Heliostat schematics

The following content is the beginning of what will become a detailed schematic description of my mini-heliostat system.

Heliostat schematics (demo) in dynamic 3-D

For the moment I have only included this Java 1.0 applet of a 3-D schematic representation of a mini-heliostat array. Frankly, it is mostly eye-candy but it was so easy to set up that I figured I would do it for those people who think my pages aren't "fun" enough. It also happens to be the first time that I've incorporated an applet into one of my pages. Normally I avoid them like the plague, but I couldn't resist this one.

A couple of notes: this applet is supposed to work with any browser that supports Java 1.0, but I've noticed that it crashes my (early) verson of Netscape 3.0 for Linux. Netscape 4.0 works fine, however. If you don't see a picture below or the picture doesn't move when you click and drag the mouse across it, something went wrong - probably you didn't turn on Java before loading this page. Go into Options, turn it on and hit the Reload button while simultaneously pressing the SHIFT key.

3-D schematic view of heliostat array

Oops! It looks like you don't have Java activated.

Too bad, but I can't blame you.

Read on and see if you want to change your mind.


user action applet reaction
dragging (left mouse button pressed) rotating about an axis in the picture
SHIFT key pressed plus vertical dragging zooming
SHIFT key pressed plus horizontal dragging rotating about an axis perpendicular to the picture
CONTROL key pressed plus vertical dragging changing focal length
CONTROL key pressed plus horizontal dragging changing strength of stereo effect
META (or ALT) key pressed plus vertical dragging stripping parts of the graphics
"o" key printing parameter settings to Java console
"s" key (new in version -1.60) toggling between single picture, stereo pictures for diverge fusing and stereo pictures for cross fusing

About the LiveGraphics3D applet

For those who are interested in putting something like this in their pages, the name of the applet is LiveGraphics3D by Martin Krause. It takes Mathematica Graphics3D statements and uses them to call appropriate Java drawing commands. You can find the detailed documentation and compiled byte-code (free for non-commercial use) at http://theorie3.physik.uni-erlangen.de/~mkraus/Live.html.

Explanation of the schematic

The scale in the schematic is millimetres. Very little is shown in the schematic since the more components there are, the longer it takes to draw.

The primary difference between this new version of the mini-heliostat and previous versions is the use of a screw-jack rather than a large semi-circular gear for changing elevation. Although there are few more components in a screw-jack, they are significantly cheaper to manufacture than a large gear. In addition, the mirror is more stable than in the original configuration.

This is the first time that I have used the GearTrain functions that I am building into my Mathematica Heliostat Notebook. Only the azimuth adjustment is indicated so far - I'll be adding the elevation and shared-drive gearing over the next few weeks.

My objective to demonstrate how one can gang six heliostat mirrors (with two axes each) to a drive unit of only two cheap toy motors, one motor for driving an axis and one motor for switching between axes. By sharing a switching drive unit among six mirrors, one can drastically reduce the cost of electronics. The penalty is the need for long gear "twigs" (rods with a gear at each end) and a couple of specially-made plastic cams. However, since these parts can be simply included in the main mold, it is not a greatly increased burden.

The components shown here include:

The components not shown here:


Erik Rossen <rossen@rossen.ch>
OpenPGP key: 2935D0B9
Tel: +41 22 362 45 08
Home URL: http://www.rossen.ch

Copyright © 2000 until the heat-death of the Universe (thanks, Mickey!), by Erik Rossen
Last modified: 2008-10-06T09:02:27+0200