May 30, 2015 | By Simon

Although additive manufacturing has proved itself time and time again for being an easy way of getting things made, it’s also important to remind ourselves that for centuries, people managed to produce objects just fine without the need for a 3D printer - or technology at all for that matter.  Among other objects that remind us of more simpler times is the sundial, and thanks to Maker Sebastian Morales, it’s now easy to create a sundial of your own using a 3D printer.  

“The digital sundial speaks to the ancient desire of keeping track of time; a desire probably as old as the concept of time itself - fascination which has lead to very advanced machines,” said Morales on his project’s Instructables page.   

“Nonetheless, for thousands of years, people relied on the sun moving around the earth. Some of the first documented time tracking devices date back to Egyptian times where they would raise obelisks and look at the morphing shadow as the day went by.”

With his fascination in primitive technology and armed with a 3D printer, Morales took on the task of building a simple device that was capable of taking us back to the earliest days of technology to better appreciate the “beauty of time”. Instead of having a shadow linning up with a corresponding mark indicating the hours of the day, his unique sundial has numbers cut into it that allow the light to pass through and tell the time of day.

While he admits that the process of making a sundial is not difficult, there are a couple of steps one must go through in order to ensure that their sundial is accurate.  Morales created the 3D printable sundial design using Autodesk Inventor.  He ended up at his final design by tracing the angles on a sketch, then creating planes that went through the hour lines and the gnomon line.

As for installing the 3D printed sundial, things get a little more complicated - but not by much.  Because sundials are location-specific devices, it’s critical to know where the sundial will be located on the surface of the planet.  Thankfully, with the use of modern day gadgetry, finding this out is as simple as opening up your smartphone’s Google Maps app and locating yourself via the phone’s onboard GPS - just be sure to write these coordinates down!

“Having this information you can now calculate three things, the angle of your gnomon, the angles for each hour and true north,” adds Morales.  

“Sundials are such ancient devices that using modern tech almost feels out of place, nonetheless, if you want to learn more about shadows and the sun, I would really encourage reading about Eratosthenes and how he calculated the circumference of the earth back around the 200BC!”

Using a basic calculator (such as the one that’s on your phone), you can find the angles needed for each hour.  Additionally, you can find True North by visiting the NGDC (National Geophysical Data Center) to orient the sundial correctly.

Once these measurements are taken, all that is needed is to print out and orient the sundial!  For full build instructions and access to the 3D source files, head over to Morales' Instructables page.  



Posted in 3D Printers


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