3D Printed Time Lapse Dolly





Introduction: 3D Printed Time Lapse Dolly

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A time lapse dolly adds a very dynamic touch to a normally static form of photography. I have built several dollies over the last few years, my first used a BBQ rotisserie motor and what ever else I could find in my garage. The results were pretty good for being made out of garbage. I have built and learned and I think my latest system is the best yet. Using 123D and 3D printing I was able to create and print several custom parts to produce this dolly. I am trying to raise enough money HERE to sell these systems but I am more than happy to share my build plans and 3D files with everyone. I know not everyone has a 3D printer but there are many printing services online that you could use. I am planning on selling kits ranging from just the plastic parts printed or injection molded, if I can raise enough money, all the way to a complete system as well as combination in between including the electronics and motor.

This new dolly is lighter, stronger, cheaper, faster to set up, more compact, and better looking than my last one.

Here is a promo video I made.


Lets get on with the build!

Step 1: Parts Needed

Lets start with the 3D printed parts. You can download them HERE or from the 123D gallery but I haven't figured out how to link to the files, I will update this. If you want to  you can buy the Plastic Kit HERE

Here is a link to the printable pieces of the V2 kill switches. http://www.123dapp.com/123D-3D-Model/Slidetracked-Kill-switch-end-caps/598121

You will need:

4x Slidetracked Slider Bracket

2x Slidetracked Belt Grip top

2x Slidetracked Belt Grip bottom

2x Slidetracked Microswitch Mount

Optional 3D parts.

2x Slidetracked Idler

1x Slidetracked Cable Clip x 6

Store bought parts:

14t Pulley that fits the belt and motor you use.

6.5' timing belt, I'm using a 5mmHTD 9mm or 3/8 XL

1x 3"x 1.5" x .188" aluminum channel 6'

3x 1.5" x 3/8" x 2.5"  flat bar

1x 9" x 9.5" x 3/16" aluminum sheet

1x 1-2 rpm motor I used this one http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-RPM-DC-Geared-Torque-Gear-Boxed-Motor-12V-/110821450654?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19cd79239e

1x PWM I used this one http://www.ebay.com/itm/Reversible-12-24V-5A-Motor-Speed-Control-PWM-Controller-/320857798995?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ab49d7953

1x enclosure for the PWM

4x switched DC power jacks

4x DC barrel plugs

1x Normally open momentary switch

2x Long arm lever micro switches

1x 3/8"x 3/4" x 6" UHMW

1/4 20 screws 3/4, 1/2, 1 1/2, nuts, nylocks.

Step 2: The Dolly

We need to layout the plate to mark all the holes.  The first thing you want to do is find the center and distribute the the four Slidetracked Slider Brackets from there. The most important part is to make sure your brackets are straight  there is room to move the brackets tighter and looser to the rail.

Mark the holes for the two Idlers, the placement of these will determine where you mount the Belt Grips on the rail, make sure you leave enough room from the edges of the rail so that the dolly will clear the Belt Grip bottom, be sure to read the rail step before drilling these holes.

Next mark out where you want your motor to go. I chose near the edge next to a Slider Bracket, This keeps the motor out of the way.

Pick where you want to put your camera, don't get too close to the edge.

You will need to mark out and drill the holes for the Microswitch Mounts but wait until the rail is built so that you can line them up with the Belt Grips, this is what they bump into.

Now center punch your markings so that the drill bit won't dance around and the holes go where you want them.

I used 5 different drill bits and a step bit. The holes for the Slider Brackets need a 1/4" hole. The holes for the idlers are threaded 1/4 20 so the drill the holes with a  13/64 bit. The hole for the ball head is 13/32, the hole for the motor shaft is 1/2, and the holes for the Microswitch Mount and to mount the motor is 1/8. After the holes are drilled use a larger drill bit to chamfer the holes a little, just to clean it up a bit and remove burrs.

Cut four 1" lengths of UHMW and push them into the four Slidetracked Slider Brackets. Place the 3/4 1/4 20 screws in the brackets holes and mounts the brackets, put the nuts on but don't tighten them up yet. once all four brackets are on put the dolly on the track and squeeze the brackets snug to the rail, don't make it too tight but make sure there isn't room for the dolly to twist.

Step 3: The Rail

This is the single most expensive piece of the whole system, it is also the most important. You need to use something straight and strong, for this I used something that I think you can get in any decent sized city and easy to find online. I used 3" x 1.5" x .188" aluminum channel.

There are 10 holes to drill in the rail 4 for the timing belt holders and 6 for the tripod risers.

Lets start with the risers.

The risers are needed so that the dolly does not hit the tripod head below. I used 1.5" x .5" flat bar aluminum 2.5" long. I marked the center for the tripod hold and the other two holes for mounting to the rail. Drill and tap the holes with * bit and 1/4 20 tap

Find the center of the bottom of the rail. I offset the riser 2.5" from the edge of the rail. mark the outer two holes from the riser and drill with a 1/4" bit. do the same on the other side and the center of the rail to give you 3 tripod points.

The placement of these is very important. you have to line them up with the idlers underneath the dolly so that the belt is straight. once you figure out the location simply mark the holes and drill them with a * drill bit and cut the threads with a 1/4 20 tap.

Screw all the pieces on and your rail is done.

Step 4: The Electronics

*This part of the dolly is still in development, I will continue to update as things change*

Now it's time to wire your PWM. The basic use of the PWM is very simple connect battery to PWM, connect PWM to motor, easy. We want to complicate things a little. The kill switches are a safety feature, they will stop the unattended dolly at the end of it's run. It is fairly simple to wire up but I find it hard to explain, here we go.

The idea here is to have the micro switch interrupt the positive to the motor. this is done running the positive through  the normally close connection on the switches, when the switch is triggered the power gets cut. I've added a bypass so that you can back the dolly away from the trigger point. this is just a normally open switch that is on a line the goes from the battery to the motor, when pressed the power will by-pass the micro switches.

Laying out the enclosure takes a little time to make everything fit, take your time. Attach the enclosure to the dolly with some two sided foam tape, or you can drill holes if you want.

Step 5: The End

That's all for this build! Thanks for taking a look!



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    Nice build! I must ask though, how did you do your profile picture?

    I have been using this pic for a few years. Just yesterday petapixel.com posted a how to. http://www.petapixel.com/2012/04/09/how-to-create-a-mind-bending-camera-less-mirror-self-portrait/

    Is my understanding correct that you are selling a complete kit for $300 US? If so, does that include everything, including the motors? If not, what else would I need?

    I am not mechanically inclined so building a unit from scratch is probably not feasible.


    The $300 kit does not include the rail, this option is aimed at people outside of North America in order to avoid huge shipping costs. This kit has everything else. None of the kits include the ball head, tripods, or intervalometer.

    The $400 kit includes the rail.

    If you are overseas I can give you the info you need to find a rail locally. A template will be sent to assist in drilling the holes in the rail.

    Check out slidetracked.com for more info.

    Houston, we may have a problem :( Just received my AL channel...Derek, is this going to work? http://www.motleypixel.com/public/posts/al_channel.jpg

    I didn't realize it tapered so thick towards the cross-member. the only dimension I left off is the width which is close to 3 inches. Man, this is a final sell cut too :(

    You should be ok. there is a chance that top hook of the piece may rub, if is too tight you can use a hack saw to trim it. What is the width of the rail 1/2" down the taper? the gap is 7mm that is just over 1/4 inch.

    Derek, you think I'm okay with my chl stock?

    Oh, also, what about my legs, they are 1 3/8th" long, not 1.5", is this okay? Esp. when the rail is at angle?

    1/2" down from the top of the taper is .292" thick. Is this okay? When you say hack saw and trim, you mean the printed foot, not the rail right?

    It would be super cool if you could make a printable template or just sketch out the 9X9.5" plate and then measure out from 2 edges each hole on center :) Would make the process some much faster for those building per your design :)