Visualizing heat with Schlieren photography

[Kevin] wanted to check out the air patterns present when his 3D printer is in action. This is useful research; slight differences in temperature can affect the quality of his prints. Instead of something like a thermometer, [Kevin] decided to use Schlieren photography to visualize the air around his 3D printer.

If you’ve ever seen very old-school pictures of supersonic research, you’ve seen Schlieren photography. It’s a way of visualizing the density of transparent objects using only mirrors, lenses, and a point light source. The resulting pictures are usually black and white, although some amazing color pictures exist of bullets traveling through the air next to soap bubbles and candles.

The process of creating a Schlieren photograph is actually pretty easy. [Kevin] pointed a light at a used a 4-inch parabolic mirror placed behind his printer. A knife edge is placed at exactly twice the focal length of the mirror, and after putting a camera behind this knife edge, differences in the density of the air are visible.

From [Kevin]‘s video of his Schlieren setup (available after the break), you can see the air is extremely turbulent around his print. That might have been obvious given the presence of a cooling fan, but it’s still very, very cool to look at.

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