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    Home-built sextant
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2014 Jan 6, 10:19 -0800

    In another thread, Sean asked:
    "how long before we see the first "3D printable sextant"?"

    This question was spawned by some humorous speculation about sextants being outlawed which may have brought to mind some recent new stories about homemade 3D printed handguns (not really viable at this time). But this is an element of a broader question: could you build a reasonably accurate sextant at home? Does 3D printing have anything like the required precision at this time? Could we re-purpose some other components to create a really good angle-measuring instrument?

    I'm sure some of you have seen a design, I think originally by Omar Reis, that uses a CD case to provide a simple rotating base element. Adding a couple of mirrors and a home-printed scale, you get a nice little sextant with accuracy around a tenth of a degree if you're careful. Primitive but usable. Can that design be improved upon?

    Could the pivot of a marine sextant be manufactured by any home "shop" techniques, 3D printing or otherwise? How about some digital means of producing scales? Would a vernier sextant be easier to produce than a micrometer sextant?

    And what about a more mechanical sextant (similar to some aviation sextants) using a gearbox and showing a "digital" readout for the angle? Could we produce something small and very accurate? Fundamentally, a sextant is a very simple device: it rotates one mirror with respect to another by a pre-determined, readable angle, with high accuracy and repeatability. Surely with some elements of modern computer-driven manufacturing, there's a way to go beyond the traditional marine sextant design...


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