Maker Builds Instant Camera to Print GIFs
Tom Spendlove posted on September 05, 2017 | 1014 views

Abishek Singh takes big ideas and turns them into projects, usually publishing them to his website. Last week he made people take notice after building a camera that printed gif files. I saw the project first on reddit, leading to an incredibly detailed imgur page that detailed Singh’s design process.

Inspired by Polaroid instant cameras from the 1980s, Singh built most of the body using 3D printed components. Autodesk Fusion 360 was used to model the components for the camera, and the build page stresses that much of the design process takes place in the maker’s head before starting the CAD process. He also notes that paper sketches are a valuable tool before moving to parametric modeling.

The major design constraint of the project was size, specifically the size of the gif cartridge. Singh used a Raspberry Pi Zero W controller, a PowerBoost 1000C charger and a PiTFT screen, but all components needed to be trimmed to create the smallest possible gif cartridge. The 3.7 Volt, 400 milliAmp hour battery was used as purchased.

Singh used the Project 7000 SLA printers at Laguardia Studio NYC as his main 3D printing source. Some moving parts were printed using PLA instead. The printing and finishing process was lengthy, involving two rounds of sanding, masking to white details on black pieces, and a black Sharpie marker to perform final touch up operations.

A discussion of the software reveals that a Raspberry Pi 3 is in the camera body and creates a wifi network with the cartridge’s Pi Zero W. When a gif is recorded it is compressed onto the camera’s Pi 3 unit and then transferred over the wifi network to the cartridge’s Pi Zero W. One big requirement that Abishek had for the camera project was the fading in of the gif, to duplicate the time needed for an instant picture to develop in the user’s hands.

The Instagif camera is a very ambitious project that brings together principles of engineering, making, programming, and design. The achievement itself is impressive and I’m equally impressed by the detailed build process notes taken during construction and the excellent documentation and commitment to open source sharing of everything from the programs to the 3D print files to the build list.

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