A 3D-printed digital camera

What will 3D printing mean for the future of production? The technology is rapidly maturing, and there's huge potential for the manufacturing industry.

Earlier this year at a SXSW panel on the future of 3D printing, the consensus was clear: Despite current limitations, the opportunities that 3D printing offers everyone, from the home hobbyist to entrepreneurs to large corporations, will be enormous and often economically advantageous.

Today, 3D printing is used in many incredible ways. You can 3D print a gun, and NASA wants to 3D print food. Many parts used in unmanned aerial vehicles and about 90 parts used on military F-18s are already 3D printed.

3D Systems -- the world's largest 3D-printing technology company -- has a grant from the US Air Force to help get the service's next jet, the F-35, to 900 3D-printed parts, and NASA is already testing 3D-printed rocket parts.

But what can you 3D print, you ask? How about a digital camera? Instructables is partnering with RadioShack to lay out the instructions and parts to provide just about everything you need.
Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Your own 3D-printed camera

Instructables is working with RadioShack to make how-to projects using standard parts found in their stores. Instructables' Randy Sarafan, who is the lead on the RadioShack projects, builds the projects and writes the Instructables.

Sarafan said that once he found this Radioshack JPEG Color Camera Board, making a 3D-printed camera just seemed like the obvious thing to do.
Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Images about 640x480

Focusing the camera, which shoots images about 640x480, is a bit of a challenge in its current iteration, Sarafan said, because there is no screen. To get the camera focused, you must make small adjustments by twisting the lens, taking a picture, and then loading the picture onto a computer via SD card.

Sarafan said he went through this process about 20 times until he got the focus adjusted properly. Once its fully installed in the case, the focus ring is secured in such a way that it doesn't need to be changed much. It's a fixed focus, 3D-printed camera, and we think this is very cool.

According to Sarafan, using the camera feels a bit like shooting on a traditional film camera, in that you don't immediately know what the pictures look like.
Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Autodesk's 1234D Design

Designed in Autodesk's 123D Design, Sarafan said it took him about 2 or 3 prints on an Objet 3D printer before the pieces all fit together properly.
Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Printed on an Objet 3D printer

The rearview of the Instructables 3D-printed camera, which was made using Autodesk's 123D Design software and printed on an Objet 3D printer.
Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Internal parts from RadioShack

Using the parts from RadioShack, this Instructable is both a fun 3D-printing project, as well as an electronics project.
Updated:
Photo by: James Martin/CNET / Caption by:

Colors from a 3D-printed digital camera

The color translation isn't bad in this image from Sarafan's 3D-printed digital camera.
Updated:
Photo by: Randy Sarafan / Caption by:

Shots from a 3D-printed camera

The Autodesk office is seen here in a shot taken by Sarafan's 3D-printed digital camera.
Updated:
Photo by: Randy Sarafan / Caption by:

Shots from a 3D-printed camera

Even this image of a cluttered workspace shows good detail, definition, and not bad contrast from the 3D-printed digital camera made with electronics available at RadioShack.
Updated:
Photo by: Randy Sarafan / Caption by:

Shots from a 3D-printed camera

I was surprised at how good these images look! Even my last pre-smartphone camera, which I believe was a 1.3MP Motorola flip phone, didn't produce images that look this good.
Updated:
Photo by: Randy Sarafan / Caption by:

San Francisco waterfront

If you’re interested in the step-by-step instructions, check out Sarafan's Instructable for the 3D-printed digital camera here. "In the age of immediate gratification, slowing down the creative process adds a bit of magic and mystery to the whole endeavor," Sarafan said.
Updated:
Photo by: Randy Sarafan / Caption by:
Hot Galleries

Last-minute gift ideas

Under pressure? These will deliver on time

With plenty of top-notch retailers offering digital gifts, you still have time to salvage your gift-giving reputation.

Hot Products