Wind Tunnel Parts

3D printing can level up the efficiency and productivity of wind tunnel testing, utilising advanced materials and bespoke design solutions.

Why 3D printing?

3D Printing has proved to be an extremely valuable tool in producing components for wind tunnel testing. A large number of complex, unique parts can be built in just a matter of days and can be an extremely cost-effective way to produce models for a wind tunnel. Independent studies have shown that SLA (Stereolithography) produces the most accurate parts, also giving a very good surface finish which is easy to sand smoother if required.

We know what it takes

Graphite has many years’ experience producing parts for wind tunnel use, and we understand that part accuracy, repeatable results in the tunnel and getting data you can trust are all of the highest importance. We also understand how expensive wind tunnels can be to run, and why getting parts on time for a test date is vital.

Materials for wind tunnel testing

We recommend our Ceramic loaded SLA resin for such components, as it has the lowest shrinkage (greatest accuracy) of any SLA material. It is also the stiffest 3D printed plastic available, with flexural modulus up to 10,000 MPa. Combined with a very low water absorption rate, it ensures that parts are stable and repeatable over time.

SLA is also one of the only technologies which allows pressure tapping holes to be designed and built into the component at no additional cost. For very thin components, and for High Speed Wind Tunnel (HSWT) Supersonic applications, we can also metal plate components where necessary.

CASE STUDIES

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Functional Prototypes

Building a functional prototype is crucial before mass production. 3D printing enables cost-effective design reviews and tweaks. It offers various materials to mimic end-use products, allowing full functionality testing of parts or complete designs.

3D printing excels in producing customized or limited-run parts and products. This digital manufacturing method eliminates the need for traditional tooling and setup, potentially reducing costs through added complexity or lower part count. We create strong, lightweight parts with high definition and built-in functionality, such as screw threads and sealing grooves, eliminating post-processing. The technology offers design flexibility for bespoke versions across various applications, enabling airtight or resistant parts.

To form complex mandrels for composite tooling, materials such as SR-30 (FDM) and DMX 100 (SLA) are starting to gain traction and, with the right knowledge and experience, these materials can perform wonders. SR-30 is a sacrificial mandrel and DMX is an extraction mandrel with some unique properties.

Costing

The cost to build a tool is generally determined by the size of the tool, not its complexity. As an example, an iPhone sized tool would cost around £30, whereas an iPad-sized tool would be £240.

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