Some of my parts could take a long time to print. More complex parts could actually take several hours to complete. But I don’t want to be tethered to the printer always watching to see if there’s any problems. I want to be able to leave the printer on while I’m in another room, or even if I have to leave the house for a while. I’ve seen in several WebCams implemented with 3-D printers but the set ups usually look a little bit jury rigged.
On a trip to Akihabara, I found an Elcom WebCam with a 3 megapixel sensor that also does full 720 P HD video capture. But, the feature the really captured my attention was the cameras rotating mounting. I couldn’t use the original mount directly but I could strip out the main camera body and design a new mount for it.
Since I was going to throw away the original mounting I was pretty rough with it. I took a screwdriver and pried the mount out-of-the-way and managed to snap one of the ears off in the process. Luckily the camera and microphone survived the surgery with no problem at all.
My Tantillus RepRap 3-D printer has acrylic side panels. Using the same basic design that is used in the Tantalus fan mounting, I created a mounting for the WebCam. By combining the rotating mount from the original Webcam design and the hanging panel design from my Tantillus Fans, I was able to quickly come up with a hybrid design.
The top of the webcam mount hangs over the front edge of the acrylic panel and snaps in place so I can easily remove the web camera to get it out-of-the-way when I need to load a new part. The design also allows for the camera to be slid left and right along the panel to get the positioning right.
Mechanically I’m very pleased with the results. The remaining challenges are mainly optical and lighting. I need to put a lens in front of the camera because of the short focal distance – I’m actually taking macro photos and videos. Also, I need to put more lighting on the subject.
Once I get good solutions for those two challenges nailed down I’ll be able to take slow-motion videos of the parts being printed, take real-time videos in HD, and also use the camera as a WebCam so that I can check print progress from remote locations.
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