Introduction: 3d Printed Merlin Style Steadicam: MO-FLO 1.0
In case you're new to the subject, Steadicam is a trademarked name for a company that produces camera stabilization equipment. When you search for DIY steadicam stuff on the internet, you'll find tons of resources. You can also search "steadycam" with a "y" and find more of the same stuff. Some people will cause a fuss about using the word steadicam, but when it really comes down to it, it's like asking for a kleenex when all you really need is a tissue.
Many DIY designs on the internet are based on the simple elements of the Merlin Steadicam. What tends to shock people about the Merlin, is its outrageous price tag. At first glance, you might guess that the unit would retail for a couple hundred bucks at the most. You're actually looking at shelling out close to $800!
Don't get me wrong..... it is a nice piece of equipment, but it's a huge investment. Let's look at the bright side though. With such a high retail price, this fancy gadget has merely inspired a nation of makers to fashion their own rigs out of simple and some not so simple materials. I'll show you some great examples shortly.
The interesting thing that I've learned from reviewing countless testimonials, and youtube vids, is that the steadicam is not a simple, easy to operate, magic, movie making machine. It demands time and patience, not only to balance it correctly, but to use it effectively for your film shots. Right now as I write this, there are many sad and lonely Merlins sitting in their fancy cases, while their frustrated owners try to sell them on ebay for fifty dollars less than retail.
My adventure begins.......
Don't forget to check out example footage captured using the MO-FLO 1.0.
Step 1: Merlin Style Steadicam: What You Might Want to Know
Many examples of DIY steadicams seem to have achieved balance without a great deal of adjustability. This is why I first thought it would be quite easy to build one. Boy, was I wrong. Without some sort of built in adjustability, your chances of effectively fine tuning different cameras on your rig, is greatly diminished. Don't forget....the guy in the video on youtube might have spent weeksfiguring out his balancing act. If you build the same thing, but use a different camera, you may be months behind in the quest to shoot steady shots. It's really that frustrating.
I found the following example of the Silver Flyer on youtube and started building.....
I didn't get very far because I found it difficult to find the right place to mount the handle. I was not having any luck with the small canon camcorder that I intended to use with it. I abandoned the build and soon thereafter I started designing my own parts that would be 3d printed on the UP 3D printer given to our school as part of the instructables sponsorship program.
Here are some other great links for DIY steadicams, some of which I found after my first model was completed. I still have have room for innovation based on some of the great information I have discovered on the subject.
Step 2: Design
After my failed attempt to successfully reproduce the 'Silver Flyer' DIY steadicam for use with my canon vixia camcorders, I watched every instructional video I could find that had to do with making steadicams. I even read through the Merlin Steadicam operation manual.
I really wanted to find out how the Merlin worked, without having to spend the money to examine one up close. Reading the manual was useful, but I found that watching youtube instructional videos about the Merlin were more helpful.
I started with a few rough sketches, and then proceeded to do the bulk of my design work in the 3d modeling format. I've mentioned this before in some of my other projects..... Design and planning is VERY important. There's nothing worse than printing a part for five hours only to find out you made a simple mistake with it. I went through a few different variations of my design, and a spool of plastic, but I learned a lot about 3d printed along the way. I'll give you a little more information about this a little later in this instructable.
Step 3: 3d Printing - Experience and Suggestions
When I started printing the main body or stage of the stabilizer, I ran into a few problems. I'm going to provide you with information and links that will describe all of the possible solutions to the issues I encountered.
The most common issue with 3d printing on UP 3d printers, Repraps, and Maker-bots is what most will refer to as "LIFTAGE".
Having the corners of larger prints lift from the printing bed can happen for a number of reasons.
- if the bed is not heated to the right temperature, parts can begin to cool non-uniformly and slight shrinkage causes the part to lift.
- oil from your hands can interfere with the bond between your plastic and printing surface.
- if you're using a perforated board to print on, it can warp and twist if it is not clamped securely
- the amount of contact your part has with the print bed or raft of print can also impact warping. Try to plan the best orientation for your printed part
Please keep in mind that I have not tested all of these methods. I am merely providing a summary of some of the information I have researched on the internet.
Printing on Glass and Kapton Tape
The advantage of printing on Glass sheets, is that the glass will not warp and twist like perforated sheets do. You do however, need something on top of the glass for the plastic to adhere to. The most common solution seems to be Kapton tape, which is a polyimide film developed by DuPont which can remain stable in a wide range of temperatures. Kapton tap is a little pricey though, and you'll likely have to order it online.
Printing on Heated Sandblasted Glass with no Raft
I just found this video, and I think I might try it next. If you can successfully print without a raft, you'll be saving time and plastic. Not quite sure how well this works for larger parts, which tend to be the prints that lift.
Step 4: Parts and Assembly
- 1/2" aluminam rod
- 1/2" x 1-1/2" bolt
- 7/16" flat washers (for weights)
- 1/4"-20 coupling nuts (for trim rollers) x 2
- 1/4"-20 threaded rod ( 2 lengths of 3")
- 1/4"-20 x 5" machine bolt x 2
- 1/4"-20 x 3/4" machine bolt x 2
- 1/4"-20 x 1-1/2" machine bolt
- standard skateboard bearing
- #6852X traxxas universal joint
- 1/4"-20 nuts x 4
- 1/4" x 1-1/4" rubber washer x 2
- 1/2" nut
- 1/4" camera mounting machine screw
- pl premium (for gluing rods to connectors)
- The first step is to glue the rods into the main body, the middle pivots, and the end weight cap.
- On the top aluminum rod, make sure that the pivot is glued perpendicular to the surface of the main body.
- Once the ends have completely glued you can proceed to the handle assembly.
- The skateboard bearing is attached to the traxxas joint using the printed spacer and washer.
- The long end of the traxxas joint is inserted into the printed handle.
- The undercarriage of the main body is assembled using 1/4" threaded rod and two coupling nuts. The rods without coupling nuts do not have to be threaded but do require smooth travel. Please follow the pictures for accurate assembly.
- The camera plate should slide with a snug fit inside the main body. Some wax on the edges and gear track will allow it to slide more smoothly.
- The gear is installed with a 3/4 long hex screw and nut as shown in the picture.
- The weighted end cap requires one 1/2" bolt of desired length along with some 7/16" flat washers. The washers are held in place with a 1/2" nut.
- The handle assembly can now be installed in the undercarriage with a simple friction fit.
- The pivot ends are attached to the middle pivot connector using the 3/4" bolts along with the 1/4" rubber washers.
- Press fit the two plastic printed tightening knobs with 1/4" nuts and use them to tighten the pivot points.
- A 1/4" bolt can be added to the middle pivot connector in order to add weight for balancing.
- Mount your camera to the mounting plate with a mounting screw and then the fun begins.