An Open Source 3D Printed Sundial That Reads Digital Time

Share this Article

sun1

Do you remember the first time you grasped the concept of a sundial, the idea that we can tell general time from observing the shadow cast by the sun via an object designed for this purpose? It seemed like a pretty magical concept, and it also introduces basic concepts about math and astronomy in an interesting and beneficial way.

sundialIt was Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian astronomy that gave us the first sundials, and since then they have been used as serious objects of mathematical study and as decorative objects because they represent technology of the past that was streamlined over time. Sundials are rather simple instruments at first glance. Using just a few parts, the trick is to get the edge (style) of the part that throws the shadow (gnomon) to be parallel to the Earth’s rotation axis while staying accurate all year long. For the Southern hemisphere, the latitude has to be reversed from the Northern hemisphere’s latitude. Now, add 3D printing to make a digital sundial for the Southern hemisphere and that might get your attention, right?

sun3

That’s right. Julldozer of Mojoptix  set out to 3D print a sundial with the question: “What if we had a sundial that worked more like some sort of enormous digital watch?” And what he means by this is that as the style on the sundial moves, sun is either blocked or it breaks through the design holes (he calls it “swiss cheese”) so that the actual time can be read in the shadow of the sundial.

digital sundialWow. And I thought I had heard it all. It’s kind of like, why stop at approximating the correct time with a sundial when you can straight out just have the exact digital time displayed? Modern enough for you yet?

In a YouTube video (see below) that explains how Julldozer conceptualized and designed the project, he tells us he built the sundial algorhythmically using OpenSCAD. He created a matrix for each number shown on the sundial. Then he combined these number matrixes into an open-source 3D printable model with OpenSCAD script and STL files. The whole project is open source, and you can download everything on Thingiverse (or just buy it from his Etsy shop). All you’ll need are four 3D printed parts (ABS, he notes), as well as a jam jar and a few screws, nuts, and washers.

As Julldozer describes, 3D printing proves to be essential in the project because the elaborate algorhythmically designed holes — the “swiss cheese”– can’t be made any other way like injection molding or another mass production method. This makes sense since the design using sunlight cast through holes to show legible numbers is quite an elaborate undertaking.sun4

We are used to hearing that “3D printing is the only way,” and this is another one of those projects. It’s an incredible example of some unthinkably modern ways to retain technologies of the past. Once you understand where to point the tip of the sundial (North or South?), the rest of the project seems accessible, as Julldozer of Mojoptix has done most of the hard work already for the rest of us.  Let us know your thoughts on this design in the 3D Printed Sundial forum thread on 3DPB.com.

 

Share this Article


Recent News

MELD Introduces Latest Solid-State Metal 3D Printer, the L3

US Navy Seahawk Helicopters to 3D Print Parts for New Comms Gear



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Raytheon Receives Funding for Aerospace 3D Printing of Optical Components

This spring, Ohio-based America Makes, the leading collaborative partner in additive technology research, discovery, and innovation for the US, announced its latest Project Call for AXIOM, or  Additive for eXtreme Improvement...

Featured

Wichita State University & Army 3D Print Parts for Aging Black Hawk Helicopters

A recent collaboration between U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command and Wichita State University will enhance the helicopter fleet for this division of the military. Researchers from the National Institute...

West Point: Bioprinting for Soldiers in the Battlefield

Last summer, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jason Barnhill traveled to an undisclosed desert location in Africa with a ruggedized 3D printer and other basic supplies that could be used to...

Airbus Helicopters Uses KASTO Bandsaw to Remove 3D Printed Metal Parts from Base Plate

3D printing is often used by companies to manufacture parts and components for helicopters, and Airbus Helicopters – part of the larger Airbus Group – is no exception. Just one...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.