Having access to a nice shop has it's obvious advantages. I was looking at some images of the Milky Way and decided to make a back-lit ceiling for the DarkSky Mobile Lab. Unfortunately, it was more problematic to mount a big back-lit ceiling without sacrificing inside height. So I went back to the drawing board and designed a smaller back-lit frame - I like the outcome, but I need to work on diffusing the light better...
It all started like this: I took a Milky Way map image and created paths using VCarve and
cut out the hole pattern on a sheet of 4 mil PVC. If you look closely, you can see there are a number of holes that don't readily show up in the image - I think in all there were over 1000 holes cut by our ShopBot. The point was to approximate the Milky Way by hitting all the major identifiers - I probably could have gone with a higher resolution, but that would have taken several hours to cut... since this was a proof of concept, I just went with the resolution you see here. The sheet size is 52"x108" the actual pattern size is in the neighborhood of 48"x80".
The result was rather nice - but a bit too unwieldy to mount in a trailer that bounces down the road...
So I made a smaller version (24"x48"). The smaller version came out really nice.
Here's the 24x48" version at my workbench.
Need to work out better light diffusion - the LED strip in this frame is RGB so any primary color, or any combination of the 3.
Depending on the angle you can see the LED's directly through the holes at the edge.
It really doesn't matter for a first attempt - I now know I can build these better and have a lot of ideas. I've considered making Seasonal Star Charts in this format. That's on the table now, but it'll all have to wait until we get back from NEAF 2018!