Aug 31, 2017 | By Benedict

Tech lover Abhishek Singh has 3D printed a Polaroid camera that “prints out” GIFs. The amazing Raspberry Pi-powered “Instagif NextStep” ejects a small cartridge, equipped with a screen and another Pi, that can play a recorded GIF on loop for around 20 minutes.

Merging the past and the future is arguably one of the key cultural values of the current decade. Brands are constantly turning to “retro” advertisements to appeal to consumers, Nintendo sent gamers wild last year with its nostalgia-feeding NES Classic Edition, while the world’s most popular image-sharing app, Instagram, found popularity by allowing users to apply hazy vintage “filters” to their snaps, making images look like film photos from decades past.

Maker Abhishek Singh has just taken the Instagram concept a step further, building a physical 3D printed Polaroid camera that “prints out” GIFs! The amazing Raspberry Pi-powered machine contains a camera for snapping events in front of you, and ejects a small video-playing cartridge—the “photograph”—which loops your recorded GIF for around 20 minutes.

“Don't ask me why I built it, it sounded like a fun challenge and I always wanted to hold a moving photo,” Singh says. “If it wasn't obvious, I was inspired by the Polaroid OneStep.”

By combining Polaroids and GIFs, the 3D printed camera is somehow both very 70s and very 2010s. And the attention to detail is fantastic: the GIFs even fade in from black the way real Polaroid pictures do.

Of course, it’s not entirely practical: because the “printed” cartridge is full of electronics, it won’t last as long as a real polaroid. In fact, you’ll get 20 minutes of playback until you need to recharge the GIF by sticking it back into the camera, which itself lasts around seven hours on one full charge.

Not that this obstacle would stop anyone attempting to make this thing. And attempt they can, because Singh has shared a detailed tutorial for any makers who want to 3D print and assemble their own GIF-printing Polaroid. There might even be further improvements to come, with Singh hinting that he would like to incorporate an instant online sharing feature into the camera to make the GIFs a little less isolated.

When mocking up his Polaroid lookalike, Singh used Autodesk Fusion 360, and printed most of the parts on a 3D Systems Projet 7000 3D printer at Laguardia Studio NYC. For the camera’s moving parts, the maker used PLA and an Ultimaker 2+, keeping tolerances at 0.1 mm.

“3D printing is truly amazing and empowering,” Singh says.

Clearly, there’s much more to the project than printing bits of plastic, with the GIF-printing camera also requiring a PiTFT Screen, a couple of Raspberry Pis, a PowerBoost 1000C charger, and various other bits and bobs. But this merging of printing, coding, and electronics is, in Singh’s eyes, all part of the fun.

“What I love about these kinds of projects is that they involve a bunch of different skill sets and disciplines,” Singh says. “Hardware, software, 3D modeling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design, fabrication etc. that need to be integrated for it to work seamlessly.”

“Ironically,” Singh adds, “this is also what I hate about these kinds of projects.”

If Singh’s name sounds familiar, well, you might know him as the guy who made (and played) an augmented reality version of Super Mario Bros in New York’s Central Park. Keep the projects coming, Abhishek.



Posted in Fun with 3D Printing



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