Making Tactile Models with a 3D Printer
The Subaru Telescope


The Subaru Telescope is a Japanese (NAOJ) optical-infrared telescope constructed near the summit of Maunakea, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. It has a primary mirror diameter of 8.2 meters (27 feet), making it one of the largest monolithic mirrors in the world. The Subaru Telescope started observations in 1999. With its wide field of view and outstanding performance, this telescope has successfully discovered the most distant galaxies and captured extrasolar planets close to bright stars.

The photos of the Subaru Telescope tactile models: the detailed version (left) and the simplified version (right)
Fig. 1 The Subaru Telescope tactile models: the detailed version (left) and the simplified version (right)

The rough dimensions of the models are: 27-cm width × 17-cm depth × 25-cm height (11-inch width × 7-inch depth × 10-inch height), and the diameter of the primary mirror is 7.4 cm (2.9 inches). Since the effective aperture (diameter) of the Subaru Telescope’s primary mirror is 8.2 meters (27 feet), these models are approximately 110th scale.
Based on advice from a science teacher at a special needs education school for the visually impaired, we developed two models: the detailed version (left) and the simplified version (right). The detailed version is for sighted people and visually impaired people who have good haptic observing skills, and the simplified version is for students at special needs education schools for the visually impaired who are learning how to touch samples and tactile models in science classes. The dimensions of the two versions are the same.

A student is touching the Subaru Telescope model.
The models in Fig. 1 used ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) thermoplastic as the printing material. All parts are designed in easily printable sizes, and at the same time, the primary mirror is large enough to touch with your fingers. (The primary mirror is the largest mirror of the telescope, which first reflects the light from celestial bodies.)

The primary mirror is made from a vinyl-chloride transparency half-sphere. It has a different texture from the other parts, making it easy to identify this part.


Members of the Subaru Telescope Model Project

Kumiko Usuda-Sato (Public Relations Center, NAOJ), Hirotaka Nakayama (4D2U Project, NAOJ), Hideaki Fujiwara (Subaru Telescope, NAOJ), and Tomonori Usuda (TMT Project Office, NAOJ)

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