Oct 11, 2015 | By Alec

For a while now, it has been quite clear that even the world of photography can benefit from 3D printing, especially for the production of low cost accessories to make the hobby more affordable. Few of those DIY camera accessories were more impressive than Adafruit’s 3D printed camera slider, but the Ruiz Brothers are now back for more with complex and remarkable upgraded version of that camera slider, this time featuring a lot of motors and even Bluetooth control.

As the brothers explained, they were very happy with the original 3D printed DIY camera slider, being perfect for adding a completely new dimension to your photography hobby without breaking the bank. However, being the engineering geniuses that they are, the Ruiz brothers just couldn’t help adding a motorized smart dimension. ‘It's now motorized using a single NEMA-17 stepper driven by the Adafruit Motor Shield ontop of an Ardunio Uno,’ they explain. ‘The Adafruit Bluefruit SPI Friend allows us to remotely control the movement of the camera slider using the Adafruit Bluefruit LE Connect app on a mobile gadget like an Android or iOS device!’

And as we’ve begun expecting from them, Adafruit has also shared the designs along with a comprehensive tutorial to enable others to recreate this cool slider at home. The slider itself is very useful and relatively simple. Consisting of a 500 mm long support slide rail and a platform for mounting a camera (using a handful of 3D printed parts), it is now expanded upon with a stepper motor and a complex Arduino build to motorize it. If you’re interested, you’ll need an Arduino Uno and Motor Shield V2, A Bluefruit LE SPI Friend, a NEMA 17 stepper motor, a rail and pulley, a timing belt and a battery holder for 8 AA batteries. Finally, a tripod for either a phone or a GoPro camera completes the build.

But before you begin: this is one of the more complex projects shared by Adafruit we’ve seen, and especially the circuit diagram and assembly steps are quite complex, as there are a lot of electronic parts involved. So know what to expect before beginning. Really the only easy step is 3D printing, and requires six STL files that can be downloaded from the project page over at Adafruit here. All can be 3D printed in either PLA or ABS, and can be completed on just about any machine with a minimum print bed of 100 x 100 mm (which is just about every one). All are oriented in the center and positioned to 3D print ‘as is’.

Things get complex pretty quickly afterwards, and quite a lot of wiring will be for the NEMA 17 stepper and Adafruit Motor Shield V2 setup, as well as for the 12V battery jack. You will also need the latest version of Arduino IDE to control the motorshield sketch. To ensure success, keeping the Adafruit tutorial close by is advised. ‘If you're totally new to Arduino take a little time to go through some introductory tutorials like how to make a LED blink.  This will help you understand how to use the IDE, load a sketch, and upload code,’ the brothers advise.

For the sketch, you will need these libraries: Adafruit Motor Shield V2 Library and Adafruit Adafruit BluefruitLE nRF51. To load the sketch, connect the Arduino to your PC and upload the necessary items. Once successful, the Motor Shield and Bluefruit model can be installed, which also requires some complex wiring. ‘The wiring may require a bit of finesse. I'm left handed and found myself in some tight spots where I had to solder the wires in a certain order. Ensure there isn't any cold solder joints and that the wires are properly soldered to the header pins,’ the brothers say.

Once successful, you can move on to assembly. Here too, a lot of different steps are involved for assembling and installing the camera mount, tripod screw, railing platform, support rail, stepper motor and Arduino Uno, so simply follow the brothers’ steps and you should be fine. Once complete, you can launch bluefruit and start using the camera slider through the Adafruit Bluefruit LE Connect App.

While the project is thus a complex one, the result is fantastic and an excellent addition to any photographer’s arsenal. The slider can cope with about three to four pounds of weight, so a smartphone or GoPro would be ideal, but other (small) cameras can definitely be mounted too. ‘I recommend avoiding wide shots and landscapes. Only because it start's looking like nothing is even moving. Since the length of the rail is short, you dont get much sliding distance. So try getting elements in the foreground to get the illusion of sliding a bigger distance. You can get pretty low to the ground or set it on a table. Get creative and prop it up at an angle,’ the brothers advise, but it would simply be best to experiment a lot with this 3D printed slider to get the most out of it. Check it out in use below.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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