For the last few years, the type of parts that can be made cheaply at home have been revolutionized by 3D printing. Other computer-controlled techniques such as laser engraving and CNC cutting are also becoming more accessible, but all of them require some sort of external power source to make their mark.
What if instead of getting power from a wall outlet, you could build a machine that engraves wood using the nearly-constantly available power of the sun? After all, if this can be used to start fires, then if properly controlled, couldn’t it also engrave something with a reasonable precision?
Instructables user “rabbitcreek” decided to do just that using a Fresnel lens to focus the sun’s rays. Two stepper-powered sliders move the part into position, and a servo motor is used to operate a shutter to “turn off” the sun.
Control is accomplished by an Adafruit Feather 32u4 Basic Proto board and DC Motor + Stepper FeatherWing. Movement is programmed via a two-dimensional matrix in ones and zeros, or alternatively, its operator can take charge using a joystick.
It’s an interesting concept that currently produces neat pieces of art and certainly worth checking out at this year’s Burning Man. Perhaps after more development, a system like this could morph into something that could be used as a viable alternative to laser engraving!