May 28, 2015 | By Simon

Although we’ve seen how 3D printing has helped consumers create their own replacement parts and custom features for existing products, the material constraints of 3D printing combined with access to a source part file - which is more often than not, not available - have limited the potential for consumers to create a large majority of their own products.  

However, while there are still some consumer product categories that are still catching up, one area where we’ve seen 3D printing being used to create custom products is in the field of photography - and more specifically, for creating camera accessories or lens modifications.   

More recently, ALPA, a Zurich-based high-end camera manufacturer who allows customers to combine different digital or analog backs with a range of different lenses to create their own personalized and custom camera system, has turned to 3D printing to create their own lens shades. 

Lens shades, which are circular plastic ‘hoods’ that cover the area surrounding the edge of a lens, are becoming more popular as more consumers turn to prosumer and even professional DSLR cameras while new camera designs featuring more megapixels are more prone to lens flares, which lens hoods help shield.  

While it may seem that a single lens hood could do the trick for multiple camera and lens styles, the multiple arrangements of various camera systems - combined with both the sensor and lens types - have made it difficult to create a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, which is where the custom and low-cost fabrication capabilities of 3D printing comes in.  

Due to all of the possibilities for their possible camera systems, ALPA previously hasn’t been able to manufacture small quantities of lens hoods because it simply just wasn’t economical.  To work around this, customers had to use adjustable lens shade models that were more difficult time consuming to use than standalone lens hoods.  Now, with their recent adoption of 3D printing, the company is able to create customized lens shades that fit individual customer use cases - regardless of the camera or lens being used.   

To create the shades, ALPA has teamed up with a production partner Rodenstock, to compute an optical system’s exact path of light for individual sensor sizes on a case-by-case basis.  Once these details are measured, a history-based CAD model is updated to reflect any updated model changes and a custom lens shade is manufactured for the customer out of TPU using an SLS 3D printer through Additively's 3D print services.  The decision to use TPU allows for the final shades to be both light and shock-resistant … important factors for anybody who has carried around a bag full of camera gear for a day.  

Although this example of using additive manufacturing to create a customized part for an existing product might involve a more advanced process than what most consumers would likely use for creating their own parts, it goes to show just how far we’ve come with localized manufacturing and how much easier it is to get custom parts made not only quickly and reliably - but also at a price that’s usually much cheaper than what name brand parts go for.  


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive