacked up a matrix of drinking straws there to help ensure laminar flow of the air as it enters the tunnel. (The straw trick is frequently used with laminar flow water fountains). It also passes through a matrix of tubes about the diameter of a finger at the exhaust to prevent the spin of the fan from introducing a vortex into the flow.

For analysis, five tubes pipe in smoke from an vape pen, driven into the chamber by an aquarium pump. There’s a strip of LEDs along the roof of the tunnel, with a baffle to prevent the light shining on the black rear wall of the chamber for the best possible contrast. The slow-motion video after the break shows the effectiveness of the setup.

Whether you’re a Hackaday Editor cutting their own glider wing profiles using foam and hot wire, or just want to wrap your head around how different profiles perform, this will get you there. And it’ll do it at a fraction of the size that we’ve seen in previous wind tunnel builds.

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Bridge Over Trebled Water: How The Golden Gate Bridge Started To Sing

Throughout the spring, some Bay Area residents from Marin County to the Presidio noticed a sustained, unplaceable high-pitched tone. In early June, the sound reached a new peak volume, and recordings of the eerie noise spread across Twitter and Facebook. Soon after, The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, & Transportation District, the agency responsible for the iconic suspension bridge’s maintenance, solved the mystery: The sound was due to high winds blowing through the slats of the bridge’s newly-installed sidewalk railing. Though a more specific explanation was not provided, the sound is most likely an Aeolian tone, a noise produced when wind blows over a sharp edge, resulting in tiny harmonic vortices in the air.

The modification of the Golden Gate Bridge railing is the most recent and most audible element of a multi-phase retrofit that has been underway since 1997. Following the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, & Transportation District (The District) began to prepare the iconic bridge for the wind and earthquake loads that it may encounter in its hopefully long life. Though the bridge had already withstood the beating of the Bay’s strong easterly winds and had been rattled by minor earthquakes, new analysis technology and construction methods could help the span hold strong against any future lateral loading. The first and second phases of the retrofit targeted the Marin Viaduct (the bridge’s north approach) and the Fort Point Arch respectively. The third and current phase addresses the main span.

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