AMS Spring 2023

DIY Telescope 3D Printed by UK Researchers Will Have You Seeing Stars

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Galileo and Newton would have been impressed. And NASA should take note! Researchers in the UK have created the first highly efficient, 3D printed telescope out of cheap, basic parts that are available to anyone—as are the plans, for anyone who wants to make their own.

DIY telescope with 3D printed components.

DIY telescope with 3D printed components.

The University of Sheffield researchers behind the project must have been pretty psyched when they were able to capture pictures of the moon on their first try. While telescopes are pretty simple tools, this is the first one to be created using 3D printed parts at a cost of £100, which translates to about $163.

Featuring magnification of times 160, and dubbed the Pikon, it is described as being comparable to telescopes that generally cost ten times as much. Physicist Mark Wrigley, one of the creators of the Pikon, says he hopes this new telescope will be a game changer, affording young scientists accessibility to the stars for a very low price, while encouraging interest in the new technology of 3D printing.

pikMade with the simple, classic Newtonian design using a mirror to form an image, the DIY telescope is composed of basic components, with one interesting twist—a camera module, the Pi Infrared camera, taken from a Raspberry Pi computer—a credit card-sized computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation—an organization that was involved with getting computers into schools.

The camera is able to be mounted right in front of the mirror on the end of the telescope’s components, which are 3D printed.  Taking Newton’s idea one step further, the mirror focuses an image directly onto the Pi camera sensor, offering pictures of what the user is able to view. The lens and mirror are cheap parts that can be obtained easily.

“We hope that one day this will be seen on a par with the famous Dobsonian ‘pavement’ telescopes, which allowed hobbyists to see into the night skies for the first time,” said physicist Mark Wrigley, who will be demonstrating the the PiKon at University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind today. “This is all about democratizing technology, making it cheap and readily available to the general public.”

Images of the moon taken with 3D printed telescope.

Images of the moon taken with 3D printed telescope.

While Isaac Newton was not the first to consider making tools to see out into space, he was the first to build a ‘reflective’ telescope with the use of mirrors in 1668 while working on his theory of color.

For everyone inspired by science, space, and out-of-this-world new technology, plans for making and 3D printing your own telescope will be available online soon on Thingiverse for everyone to download, make, and 3D print. Is this something you are interesting in pursuing? Join the conversation in the 3D printed telescope forum thread at 3DPB.

 

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