This is the story of my first 3D printing project and how it helped to drastically reduce the overall weight of my 3-axis motion control time-lapse dolly system for easier transport on multi-day backcountry, backpacking trips. Not only did my first 3D printing project shave serious weight (in comparison to aluminum) for hiking, it also fueled additional creativity that drastically increased overall system efficiency and incorporated new features for a better user experience. A majority of everything I designed and modified was originally inspired by the creative products from Dynamic Perception (the Stage One Dolly) and eMotimo (the TB3). Below, you'll find a quick outline of the design modifications and enhancement hacks along with a detailed story of the entire process.
If you're not familiar with time-lapse and motion control camera movements, you might want to check out some of my existing, free to view, online short films such as EYE OF THE BEHOLDER and MOUNTAINS IN MOTION to see what it's all about.
Overview (the moco system features):
72" Carbon Fiber and 3D printed Nylon modular 3-axis motion control system with dolly / pan / tilt capabilities. Ultra lightweight and rigid thanks to the 3D printed design made from Polyamide-12 (nylon). About 50% lighter than it's aluminum big brother, the Dynamic Perception Stage One. My custom "hacked" Stage One design eliminated the frustrating threaded rail inserts with a simple clamp design. I also always struggled to accurately level the Dynamic Perception Stage One dolly on both ends (which results in wonky dolly movement) due to it's lack of built-in levels, so I designed torpedo levels to the end caps and cart-- visible from both sides for easier set-ups in unique angled and vertical positions. I'm getting much better results thanks to the levels.
20:1 worm drive (NEMA 17 stepper motor) for the dolly movement offers constant holding power, removing the need to keep the power-hungry stepper motor on to hold position in angled and vertical moves. This feature reduces power consumption and enhances battery run-time by over 10x!
Modular pan / tilt system with snap-in front panel and 50:1 worm drive. Uses a compact NEMA 17 stepper motor. TINY footprint, ultra-light, almost no backlash. Industry standard, Arca-swiss quick release clamp. Can be paired with the eMotimo tilt bracket. I added a knobbed bolt to the tilt bracket for easy on/off mounting during set-up and breakdown.
Custom designed, laser cut acrylic snap-fit eMotimo TB3 "stand-alone" controller hack offers unique configuration options and helps reduce the high center of gravity that is inherent in the standard eMotimo TB3 (causing potential issues in windy shooting conditions). Custom LiFEPO4 battery system offers superior results in cold weather and high power draw (i.e. real-time video moves) situations over the more commonly used Li-Ion chemistry.
Custom 1" Carbon Fiber tubular sections create the dolly track for easy transport and superior strength / weight reduction in the overall system. Features custom designed 3D printed "connection" inserts with brass thermoplastic insert threads and glass-filled nylon bolts to securely join the segments without any rotational play between sections. Shock-coord design makes initial set-up a breeze and functions the same way a tent pole works.
Lightweight hardware: Some small, supporting hardware was custom designed and 3D printed to cut weight (i.e. bearing rollers). A few metal components are used where necessary (drive shafts, pulley, ball-bearings), but all other bolts are made from glass-filled, high-strength nylon for major weight reduction. 6 nylon 1/4-20 1" bolts weight the same as 1 aluminum equivalent. I also cut weight with a slightly shorter (5mm vs. 9mm) drive belt than what is standard from Dynamic Perception.
Test Footage from this rig can be viewed 3D printed Moco Test Shots on Nimia (UpThink Lab).