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Enhancing aerospace engineering students' learning with 3D printing wind‐tunnel models

Ehud Kroll (Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Technion City, Haifa, Israel)
Dror Artzi (Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Technion City, Haifa, Israel)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 2 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the benefits offered by rapid prototyping (RP) models for wind‐tunnel testing as part of fourth‐year aerospace engineering student projects. Ways of overcoming some of the difficulties associated with the 3D printing technology are also discussed.

Design/methodology/approach

Polymer‐based RP was used to fabricate two‐aircraft models, which included stiffening metallic inserts. Testing in a subsonic‐wind tunnel was carried out and the results compared to analytic performance predictions.

Findings

Low‐cost rapid prototypes of wind‐tunnel models yielded satisfactory aerodynamic performance. The savings in acquisition cost and time allowed incorporating actual testing in the aircraft design process within the framework of a tight academic budget and schedule.

Practical implications

Conducting real‐wind‐tunnel testing contributes significantly to the educational experience of students; however, it had rarely been carried out when metal model fabrication was the only option. In contrast, RP facilitates an enhanced and more realistic learning experience by offering a quick and affordable means of model manufacturing.

Originality/value

Simple methods of reinforcing polymer‐based models were incorporated, thus presenting an inexpensive way to test and evaluate preliminary aircraft designs, in both academia and industry.

Keywords

Citation

Kroll, E. and Artzi, D. (2011), "Enhancing aerospace engineering students' learning with 3D printing wind‐tunnel models", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 17 No. 5, pp. 393-402. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552541111156522

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited