Aug 18, 2017 | By Benedict

Many people across North America will be able to witness a solar eclipse on Monday, and 3D printed pinhole projectors are a cheap, safe way to view the phenomenon without damaging your eyes.

On Monday, August 21, the “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” will block out the sun all the way from Oregon to South Carolina, throwing darkness on a stretch of land 70 miles wide. For many, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment. And for one-in-a-lifetime moments, it’s best to be prepared.

Even though everybody knows not to look directly into the sun, it’s amazing how many people try to break this golden rule during an eclipse. The result? Damaged eyes.

While it is safe to look at an eclipse when the moon covers the sun completely, looking at a partial solar eclipse (most Americans will only see a partial solar eclipse on Monday) with the naked eye can be seriously dangerous. That’s why people across the U.S. are being encouraged to find or make pinhole projectors/cameras for the big event.

NASA has produced a range of free 3D printable pinhole projectors

Pinhole projectors are easy to make, and work by allowing light to pass through a small hole. The shadow that passes through the hole then functions as a “projection” of the eclipse onto your chosen surface. You can even use your hands to make a simple pinhole projector, or watch the light and shadows on the ground underneath tree branches for a similar effect.

Now, when I witnessed a solar eclipse in 1999, I used a bit of paper with a hole punched in it. Being nine years old, I had a great time, but I had no idea how much cooler my projector could have been had I used a 3D printer.

In truth, getting hold of a 3D printer (or even someone who had heard of 3D printers) in 1999 would have been tricky, but this year things are different. The eclipse is coming, and everyone seems to be 3D printing their pinhole devices.

That’s partially thanks to NASA. To get people excited about the eclipse, NASA has produced a selection of 3D printable pinhole projector designs, shaped like either the U.S. or one of its states, giving eclipse-watchers a fun way to project the phenomenon and also providing them with a cute memento of the event. 2D versions are also available for regular printers.

A selection of stately 3D printable pinhole projectors

“Ask a friend to take a picture of your shadow while holding your state’s pinhole projector,” NASA says. “The resulting image will be a once in a lifetime picture of your shadow, the shadow of your selected state and a projected image of the partial eclipse marking your location!”

NASA advises that a 5 mm pinhole held three to four feet above the ground provides the strongest and clearest pinhole projection of a partial eclipse.

But the American space administration isn’t the only one making its own 3D printed pinhole cameras. A quick look browse through the web reveals a multitude of homemade designs, from this 3D printable eclipse viewer to this handy camera/telescope accessory for viewing and capturing the eclipse close up.

Joo Beng Koh's 3D printable telescope accessory

The first of those designs, made by maker Thomas Leathrum, consists of two identical pieces and can be printed with 20% infill and 0.1 mm resolution. Joo Beng Koh's camera/telescope accessory offers no specific settings, but is “designed to fit a William Optics finder base.” It can also “easily be modified for other types.”

A quick look through Thingiverse also reveals a few other 3D printable lens adapters for photographing the eclipse.

Jack Hydrazine's solar eclipse sunglasses are arguably more stylish than a pinhole projector

For those who like NASA’s U.S. state theme but would prefer to support an individual maker, DerpyCyclops has published a guide to making your own state-themed pinhole eclipse viewer.

You could also try 3D printing some other eclipse-related stuff if you feel like getting into the spirit of things. Binarilab’s eclipse pendant will have you looking stylish on the big day, and I particularly like Jack Hydrazine’s Devo-inspired solar eclipse sunglasses, “oversized for complete coverage over the eyes and for those who wear glasses.” (These sunglasses require two layers of mylar or solar filter film used for telescopes, or they won’t protect your eyes from the sun!)

There’s also this cool 3D printed lunar phase clock we wrote about during last year’s supermoon event. Nothing to do with the solar eclipse, but a lovely project nonetheless.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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