Introduction: Articulating CMOS Camera Mount

For a senior design project, the team I am part of is participating in robotics competition in which the size of the robot is constrained to less than an 8-inch cube.  Part of our project requires some image processing, so we need to mount a CMOS camera.  We are actually using a CMUcam2 which has a larger control board that the camera mounts to.

Due to the size of the control board we have to have a separate mount for the camera and connect it to the control board via flexible cable. Here is my design inspired by the materials we had and the lack of time to wait for parts.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Required Materials

1 6-inch section of 1/2 inch Sch. 40 PVC pipe (extra length is for clamping)
1 ~6 inch section of aluminum flat bar
2 1/2 inch nylon standoffs (4-40)
1 3/8 inch aluminum standoff
4* #4 flat washer
2 #4 lock washer
1 Helping hand ball joint assembly
1 CMOS camera module
1 #6 nylon screw
1 3/4 inch 4-40 screw
1 1-1/2 inch 4-40 screw

Note: The standoffs and screw lengths may be different, I just used what I had on hand.
*I used 12 flat washers since I needed spacers.

  • Drill
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Small flat screwdriver
  • Hacksaw
  • Measuring Tape/Ruler
  • Step bit
  • #4 and #6 taps with t-handle
  • Hand clamp
  • Knife
  • Flush cutters
  • Pliers
  • Metal brake (or hammer and vice)

Step 2: Forming the Mount

In this step we will cut the aluminum bar (if necessary), mark and drill the mounting hole, bend the bar, and drill the side holes.
  • Measure the width of your camera including any circuit it may be mounted to.
  • Add 2x the thickness of your material and this is the size of the front side of your bracket. Mine was 1.8 inches.
  • Measure how far back the circuit board will extend from the back side of the mount.  
  • Add 1 inch to this measurement as the length of each side.*  I used 1.5 inches per side.
  • Draw these dimensions on your aluminum bar and cut to length where needed.
  • Locate and mark the center of the front/middle section of the mount, and place a hole 1/4 inch and centered from each end. 
Make a careful decision here:
  • If your drill is capable of fitting entirely within the lines that mark your middle section, I would suggest bending first then drilling the camera hole.
  • Drill a hole to a little larger than the size of your camera.  I used a step bit here.
  • Using a metal brake (I did) or a vice and hammer, bend the aluminum to 90 degrees at each bend line to form a square "U" shape.  Be mindful that the drilled area is weaker than the rest of the work piece.
  • Drill the side holes to accept  a 4-40 screw.
* The length of your sides should give you enough room that any wires from the camera won't interfere with the 

Step 3: Creating the Collar

In this step, we will cut the PVC pipe, drill and tap it, and make a set screw.
  • Place the camera through the large hole in the mount from the inside.
  • Measure the length from the mount to the end of the stationary section of the camera (see pic).
  • This measurement is the length of PVC that will need to be cut.
  • Clamp and cut the PVC.
  • Sand the edges of the PVC smooth.
  • Use a knife to scrape away any burrs that remain.
  • Measure and mark a point in the center of the edge of the collar.
  • Use the appropriate bit to drill a hole to be tapped for a #6 screw
  • Tap the hole for a #6 screw.
  • Screw in the #6 nylon screw until the end of the screw is just inside the collar.
  • Leaving the screw in place, mark the screw where it meets the collar.
  • Remove the screw and cut it at the mark using the flush cutters.
  • Hold the cut portion of the screw with pliers and use the saw and knife to cut a flat screwdriver slot into the screw.
  • Tighten the setscrew a few turns into the collar.

Step 4: Mount the Camera

In this step we will attach the camera to the mount.
  • Insert the camera through the center hole.
  • Holding the camera in place, slip the collar on with the set screw on the bottom.
  • Hold the camera and collar flush with the mount and tighten the set screw. (I used a nylon set screw so as not to mar the plastic of the camera.)

Step 5: Attaching the Crossbar and Mounting Arm

In this step we will use the screws, washers, standoffs, and ball joints to make the final attachments for our mount.
  • Hold the long screw in your hand and drop a lock washer then a flat washer onto it.
  • Thread the long screw through one of the side holes.
  • Place at least on flat washer on the screw on the inside of the mount (I used 5 for spacing).
  • Screw on one of the nylon standoffs about 3/4 of the length of the screw. (To allow the screw to move somewhat freely still.)
  • Screw on the metal standoff partially as well.
  • Slide the ball joint onto the standoffs with its set screw pointed away from where the wires come from the camera.
  • Tighten all of the current hardware until there is just enough room to thread on the last nylon standoff. Starting with the first standoff, tighten the hardware snug.  followed by the second and third standoff.
  • Hold the short screw in your hand and drop a lock washer and a flat washer onto it.
  • Insert the tip of the short screw in the empty hole and place at least one flat washer (once again I used five).
  • Tighten the short screw.

Step 6: Attach the Mount.

This mount can be attached to any standoff or rod that fits within the ball joint hardware.

It can also be attached to a surface using the set screw hole.

One final option is to drill and tap the end of the ball joint section so that it can be mounted pointing down for more clearance.