3D printing in astronomy? Of course! Aleksy Chwedczuk and Jakub Bochiński prove that the telescope does not have to be associated with an expensive, analog tool that is difficult to use. In just three months, two enthusiasts on the example of their own work, showed that everyone can use the possibilities of designing and 3D printing to create their own Telescope Prime.
After eight hours they’ve built the first prototype, with which they took pictures of the moon. After less than three months – they’ve completed the final version of the first parametric telescope in the world with a unique design. As Sygnis New Technologies, we offered our help and equipment, contributing to the creation of a telescope designed in the spirit of DIY for enthusiasts of astronomy all around the world.
Observing the spectrum
Known since the seventeenth century, this space observation tool was usually the passion and privilege of those who could afford to buy expensive, specialized equipment whose handling required knowledge, skills and time. Today, one could pick from a wide range of detectors capable of recording various ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, in terms of the availability of these devices, there are still many obstacles to their popularization.
Two astronomy enthusiasts – a master and student, decided to face the challenge and create an affordable, open-source project of the telescope, the elements of which can be 3D printed.
On the other side of the mirror
Do not let the simple and clean look of the telescope fool you. It contains many interacting elements, each of which complements the project with new possibilities.
As the creators themselves describe: “We wanted to initiate the development of an open-project telescope that could be easily modified and expanded. […] At the same time, it should be a digital telescope – adapted to our 21st century online lifestyle, where the habit of sharing one’s experiences on the Internet is the new norm”.
The telescope model consists of three main parts:
- The main parabolic mirror with a diameter of 20 cm
- Raspberry Pi microcomputer with touch display and camera
- 3D printed parts for fixing both the camera and the mirror
In addition to the above, the creators of the telescope used readily available materials, such as a paper tube (e.g. a shuttering tube used for pouring concrete), screws and wood.
Due to the minimization of costs, the telescope has no lenses. The light is focused in one spot, where it stops on the mirror. The body is made of a boarding tube, to which plywood parts are added. With that two simple changes (among other aspects), they could reduce the cost of tool performance (the average cost ranges from several to tens of thousands zlotys) to a thousand zlotys only.
The project has many advantages, e.g.: a built-in camera that is able to transmit the image in real-time on the touch screen; parametricity of the project – one can reduce and increase the size of the telescope (to do this, simply enter the size of the mirror into the program and it will automatically convert all the dimensions of the telescope). One can also broadcast online from a telescope on a computer, tablet or projector, and take photos of the night sky.
What’s more, we can bring the project to life without anyone’s help. The 3D model is available for everyone on the project’s website. There was no telescope in the world with such design, which in addition would function under the terms of an open license.
Adaptation of 3D printed parts to the telescope model
The models of elements for the telescope were perfectly prepared for printing, so they did not require any later corrections. We’ve been printing them from Orbi-Tech PLA material on FlashForge Guider II printers. We made 17 parts whose print took a total of 156 hours.
The light from the Cygnus Constellation
The creators had to take into account the realities of the 21st century, modern issues of the popularization of astronomy, also among the youngest amateurs of the starry sky, as well as the availability of materials for the construction of the telescope. Telescope Prime is an innovative idea that reflects the needs and possibilities of an astronomer enthusiast of the second decade of the 21st century. We were happy to work on this project, as well as on the projects of other people who are not afraid to aim high and be far-sighted (Ancient Greek: tēle-skópos).
Article: Marek Kamiński, head of social media