Ok, watching extruded plastic harden is rather like watching paint dry. Yet, somehow it is downright hypnotic.... I also needed to find a way for 20+ students to see what was printing when I gave a demo at a local middle school.

I'm certainly not the first to get the idea of pointing a camera at the head of a 3D printer -- and I will not be the last. Unfortunately, our generally rather impressive MakerGear M2 does not have an obvious place to position a camera. I tried moving an old USB webcam and a Fire-i400 firewire camera around the printer and, honestly, some viewpoints worked pretty well. Unfortunately, the viewpoints that worked well had the camera awkwardly far away from the printer rather than mounted on the printer. The little insight in this Instructable is that with a particular smaller-than-average USB webcam, you can easily print a part to inobtrusively mount the camera so that a close-up view of the head is provided.

 Total cost is about $6 with a build time under 40 minutes... assuming you already have the M2. ;-)

Step 1: Things You'll Need

Mostly you'll need the M2, which is around $1,750 assembled from http://www.makergear.com. Of course, if you don't have an M2 (or similar 3D printer), you also don't need a camera mount for it, do you?

The other parts:
  • One of the USB webcams like the one shown. They come in a variety of colors and are sold mostly from China via eBay for about $6 to $8. The advertising generally claims that they are something like "8.0 Mega USB Web Cam" -- but basically they deliver either a 320x240 or 640x480 video stream that can be scaled in software to be bigger and correspondingly blurrier. The image quality is lousy on the 320x240 version, but the higher resolution one is actually pretty good, and in either case the form factor and lens view angle are excellent for this use.
  • A little piece of 2-sided (carpet) tape or a hot glue gun.

<p>Be warned that camera availability varies over time. The latest copies of the camera I used here seem to have a smaller cylindrical end piece, but you can still use the same size mounting hole by wrapping a little tape around the cylinder to match the thickness. The LED lights have also changed: the 3 LEDs that were not bright enough are now 1 dim LED pointing into a clear plastic part that simulates the 3 protruding parts of the LEDs... hard to believe that saves any money, but it's what they've done.</p>
<p>Excellent!! Thanks for the post, we'll have to try this!</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor at the University of Kentucky. I'm probably best known for things I've done involving Linux ... More »
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