When making a webcam mount for your 3D Printer, there are physical limitations for where you can have the camera sitting safely throughout the whole print. A while back, we remixed a really nicely designed bed mount for the Raspi Camera so that it would fit better into the Printed-solid Acrylic Enclosure for the Taz 6. If you want to see the full project, including fitting the camera into the case, setting up LED strips as a lighting system through octoprint, and configuring the Raspberry Pi Camera v2 in OctoPi take a look at the full project write up here. There were some issues we ran into using the Pi Camera so close to the bed, namely the focal point of the lens just was not adequate for the majority of prints we were attempting. This inspired us for a redesign.
3D Printers and Webcams go hand-in-hand really. Losing filament on a failed print is disappointing, let alone when you are completely unaware it failed. It makes sense to have a webcam setup for monitoring your prints. As you likely know, there are tonnes of webcams available, all from different manufacturers with different specifications, and there are at least a few printer control software packages that allow you to use webcams with them. We use OctoPi, and if you'd like to learn more about the setup of that using a Raspberry Pi, check out our tutorial here.
Recently I saw an interesting mod on Thingiverse, where a Maker had decided to use a Flexible Coolant Arm to mount their Pi Zero to their printer. If you haven't seen them before, these flexible coolant arms have become a bit of a staple item on the Maker bench, but not for their ability to spray fluid onto machinery. Back in 2007, there was an Instructable posted on creating your own Third Hand Helper using these coolant pipes and an aluminium plate, and it was a wild success. The pipes are rigid, use a standard thread size to attach to the plate and can have a wide range of 'holders' attached to the other end. Like I said, the idea picked up a lot of steam, with Makers all over the world contributing their own add-ons, hacks and mods. Nowadays, we have companies like Hobby Creek who provide high-quality Third-hand helping tools and the like to makers all around the world based on this very idea!
Back to our Camera mount, we decided to make 3D Printable model, that could attach to the heated bed of the Taz 6 3D Printer, but also included the threaded hole for the Coolant Pipe to screw into. The result? Our 3D Printer having it's very own third (or first) hand. The problem of focal length would be solved by using this option, as the rigid pipe would allow camera placement almost anywhere. Also, it would generally look awesome to include on our printer. I'm going to run you through making your very own Taz 6 Third Hand Helper in this tutorial.
What you'll need
- A flexible coolant arm, this one from Hobby Creek comes with the Alligator Clip pre-installed.
- The Printed Model (download), I used ABS Filament and printed it at 70% Infill (to make sure it was rock-solid)
- A webcam, light, whatever you'd like to attach to your print bed
Go ahead and print your model in the following orientation, I used the Standard Print Profile for ABS IC3D for ours, but any ABS or stronger filament should be adequate (you will need to use supports, but they are easily removed if you do it right).
Once your model is printed, remove the support material from the gap. You're practically finished now. Go ahead and screw your flexible coolant pipe into the underside of the model. It should be a relatively smooth action as the part is designed for the thread on these pipes.
The ridges on the top of the model align to the screws on the bottom of the bed (FYI)
Simply press the part into the front left-hand corner of the bed.
Now you can mount your webcam, flashlight, small plastic figurine etc right on the front of your printer.
We went one step further and decided to grab a Logitech C920 to mount to the front of our Printers, after some disassembly of the existing mounting hardware (there were weights included into the mounting hardware that made it a little too heavy for the setup), we could easily clip it using the alligator clip provided.