The Quest for the Perfect Shot and 3D Printing

by Matthew Francis

Adventures of 3D Printing

We have a lot of adventurous employees here at GoEngineer. On a quest to snap a perfect picture during outdoor adventures, I thought it would be helpful to create a flexible tripod for mounting a camera.  With the recent addition of a Stratasys Fortus 250 3D printer in our office, I had the perfect opportunity to create one.

Be Careful Printing Models Created By Others

My project began with a search online looking for examples of models that were already created. I found a SOLIDWORKS model on thingiverse.com of a flexible tripod and thought it would be a good fit. Next, I went ahead and printed the first revision of the flexible tripod straight from the model supplied from the website. I quickly discovered that the tolerance of the “snap” fit was not a snap fit. I also discovered fairly quickly that the way this camera tripod was designed, caused for a lot of wear between the opposing printed pieces. The result was the fit becoming looser and looser as it was used.

After the first revision did not produce the desired result, I start experimenting with different tolerances between the snapping components. I found that tightening the tolerances allowed for a better fit, but created additional stress on the parts which caused them to fail prematurely; as shown in the image above.

For the third revision, I started experimenting with changing the shape of the snapping head to see if it could help with some of the issues I was having. By adding a small nub to the head of the component I tried to eliminate the excessive play issue. This first nub was too small and did not really achieve the results I was looking for. So I went back to the SOLIDWORKS model and enlarged the size of the nub and printed some more test pieces.

This version of the model allowed for a nice secure fit and the larger nubs helped to tighten up the loose fit issue. However, this then limited the amount of flexibility each component had.

Lessons Learned

In the end, I found that this original design was flawed from the beginning and would need a redesign to achieve the result I was looking for. My best advice is that before using someone else’s model for your own design, make sure it going to do what you need it to do. Searching models online is a great way to find ideas but it can also make you think this is the only option when it might not be.

With 3D printing, you don’t have to follow the normal manufacturing processes and can really push the boundaries of what can be created. There are a lot of amazing models out there but make sure they are going to do what you want them to do before using your printing material on a possibly flawed design. In the end, we were still able to get some amazing photos of our adventurous team.

3D Printed Tripod

3D Printing

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