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Roll your own Radio Telescope/camera

Take samples from an antenna, mounted to a robot that looks shockingly like a 3D printer, running slightly modified Marlin

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I was watching Cosmos with my kids, explaining IR to them, and it got me thinking if a lens for Radio exists. It does http://www.gizmag.com/radio-lens-mit/25024/ . So I started reverse engineering the lens material. But I realized I have no idea whether it works or not.

So I have to build the detector first (i'm starting with 123mm Wifi because it's every where and managably small), and phase 1 is the KISS pinhole camera, except the pinhole for Wifi is 5 inches in diameter (it's hard to wrap my mind around photons the size of kittens). The camera is an Okazaki printer (without the bed or extruder) in the back of a metal box.

Why do I need this?  Well, you should be able to see through walls, maybe it's pretty, I'll figure out a use after it's done.  The lens may make for a cheap directional boost for long distance communication.

I've already modifed Marlin to have a M57 code, that reports back the voltage level of one of the analog pins connected to the antenna, in hex, back through the serial connection. Next I need to build a program that takes the hex data, and assembles it into a bitmap image. Co-ordinate, take sample, rinse, repeat.

I'm Going to try copper head gasket spray on the ABS lens (instead of sputtering), once the detector has been proved working.  

Phase two detector will look like a radar dish, for faster refresh rate, but those mercury slip rings are expensive.

  • 1 × Sanguinololu to run the steppers, or any reprap board of your choice that has 64k of memory
  • 3 × Nema 17 stepper motors
  • 2 × stepper motor drivers Pololu or stepstick
  • 1 × Antenna should fit your wavelength of choice

  • Huh?

    Alex Dickman02/12/2015 at 05:02 3 comments

    Well, I fixed the firmware, put a resistor to the sanguinololu to trick Marlin into cold moves, hand pasted the data into a blank bmp file, and I've got dots. Wait... what? the image i uploaded is 40 x 20 pixels, and spaced 5mm apart in the backplane of the camera. Am I picking up pulsars?

  • Firmware mishap

    Alex Dickman02/09/2015 at 01:59 1 comment

    Went to fire up the machine, AND I realized it only runs code from the serial prompt, NOT from gcode text. Whoops, may need an easier way to get around the Marlin hotend temp warning/shutdown. I'll fix it asap

  • time to get back on it

    Alex Dickman11/15/2014 at 16:40 0 comments

    I'm mostly done moving, and if I find the box with my tools in it, the version 1 detector should be twitching soon.

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Paul wrote 08/26/2014 at 11:18 point
Looks a lot like a cross section of a Luneberg lens, very nearly had one quite a few years bac but as it transpired it was a radar reflecting lens. Made to focus the waves on it's own surface and reflect them directly back. A Luneberg lens would be way too big a project for 3D printers, at the moment.

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J Groff wrote 07/17/2014 at 16:28 point
So what would be the efficiency of using this as a rectenna at 2.4 GHz to power a small drone in flight? I'll donate a cavity magnetron resonator to try it out if I can find one thats not too encrusted with old Hot Pocket explosions

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Alex Dickman wrote 07/19/2014 at 04:26 point
Hmm, microwave oven + big lens = searchlight / ghetto maser. Why is the "Spies Like Us" theme playing in my head?

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josh wrote 07/10/2014 at 01:42 point
Very neat! Can't wait to see the first "images"!

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