Introduction: Fully 3D Printed Camera Slider (Manual/Automated)

3D printing can create all sorts of custom parts, and this camera slider is no exception. After multiple prototypes and design iterations, I am finally ready to present to you my fully 3D printed camera slider, a cost effective, high performance, and highly modular camera slider made entirely of 3D printed components, with no screws, fixings, rods, bearings, or other parts that need to be purchased. You can customize the length and height as much as you want (as long as it’s reasonable) by printing out extension pieces, and if you’re feeling lazy, pick up some simple components and whip together a control panel and motor for full automation!

I set out to make this a few months ago, when I wanted to get myself a camera slider. Buying one was too expensive, and building one involved shipping times and costs, so I decided to put my printer and filament to good use and create one that didn’t involve any extra expenses. It has worked so well that I feel that many people like me, do-it-yourselfers who don’t enjoy extravagant shipping costs, could benefit from this design.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Step 1: The Design Process

Note: This step is a summary of the design process. If you are not interested, move on to step 2.

The parts for this camera slider were designed slowly and meticulously over the course of several months using Autodesk Fusion 360. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of the earlier models being designed, because I hadn’t planned on submitting this for this contest. You can see some of the newer models being designed in the photos above.

Everything was made using Fusion’s sketch function, then extruded to the right height. Sketching makes precision incredibly easy, allowing for exact dimensions and positions without a lot of trouble. This means that I can make every part of the model count, adding the smallest of details to improve functionality and looks. Here are just some special features of the two core models:

Mount: This was the earliest model, and has taken the most time. The hole for the rod hasn’t been chamfered on purpose, so the elephant’s footing from the print will allow for a tighter fit for the rod. Additionally, there are two holes on the bottom for extension pieces and the control panel (all optional), making it easily customizable. The hole for the geared bearing has been chamfered on the backside (top when printing) to accommodate for any elephants footing on the bearing, making for a smooth, flush join. Two small spacers on the top and bottom separate the bearing from the rest of the mount with a gap so that the motion of the gears aren’t obstructed. All of this has been made into a smooth, elegant package.

Rods: These rectangular rods went through the second most prototypes, starting from two multi-piece circular rods to triangular rods to rectangular rods. I finally settled with a single rectangular rods due to the ease of printing, material efficiency, and strength (triangles are stronger, but this one is plenty strong as well). Then, I spent many more prototypes experimenting with various joints. My goal was to create a flush, low friction join that wouldn’t obstruct the sliding motion of the carriage, while enabling quick changes to replace rods or add extension pieces (customizable!). I went from simple inserts to sliding joints that slid into each other diagonally to inserts that slid together horizontally, and I experimented with various shapes for the inserts, optimized for less play and higher stability. The edges touching the build plate have also been chamfered to prevent elephants footing from obstructing motion, and small bumps have been built into the ends of each rod for a tighter fit in the mount.

Additionally, all the parts that fit the electronics have been designed with repeated measurements and high precision for the best fit.

I hope all the time and effort I’ve put into this is apparent when you print the models, making for a smooth experience. Please enjoy!

Step 2: Printing the Parts (Manual Version Only)

First of all, you will need the following printed parts (Mk_or V_ may vary depending on when you see this):

2 x MountMk5

1 x InrodV9

1 x OutrodV9

1 x carriage OR Carriage_Screw OR Carriage_Screw(WT) (the latter two work for the automated version as well) (WT = wider tolerance for screw)

The carriage has been designed to fit my camera tripod’s adapter piece, so if yours is different, just grab a pair of calipers and redesign it to fit. Simply change the shape on the top surface (by filling up the hole with an extrude tool and creating a new hole with a 0.25mm tolerance on each face).

Also, for the sake of looks, I would also recommend getting the gear bearings (made by emmett, NOT my design, just remixed to fit), which is available in step 5.

Optional add-ons (not for automation) include:

Rodext (rod extension pieces to make the sliding range longer)

Mountext (mount raiser to make the entire assembly higher)

There are also many other files, but those are only needed for the automated version, and I’ll talk about them later.

How you print them doesn’t really matter, as long as there is decent strength and structural accuracy, and make sure that all the parts are printed with the orientations shown above. It is key to get the orientation right. The downloaded stl’s may be rotated, so make sure to fix it before printing.

Note: supports are recommended, but not necessary, for the mount, carriage, and Rodext models. If you are confident in your printer’s bridging abilities (or overhangs in the case of the Rodext), no supports will not interfere with performance.

Step 3: Assembly

For assembly, simply slide the protrusion on the outrod into the corresponding hole in the inrod, then slide the carriage on, and finally, insert each exposed end of the rods into the corresponding holes in the mounts. Everything should fit securely without sliding apart or wobbling, while the carriage should slide smoothly but without any play. If parts aren’t secure, or the carriage isn’t sliding correctly, consider reprinting the parts (3D printing isn’t 100% accurate), and check for blobbing, part orientation, or incorrect steps/mm settings. Elephant’s footing won’t be an issue with the correct print orientation due to the chamfers built into the models.

The Rodext pieces simply slide between the inrod and outrod with the same kind of joint, while the Mountext pieces fit under the mounts, with the protrusions going in the corresponding holes on the mounts’ underside.

Note: Please have the rods oriented as shown, with the visible inserts on the bottom. This orientation utilizes the weight of the camera to keep the rods in line.

Step 4: Manual Version Complete!

Now you have it: your own fully 3D printed camera slider. Simply secure your camera to the tripod adapter (using the screw in the adapter), then slide the adapter into the corresponding mount on the carriage.

Next up I’ll show you how to get the bearings (they look cool, so you might want to check them out, even if you don’t want automation) and other parts to automate this slider! If you’re satisfied with how yours works already, feel free to end here, or skip to the final steps for my parting words!

Step 5: Printing the Parts (Automation)

First of all, you will need the following printed parts (Mk_or V_ may vary depending on when you see this):

1 x PanelMountV2

1 x ControlPanel

1 x Mountext.

1 x Screw1V2

1 x Screw2V2

1 x Screw3V2

2 x FinalBearing

2 x ScrewPin

2 x SMPin

1 x knob – Do not print yet: instructions in next step

1 x dial - Do not print yet: instructions in next step

1 x connector – Do not print yet: instructions in next step (only required for Arduino starter kit users)

1 x Carriage_Screw OR Carriage_Screw(WT) (if not already printed in step 2) (WT = wider tolerance for screw)

Note: the FinalBearing is a remixed version of emmett’s “Gear Bearing” (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:53451) and is licensed under the Creative Commons – Attribution – Share Alike license.

The carriage has been designed to fit my camera tripod’s adapter piece, so if yours is different, just grab a pair of calipers and redesign it to fit. Simply change the shape on the top surface to fit (by filling up the hole with an extrude tool and creating a new hole with a 0.25mm tolerance on each face).

Optional add-ons (for automation) include:

Screwext (screw extension pieces to make the sliding range longer)

How you print them doesn’t really matter, as long as there is decent strength and structural accuracy, and make sure that all the parts are printed with the orientations shown above. It is key to get the orientation right. The downloaded stl’s may be rotated, so make sure to fix it before printing.

For the Screwext., I did something a little different.Because screws have threads that need to match up, you can’t just keep adding the same part over and over again, so I created this 1 meter long screw that you can cut down to length and chop up for printing. They can be connected with ScrewPins no matter where you cut the files.

Note: supports are recommended, but not necessary, for the PanelMount, ControlPanel, and Carriage_Screw models. If you are confident in your printer’s bridging abilities, no supports will not interfere with performance.

Step 6: Printing Knob and Connector

The dial, knob, and connector files require special instructions,so please read this step before printing.

For the dial and knob, load both into your slicer and make sure that the position of the dial lines up with the slit in the knob. This is easy if you simply center both components in separate windows of your slicer, make sure that they are orientated the same way (slit going in same direction as dial), then move the knob 5.366 mm away from the center along the same axis as your dial (see pictures). Then, print the dial in any color of your choice. Once the print is complete, change out the color of the filament and print the knob without removing the dial. If positioned correctly, they should fuse together once complete to give you a knob with a colored dial.

Note: if your printer isn't capable of precisely reproducing the tiny dial, try, reducing the flow to around 50%. If it still comes out as a glob of plastic, cut it down even more. Also, if you have the option of changing to a smaller sized nozzle, I would recommend doing so.

The connector piece is also special. It is required to attach the DC motor with the gear (only applicable for Arduino starter kit users) to the screw shaft. First of all, you will have to instruct your slicer to pause the print at 6.4 mm. When it stops, the print should still be hollow with four rectangular shafts. Then, slide the laser cut part B from the starter kit in, with the shafts going into the corresponding holes. It should sit flush with the edge of the print. After it is placed in, simply resume print. This will encase the wooden part inside the plastic, allowing the part to the connected to the gear on the motor.

Step 7: Assembly of Parts

For this step you will assemble the screws (all three),pins, bearings, and carriage.

To assemble the screws, you will need all three screws as well as the two ScrewPins. Slide one pin halfway into the top of Screw1, and slide Screw2 on top, bottom facing down. Make sure it is orientated so that the screw is seamless. Then do the same with the other end of Screw2 (the top) and Screw 3. You should end up with a long, seamless screw. Then slide the SMPins into the exposed ends of the combined screws, making sure that the wider end sits flush with the surface of the screw.

Then, push each bearing into the corresponding holes in the Mounts. Make sure that any elephants footing is on the outside. They should fit tight, and the gears should rotate smoothly instead of the entire bearing turning. If the gears are tight, try loosening them up with a drill and 6mm bit.

Next, remove one Mount, and slide each end of the combined screws (with SMPins) into the corresponding holes in the bearings. If you need to change out the carriage for the Carriage_Screw, do so now. When complete, slide the Mount back in. Check that the screw rotates properly and moves the carriage. If the fit is tight, a few drops of machine oil may help. If it is still too tight, try printing the Carriage_Screw(WT), available in step 5.

The other printed parts will be assembled later.

Step 8: Circuitry

For this step, I will be showing you how to wire the electronics. For this you will need:

1 x Arduino Uno

1 x breadboard

1 x 10k potentiometer

1 x led

2 x pushbutton

2 x 10Kohm resistors

1 x 220ohm resistor

1 x 9v battery snap

1 x 9v DC motor

1 x H-bridge

1 x 9v battery

Jumper wires

Note: the PanelMount and ControlPanel are made to fit the laser cut stand that comes with the official Arduino starter kit.

For wiring, I find that images are more useful than explanations, so just look at the images and diagrams above. Make sure that the position of each part is correct or it will not fit the ControlPanel. Additionally, make sure that all the wires and resistors are pressed as low as possible, or the ControlPanel will not be able to slide all the way down.

After you are done wiring, download the attached code and compile it to your board. Check that all the parts of your circuit works. The potentiometer should change the speed, while the two buttons should change the direction and on/off state.

Step 9: Electronics + Prints

Next up you need to fit the electronics into the printedparts.

First, place the 9v battery into the hole on the bottom of the PanelMount, with the wires of the battery strap coming out of the right (so they fit in the slit). Then, making sure the wires are clear, place the entire stand (Arduino Uno and breadboard) into the PanelMount, with the USB port on the Uno at the top. Once in, slide on the ControlPanel as shown so that the holes line up with the circuitry. Make sure the DC motor is outside, with the wires coming out the gap in the top section. Finally, fit the knob into the hole in the potentiometer.

Then, slide the wires of the motor through the slits in the raised portion so that the motor can be placed on top.

Next, slide the hex-rod end of the connector piece into the corresponding hole in the SMPin (in the bearing on the main assembly).

Attach the Mountext onto one end of the main assembly, then attach the PanelMount on the other end. From there, slide the shaft of the motor into the connector. Make sure that the motion of the motor is not obstructed, then tape it down to the raised platform with some tape (electric tape works and looks nice). Check that the motor turns the screw.

Step 10: You Are Done!

Congratulations! You have yourself a fully 3D printed camera slider than is either manual or fully automated! I have gotten some amazing videos with this slider (see the quick demo above), and I would love to see what you've done with it! If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Additionally, this system is incredibly modular, so I encourage all of you in the community to come up with your own mods and add-ons. Perhaps you might want to add some auto-homing mechanism so it can run all by itself. Or maybe you want it to be voice controlled. Who knows what you will think of? If you have created something, please show us in the comments!

Comments

author
RodrigoÚ6 (author)2017-01-11

Awesome! do you have any video to show the final result of the slider? (so we can see how smooth it is, and how does it move) =)

author
nerdwarrior (author)RodrigoÚ62017-01-11

I was planning on doing so, but unfortunately I ran out of time (I wanted to submit it with two weeks left). I'll work on it and try to have it added before the contest deadline.

author
nerdwarrior (author)nerdwarrior2017-01-12

I just uploaded the video. I'm really sorry for how short it is, but I hope it helps!

author
RodrigoÚ6 (author)nerdwarrior2017-01-12

Thank you man :)

author
nerdwarrior (author)2017-01-10

I forgot to add, everyone who enjoyed this Instructable, please help vote for me in the 3 contests I've entered in!

author
Swansong (author)2017-01-10

Awesome! Great design :)

author
nerdwarrior (author)Swansong2017-01-10

Thank you so much, Swansong!

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