Science fair project. Source: WhiteClouds
Science fair project. Source: WhiteClouds

Utah student uses MakerBot 3D printer and 3D design service to create wing foils.

Few school science fair projects explore the possibilities of cutting edge technology like Grant Leland’s. The sixth-grader from St. Joseph Catholic School in Ogden, Utah sought to discover which shape of wing, called airfoil camber, provided the greatest amount of lift. “The camber is how big the bump is on the airfoil,” explained Grant. “My hypothesis was the largest airfoil camber would create the most lift, but actually the middle airfoil camber created the most lift.”

With a vision in his mind and a course plotted, Grant only needed to find airfoils. Grant and his parents first looked to buy existing airfoils or create the wings in his dad’s machine shop. Buying the airfoils would be costly and they ultimately concluded that anything they could build in their shop would be too heavy for Grant’s airfoil tester.

Then Grant’s dad thought of a third option. He had recently heard about WhiteClouds, a 3D printing company specializing in unique projects like Grant’s, where they make the obscure a reality.

Upon investigation, Grant and his dad learned WhiteClouds could fulfill their needs in a matter of days and at an affordable price using a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer. “3D printing helped me accomplish my goal by making [the wing foils] perfect and fast enough that we could get my results in time,” said Grant. “Also, it provided a good base for the science fair project.”  Grant put WhiteClouds to work and submitted eight different airfoil designs to be created. Grant’s designs began as sketches on paper with dimensions for each wing. WhiteClouds’ lead 3D designer Jess Schenk then took the basic designs and brought them to life in 3D design software.

“Taking Grant’s vision from paper to printable design is something we do often, so we weren’t caught off guard when we saw his ideas sketched. It’s a lot of fun for us to bring concepts to life,” said Schenk.

The WhiteClouds design team then sent the airfoil designs to be 3D printed on the company’s MarkerBot Replicator 2 3D printer to make the digital designs a tangible reality. The airfoils were printed in PLA plastic, a strong, light-weight biodegradable, material. The MarkerBot 3D printer uses a fused disposition modeling process (FDM), squeezing heated PLA plastic material through a nozzle. The printer lays the material down in layers and the material cools, hardens, and sticks to the previous layer.

Grant left WhiteClouds with eight unique airfoils in hand in a matter of days and was ready to begin his science experiment. Several weeks later Grant found himself at the state science fair, where he won the Best Working Model award. He also won in his category for his grade.

For Grant, this is just the beginning of his exploration of science and technology. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up he said a pilot or quantum physicist. He’s off to a great start.