Designer fully 3D prints working 35 mm film camera

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The fully 3D-printed SLO camera designed and printed by Amos Dudley(Credit: Formlabs)

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A few years ago, Léo Marius released designs for a 3D-printable camera that captured pretty decent black and white stills. The camera still needed some proper glass out front though. Digital designer Amos Dudley has taken the idea a step or two further by printing an entire 35 mm-film camera – including the shutter and lens.

3D printing has come a very long way in a short amount of time, producing everything from rocket parts to homes and playable guitars to supercars. But a camera lens? A Form 2 stereolithography 3D printer from Formlabs is capable of printing transparent objects from clear resin which, after some post-processing work, can be made clear enough to function as a prime lens. Kind of.

Rather than group lots of elements together to iron out aberrations and distortions, Dudley decided to keep things simple and print just one 40 mm diameter spherical lens. To reduce layer line artefacts and distortions during printing, lenses were printed at 30 degrees to the build platform, with supports along the edge to keep marks away from the surface while making sure the structure didn't topple over.

The printed optics then need to be polished. Sanding by hand was tested, but visible micro-scratches were detectable and precision control was an issue. Dudley designed and 3D-printed an automatic lens polishing machine but found that it couldn't easily be used for the whole polishing process, so he opted to dip a lens in resin and cure it under UV light. The thin layer of resin served to fill the layers and scratches on the surface of the lens to give the desired smooth surface.

The camera's shutter is based on a design by CJ Wollaston from 1885, which was replicated digitally and then modified to fit the 3D-printed camera. The shutter speed can only be adjusted by the speed of the press of the release buttons to the top of the camera housing. An adjustable aperture opens and closes with the twist of a ring behind the lens mount.

A photographic film cartridge is loaded into the camera through the back door and fed onto takeup spools. A set of printed gears ensures that the film is wound on at the correct speed and an indicator shows when the next frame has been reached. Six complete turns of the indicator signifies a 24-shot roll of film. Very old school compact camera.

As you can see from the sample image above, the SLO camera (Single Lens Objective) camera certainly isn't going to emerge victorious in any "detail is everything" photography contest, but we don't think that really matters. It's the first fully printed working camera, and as such it's a winner in our books.

The print files for Dudley's camera are available for download from Pinshape.

Source: Amos Dudley

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