Dec 31, 2015 | By Kira

Millennia ago, before the advent of mechanical gears and LED displays, our ancestors had to slowly and painstakingly track the movement of the sun, carefully aligning gnomon sticks against dial plates in relation to their physical position on Earth, all just to know what time it was. Today, it’s so easy to check my smartphone, I’ll sometimes look at it and then realize a few seconds later that I’ve already forgotten what time I read. Now, combining the ancient time-telling technology of sundials with algorithmic design, a creative and extremely patient maker has created an open source, 3D printed sundial that allows users to digitally read the time.

The 3D printed digital sundial functions without the use of batteries, motors or electronics—all that’s needed are four 3D printed ABS parts, a jam jar, and a few screws, nuts and washers. What’s more, the inventor claims that due to the extremely precise nature of the design, this digital sundial can only be recreated with 3D printing technology, and cannot be mass-produced through injection molding or other traditional manufacturing techniques.

Created by Julldozer of Mojoptix, the French/English tech podcast, the 3D printed digital sundial works just like a traditional sundial by matching up the shadow of a gnomon stick with the Earth’s rotational axis. However in this case, the shape of the gnomon stick itself has been mathematically designed with precisely-placed holes (affectionately referred to as ‘swiss cheese’) so that it can redirect sunlight into the shape of actual numbers, meaning you can read it as easily as you would a smartphone or any other digital clock.

As he explains in a comprehensive YouTube video (included below), Julldozer built the sundial algorithmically using OpenScad to create a matrix for each number shown on the dial. He then combined these number matrixes into an open source 3D printable model, which is available to download on Thingiverse. To create his, he 3D printed the gnomon with 0.1mm layers, and the other elements with 0.15mm layers using its Ultimaker 2. The digital sundial was designed to display the time from 10 am to 4 pm in twenty-minute increments.

Speaking of time, you’ll need a lot of it if you want to 3D print one of these for yourself. According to Julldozer, each digital sundial takes roughly 35 hours to 3D print due to the precisely placed holes and their tiny circumference. “You can only craft it with hobby/prototyping tools, and only very slowly (one every 1.5 days),” he said. “Basically it’s ideal for ‘High-Tech Artisans.’”

If you don’t have the means, or the time, to craft a 3D printed digital sundial yourself, you can also purchase a finished model via Mojoptix’s Etsy for US$77, however due to the high demand and slow turnover, new orders will take about 10 weeks to ship.

You can view Mojoptix’s educative video below about how sundials work, how this 3D printed digital sundial was designed, and to see a cool time-lapse of the sundial working over a full day. Julldozer even provides useful tips for how to modify the sundial if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, since sundials are location-specific devices.

To view some other cool 3D printed time-keepers, check out this similar project for a 3D printed digital sundial, a cheeky 3D printed sundial watch, or our entire list of top 3D printed watches and clocks.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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