PiKon: 3d Printed Telescope with Raspberry Pi

The Story

In 2014 the University of Sheffield, in collaboration with Mark Wrigley of Alternative Photonics, created a 3d printed telescope. Using the Raspberry Pi camera sensor, they were able to produce impressive pictures of the moon at a relatively reasonable cost.

In 2015 the PiKon was successfully crowd funded on Indiegogo, I had been keen to get my hands one ever since I saw the feature on the news, so I promptly reserved my chosen perk on the crowd funding site. My chosen perk arrived in February 2016, I pressed on with part printing and assembly!

The Telescope

I had chosen the print your own perk, so I received the non-printed parts such as the mirror, the fixings, threaded rod, Raspberry Pi and the PiCam etc. The kit included easy to follow instructions, everything I needed was provided, even the drill bits! Everything was packaged well for delivery and arrived in perfect condition, overall I was very impressed!

Assembly was straight forward, the trickiest part was probably removing the lens from the PiCam (I was being extra careful not to break anything!) but it was pretty straight forward once you broke the seal of the adhesive.

Once everything was assembled I was eager to get outside and give it a whirl, typical British weather delayed things for a while, but got there in the end!

Customisation and the TED-VDU

I made a few mods to some of the parts, I added some grips to the focus knob, a little personalisation to the PiKon spider part, and modded the Raspberry Pi mount to include a HD15 connector for the TED-VDU add-on I've created, all the parts are visible in the gallery below.

The TED-VDU is a custom built all-in-one unit that includes the following:

  • 2.8" Resistive touchscreen TFT display
  • 4x programmable (GPIO) buttons
  • 3x bright LED's
  • Single HD15 cable to connect to the Pi
  • Self contained Lithium-Ion rechargeable 5200mAh four-cell battery
    • The battery powers the Raspberry Pi, the TFT screen and the LED's

The VDU behaves very much like a typical digital camera display. It acts as the camera viewfinder, constantly streaming the camera feed to the display, it also includes additional features such as camera ISO, photo resolution and storage location options (including support for DropBox). The VDU is built using the Cam.py program, as used in the Adafruit DIY WiFi Raspberry Pi Touchscreen Camera project.

There is also a 'Lite' version of the VDU available, it includes the same touchscreen TFT display and user interface but leaves out the programmable buttons and the rechargeable battery. This makes it a smaller, lighter and cheaper alternative for those who already have their own Raspberry Pi battery pack.

Full instructions to make this project are available on Instructables.