A Universal Afocal Adapter

A couple weeks ago at the volcano I let quite a few folks take imagery of the lava using the afocal technique, simply holding the phone up to the eyepiece. This works rather well as the phone uses a lens much like the human eye, about the same aperture.

Shooting afocal with an iPhone and the TV-76mm 'scope
Shooting afocal with an iPhone and the TV-76mm ‘scope

The only real issue is holding a phone in just the right spot. Folks wanted video, but holding the phone steady is a real challenge. I had thought of making something to do this many times, last weekend I did it.

A session of playing around in 3D CAD resulting in a couple bits of clever plastic printed with the 3D printer… Done.

There are commercial solutions for this available, quite a few actually. But most of these are intended to adapt to a single phone, using some sort of clamping arrangement that you have to setup for a particular phone. I envisioned something that was more universal, quickly adapting to any phone.

The method I chose was a sliding magnetic platform that holds the phone. Just a simple shelf actually, set the phone on it and slide until you get it lined up. The base piece is printed with a recess into which a steel plate is set. The slider has three 8mm x 2mm neodymium magnets to securely grab the steel plate.

It took a bit of work to cut and file the steel plate to neatly fit the base, a bit of inlay work. Otherwise making the piece is quite easy. The only design issue is that this adapter is setup to fit a single eyepiece, a Televue Panoptic 27mm, and cannot be easily adapted to others.

The 3D CAD files are linked below. I have included the SCAD source file to allow tinkering with the design, possibly adapting to a different eyepiece. Both parts should be printed with support on, the pockets for the glued bits will have to be cleaned out, the resulting rough surfaces just right to recieve epoxy.

Afocal adapter 3D CAD files

At the Keanakakoʻi Overlook I was able to test the adapter with a variety of different phones, both iPhone and Android, graciously lent to me for my experimentation. OK, the owners may have wanted a few lava photos. There was no difficulty using the adapter other than a moment or two needed to line up the camera with the exit pupil of the eyepiece. The result was more than a few smiles.

Industrial Design

Continuing in my 3D printing bender I have been finishing up a few projects that have been on hold due to missing bits. A few other prints have been done to improve the printer itself. While along the way there have been a couple things designed and printed just for fun.

Minimalist 3D Printed Lamp

I needed a lamp to keep the 3D printer bed illuminated without leaving all of the garage lights on. This light would allowed me to keep an eye on long prints using one of the little Wyze security cameras.

A bright LED supplied by the 24V power supply of the printer would be just the thing.

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A 3D Printed Finder ‘Scope

I wanted a smaller, lighter finder ‘scope for the Astrola, and I wanted right angle to stop straining my neck!

3D model of the 40mm finder ready for printing
3D model of the 40mm finder designed in OpenSCAD

I have been using a big Orion 9x60mm finder on the Astrola, the only telescopic finder ‘scope I have among the Telrads. It is nice, with a bright image that shows many faint fuzzies. It is also huge, and very heavy, it is also straight through, requiring one to crane your neck around to view through it on the Newtonian ‘scope.

A small, lightweight finder was in order, a perfect project for a newly arrived 3D printer.

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Ender 6 Hot End Cable Clamp

The Creality Ender 6 is an impressive 3D printer, particularly for the price. It does exhibit some obvious design issues however. One of these is the hot end cable clamp, it is just not sized well. This critical cable harness flexes constantly as the hot end moves back and forth.

The Ender 6 hot end cable clamp as supplied
The Ender 6 hot end cable clamp as supplied

The supplied clamp is one of the few 3D printed parts on the Ender 6. As you can see from the photo the clamp is simply not large enough to properly secure the cable loom. This is odd, as it would have been so simple to design and print a properly designed part.

Can you leave the clamp like this? Some hackers do, I have seen several YouTube videos of well used Ender 6’s with the original cable clamp and loose wiring. It does work, I printed my first prints with the clamp like this. However, if left alone it is likely that the wires would be stressed over time leading to premature failure of the cabling and requiring an annoying repair effort.

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Additive Manufacturing

For much of the past couple decades I have worked at employers who had machine shops. I was regularly in those shops making parts for work, or on occasion after hours for myself. All of the little parts I need for the many projects that appear here on Darker View.

Building an Ender 6 3D printer
Building an Ender 6 3D printer

My current employer does not have a machine shop leaving me no way to make parts for telescopes, electronics projects, or even little repairs around the house. Neither do I have space for a machine shop in the house. Fortunately another, more recent solution is inexpensive and quite capable, additive manufacturing.

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