Asee peer logo

MAKER: Very Low-cost Experiments via 3-D Printing and Vacuum Forming

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Make It!

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1121.1 - 26.1121.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Robert F. Richards Washington State University

visit author page

Dr. Robert Richards received the Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. He worked in the Building and Fire Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a post-doctoral Researcher before joining the faculty of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University. His research is in thermodynamics and heat and mass transfer. Over the last five years he has become involved in developing and disseminating research-based learning methods. He was a participant in the National Science Foundation Virtual Communities of Practice (VCP) program in Spring, 2013, learning methods to instruct thermodynamics. More recently he introduced the concept of fabricating very low-cost thermal fluid experiments using 3-D printing and vacuum forming at the National Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers of Engineering Education in October, 2013.
He is presently a co-PI on the NSF Improving Undergraduate Stem Education Affordable Desktop Learning Modules to Facilitate Transformation in Undergraduate Engineering Classes, High School Recruitment, and Retention.

visit author page

author page

Fanhe Shamus Meng


Bernard J. Van Wie Washington State University

visit author page

Prof. Bernard J. Van Wie did his B.S., M.S., Ph.D., and postdoctoral work at the University of Oklahoma, where he also taught as a visiting lecturer. He has been on the Washington State University faculty for 32 years and for the past 18 years has focused on innovative pedagogy research and technical research in biotechnology. His 2007-2008 Fulbright exchange to Nigeria set the stage for him to receive the Marian Smith Award, given annually to the most innovative teacher at Washington State University.

visit author page

author page

Franco Louis Spadoni Washington State University

author page

Angelo Laury Ivory

Download Paper |


MAKER: Very Low Cost Experiments via 3-D Printing and Vacuum FormingWe demonstrate a new approach to build very inexpensive fluid and thermal experiments forstudent use. The approach showcased here is based on design for manufacture, leveraging newmanufacturing tools such as 3-D printers and vacuum forming machines to produce an array ofsimple, inexpensive, easy to use experimental hardware. This poster will present severalexamples of experimental devices designed in this way to be very simple in concept and design,to take advantage of the specific strengths of new manufacturing routes, and to be built frominexpensive materials and components.The experimental devices to be demonstrated here have been fabricated using a four stepapproach. First, commercial CAD software is used to define the geometry of an experiment.Second, a rapid prototyping machine is used to 3-D print a plastic mold of the design. Third, avacuum former is used to form thin plastic sheets around the 3-printed mold. Finally, thevacuum formed sheets are assembled together to produce multiple copies of the experiment. Theresult is an approach that allows the development of experiments that are robust and inexpensiveenough to distribute individual copies to small groups of students with the cost to each student inthe class comparable to the price of a textbook.This poster will present two sets of experimental hardware developed: (1) a set of VenturiNozzle experiments conceived to exercise students’ understanding of the Bernoulli equation and(2) a set of Pipe Flow experiments designed to help students master principles of head loss. TheVenturi nozzle and pipe flow hardware design were developed using SolidWorks CAD software.Once optimized the SolidWorks models were exported to a Stratasys 3-D printer, and theresulting 3-D printed solids were used as molds to vacuum form 0.20” thick sheets of transparentPETG. Each nozzle or pipe was assembled by gluing two mirror-image halves together. Watermanometers, fabricated as an integral part of the hardware were used to indicate differentialpressures. Air flow and water flow through the devices was provided by inexpensive batterypowered pumps. Fully functional vacuum-formed plastic Venturi nozzle and pipe flowexperiments will be available at the poster for audience members to experiment with forthemselves.Fabrication Route: (1) CAD Drawing, (2) 3-D Printed Mold, (3) Vacuum-Formed Venturi

Richards, R. F., & Meng, F. S., & Van Wie, B. J., & Spadoni, F. L., & Ivory, A. L. (2015, June), MAKER: Very Low-cost Experiments via 3-D Printing and Vacuum Forming Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24458

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015