3D Printed Digital Camera




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

This is a 3D printed digital camera that you can build yourself. By making your own digital camera, it takes away some of the mystery around how such devices work, and are fabricated. Also, it allows you to fully customize the camera to your liking. You can expand the circuit to have new functionality, or design your own custom case by modifying the 123D Design build files.

While this may not be a high-resolution digital camera, it is nonetheless very rewarding. This camera allows you to not only build a tool, but be creative with it. Being that this iteration of the camera does not have a screen to preview the pictures, it operates a little bit like a traditional film camera in that you don't immediately know what the pictures look like. This adds a bit of surprise and excitement when the pictures are finally transferred to the computer from your SD card and you see what has transpired. In the age of immediate gratification, slowing down the creative process adds a bit of magic and mystery to the whole endeavor. In fact, all of the camera's imperfections and digital glitches give the pictures taken their own unique character. For all of these reasons and more, this camera is a ton of fun to shoot pictures with.


Step 1: Go Get Stuff

You will need:

(x1) Files for 3D Printing (see attached)
(x1) Radioshack JPEG Color Camera Board (Radioshack #276-248)
(x1) Seeed INT106D1P SD shield (Radioshack #276-243)
(x1) Arduino Uno REV 3 (Radioshack #276-148)
(x1) SD card (radioshack #44-188)
(x1) Round PCB Kit (Radioshack #276-004)
(x1) SPST Tactile Switch (Radioshack #275-002)
(x1) Misc. Heat Shrink Tubing (Radioshack #278-1610)
(x1) 9V battery snap (Radioshack #270-324)
(x1) 9V battery (Radioshack #23-853)
(x8) 1/4" x 4-40 bolts

Step 2: 3D Print

The attached zip file has a set of advanced STLs designed to work with high-end printers (Objet Connex in particular), a set of simple STLs that should work better with consumer-level printers, and 123D Design build files so that you can modify the camera yourself.

That said, 3D print the camera body if you have not done so already.

If you don't have a 3D printer, you can use a service like Shapeways, i.Materialise, or Ponoko. I recommend sending them the STLs for the conusmer-level printers to ensure you get the correct print.

Step 3: Assemble

Line up the lid with the body of the camera.

Applying gentle and even force, push the pin into the socket for the camera's hinge until it is flush with the camera body.

Step 4: Insert

Insert the SD card into the socket on the SD shield.

Step 5: Solder

Solder the tactile switch to the center of the copper pads of the 0.63" diameter round PCB.

Solder a red wire to one side of the switch, and a black wire to the other side of the switch. If you are unsure which side is which, you can check with the continuity tester on a multimeter.

Step 6: Assemble Button

Slide the camera's trigger button into place from inside the camera.

Insert the round PCB into the track below the button, such that the top of the tactile switch is directly below the trigger button. They should be touching, but the trigger button should not be applying force on the switch. The switch needs to be able to bounce back after it has been depressed (as we all do).

Step 7: Trim and Solder

Trim the camera module's male header pins in half.

Solder a 6" red wire to power, a 6" black wire to ground, and 6" colored wires of your choice to both RXD, and TXD. In this example, white is connected to RXD and green to TXD.

Step 8: Install

Take the lens cap off of the camera module.

Insert the camera through the lens hole in the camera body.

Using the corner mounting holes, fasten the camera module to the camera body with 1/4" x 4-40 bolts.

Step 9: Program

Program the Arduino with the following code:

Step 10: Arduino

Fasten the arduino to the mounting holes on the inside of the camera lid using 1/4" x 4-40 bolts.

Step 11: Shield

Insert the SD shield into the appropriate Arduino sockets.

Step 12: Plug In

Plug the red wire from the camera module into the 5V socket on the SD shield.

Plug the black wire into the ground socket.

Plug the TXD wire into pin D0.

Plug the RXD wire into pin D1.

Step 13: Solder

Solder a red wire to the backside of the Arduino power jack.

Step 14: Resistance

Trim one of the leads of a 10K resistor in half, and plug it into the ground socket that is on the same side as the digital pins.

Bend the lead over, and solder the opposite lead to the solder pad that is electrically connected to Arduino pin D7.

Step 15: Switch

Plug the black wire from the switch PCB into the socket for Arduino pin D7.

Solder the red wire from the switch to the 5V pin on the SD shield.

Step 16: 9V Clip

Slide a piece of heat shrink tubing onto the red wire connected to the Arduino's power jack.

Solder the red wire from the power jack to the red wire from the 9V battery clip.

Cover this connection with heat shrink tubing and secure it in place with a heat gun.

Plug the black wire from the battery snap into the remaining ground socket on the SD shield.

Step 17: Battery

Plug the battery in, and then slide the battery into place snugly below the switch assembly.

Hold it firmly in place by slide the battery holder plate between the battery and the holder tabs on the top and bottom of the case.

Step 18: Close It Up

Shut the lid and press down on the locking tab to close the case. The camera should now be ready for use.

Step 19: Take Some Pictures

Go take some pictures. You can transfer them from the SD card to your computer when you are done.



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    20 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    the code that is in the directions will not upload to my arduino


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Is it necessary that I solder the pieces together? I am borrowing an Arduino board and have to return it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    The instructions have inconsistencies. One of which includes you saying to solder a wire to one place, and then say to do it with another wire and on that step, the previous wire is missing. It's confusing and I need to finish this soon.


    5 years ago

    This is easy to follow step by step guide. Thank the author for this excellent report. AS.Bhasker Raj Bangalore India


    5 years ago on Introduction

    well done...how much did you cost you the whole project to compare with store prices of a ready camera (short of)


    5 years ago on Introduction



    5 years ago on Introduction

    Now who's going to modify this into a stereoscopic camera first? :D


    5 years ago on Step 19

    i have a name for it: GoAmateur :) some data moshing picts are fun too !


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Amazing man! Congratulations!
    Very well built instructable, excelent step-by-step images and detailed instructions! Gotta build me one some day! ;D Keep up the good work! Congrats again!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    That just seems odd to me. Digitally printing an actual camera. When the digital printer can make all the parts, like the replicator in Star Trek, then we'll really have something. LOL


    5 years ago on Step 19

    the one thing i would find to be really awesome about this project is if there was a way to make this camera have a small index card printer inside of it. That way it becomes an instant digital camera that doesnt cost a crapton of money for the camera and the *ahem* "film".

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Total cost of purchased components? I would like to make my own trail cam (wildlife motion activated)...that would be a fairly easy change by replacing tactile switch with a PIR, PING, or some motion activated input.

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Looks like fun! Great idea. Boy would I like to have one of these! :-)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    The low resolution pictures are by no means amazing, and the camera housing a bit clunky but this is an great instructable that has now set the standard for future digital camera projects! I take delivery of my Rigidbot 3D printer soon and will not waste time with my first 3D printed instructable. Out of interest, what 3D printer did you use?


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Pretty neat! It reminds me of old film cameras, you can't see the picture until you get home ;)


    5 years ago

    Great instructable. In my opinion this is the type of project in the true "maker" spirit. As you noted people used to make their own "pinhole" cameras. This instructable allows someone to make a modern version of one. Thank you for posting.