I put off getting a 3D printer for the longest time. I didn’t want to get one just for the sake of having a new toy that I’d get bored with, so I held off getting one until I felt I had a genuine need for one. Now, I have five – the most recent of which are the Snapmaker 2.0 A350 and its predecessor, the Snapmaker Original, and I find them absolutely invaluable.
I’ve been using them recently to print a bunch of tools and accessories to help me with my photography and filmmaking. Some of them are workflow and organisation accessories while others are actual tools used to create content. So, here, I’m going to talk about some of the most useful things I’ve printed lately.
The great thing about 3D printers is that they allow you to create pretty much anything you can imagine. Or anything anybody else can imagine through sites like Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory. Many of those things other people imagine, things that you can download are also able to be modified and reshared for the benefit of others. Some of the things in this list are things I’ve found while browsing the various online repositories for objects to be 3D printed, some are modifications of those things and some are things I’ve created myself.
But these are a mix of items that have various functional aspects from storage and organisation to utility and new functionality and ability. We’ll start off simple with a humble filter case.
77mm Lens Filter Case
This filter case is a remix I made of ramso’s Customizable circular filters box specifically for use with 77mm filters. There is a 77mm print-in-place version that comes with ramso’s original download, but I needed one that allowed me to print the top and bottom pieces separately in order to fit onto the 125x125mm bed of the Snapmaker Original.
As you’ve probably figured out from that last sentence, the case is printed in two parts. These then snap together to form the whole case. A lip around the inner circular recess holds the filter off the bottom of the case to prevent it from scratching the glass and the top also sits flush with the ring of the filter preventing it from touching the glass on the other side. If you want to be extra safe, you can also line in the top and bottom insides with adhesive-backed velvet.
While the only filters that most of use these days are Polarizers and Variable NDs, it’s easy to lose those cases for the few filters we do own. And it’s always handy to have one or two spares handy, just in case.
Camera & Gimbal Battery Cases
While they may be relatively small things, battery cases have become one of my most useful 3D printed items over the last couple of years. As well as the obvious benefit of allowing you to keep loose spare batteries organised inside your bags, they also allow you to save time when working on location, too. I’ll often print battery cases and end caps from red and green PETG filament. Once a battery is fully charged it goes into a green case, ready for use. Dead batteries that come out of the camera go into a red case.
This way, when I’m on location and rushing to figure out which batteries are charged, I can immediately see which are ready to go and which need to be charged. When I get home, it also makes it easy to see which batteries need to sit on the charger first, ready for use again the next day. Unlike my Nikon and Panasonic cameras, I usually only carry one set of spare batteries for my Zhiyun Crane 2S, so the colour in this instance is irrelevant.
It would be wonderful if the camera and battery manufacturers offered cases and caps for these batteries in different colours for easy organisation, but they don’t. Fortunately, we have 3D printing and there are a whole host of battery cases and caps available for different battery sizes and models on sites like Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory.
Foam board stand connectors
These ones I discovered by accident while looking for something else, but I’m so glad I stumbled across them. Their use might not be immediately apparent, but these have become invaluable to me when shooting small sets for things like product photography.
They’re essentially a bunch of connectors that allow you to assemble foam board together in various configurations. You can use it like I do with black foam board in order to build little mini studios for shooting products in or you can even use them to hold white foam board to act as reflectors for tabletop product photography.
You can even use them to join together larger pieces of foam board for slightly larger sets. I’ve been live streaming my printer for the last couple of months on YouTube, and I often film my printer printing for regular videos as well. I’ve used these connectors to place foam board behind and to the side of my printer to eliminate the view of the white wall and the boxes that reside behind the printer.
Included in the download are connectors and brackets for use with 3.5mm and 4.2mm foam board. I use 5mm thick foam board, so I scaled the 4.2mm version up to 120% in Cura (the software I use to slice my 3D models for printing) and they fit perfectly with the foam board I have.
Desktop microphone stand (VideoMic NTG version)
One of the big advantages of the Rode VideoMic NTG is that as well as acting as a regular analogue microphone, it will also act as a USB audio device when plugged into your computer or smartphone’s USB port.
I use the VideoMic NTG on-camera when vlogging, but given that it’s difficult to get out right now and I’m doing a lot of Skype and other online calls, I wanted to replace my usual XLR microphone & mixer setup with a simpler USB one. But I needed the microphone to sit on my desk. I found this and printed one out, although the cold shoe on top was a little small for the VideoMic NTG. So, I modified it to make it a little larger and published my remix on Thingiverse.
In the end, I didn’t print the entire stand (it needed to fit in the gap underneath my monitor) and brought the stand below the build platform in Cura in order to have it only print the top section of it – which was still plenty enough for it to stand steady on my desk. As you can see in the screenshots above, anything dragged below the build plate in Cura does not get sliced nor printed.
KYU-6/Lumiee desktop stands
I have several of Spiffy Gear’s KYU-6 (and Lumiee) LED lights. They’re wonderful little lights for lighting up or throwing some colour on small products. I use them a lot for close up macro and detail photos and b-roll in videos. There is an assortment of on-camera mounts available for KYU-6, but I needed something I could set up on my desk to have the lights mounted vertically, allowing them to create a column of light against the entire height of a small item. So, I designed one.
They work rather well, allowing me to place my lights wherever I need with a large footprint on the base to stop them from tipping over. There’s nothing to assemble, either. Just print, slot your light into the top
In the video below, I used two of these stands along with a bicolour KYU-6 set to tungsten on the left and an RGB KYU-6 set to red on the right while the camera moved vertically up a slider and the print spun around on a small turntable.
These are very handy with the foam board stands higher up on this page with white foam board acting as reflectors to make for some great small product lighting setups. Unfortunately, neither the KYU-6 lights nor this print are able to do anything to clean up dust!
Godox Magnetic Round Filter Holder
This one is for all those Godox V1, the H200R round head for the Godox AD200 and soon-to-be AD100Pro users out there. There is a range of magnetic modifiers available for those lights in the form of the Godox AK-R1 Kit. But that kit is quite a lot of expense if all you need are one or two specific filter holders – especially if you already own sheets of the gels and a 3D printer.
This gel holder prints in two parts, with holes on one side for you to glue small 3x2mm neodymium magnets into. Then you just cut out and sandwich your gel filter between the two halves and you’re good to go.
If you’re regularly swapping out filters on your round head Godox lights, these are fantastic – and extremely cheap to print, using a total of only around 11g of filament for both halves of the filter holder. That means you can print about 90 of them from a $20 roll of filament.
Godox/Yongnuo Speedlight Grid
This is another fantastic money saver. Grids, while not terribly expensive, are still cheaper to make yourself if you own a 3D printer. This particular grid was designed specifically for the Godox TT600 and Godox TT685 speedlights, however, it seems to fit much more.
I would expect that it would also fit on the Godox V850II and V860II (and probably the upcoming V860III) speedlights as well, given that they’re all essentially the same head design, although I haven’t been able to test those myself. I can say that it does fit very well on the Godox TT600, but it also seems to fit pretty snugly onto the Yongnuo YN560III and YN560IV speedlights as well.
Motorised 2-Axis Camera Gimbal
I’m saving the best for last here. I’ve wanted to print this motorised 2-axis camera gimbal by fhuable for a long time, but my other printers weren’t quite large enough. The gimbal doesn’t have an excessively high printer size requirement – you only need a 220x220mm bed – but while my i3 printers do meet that size requirement, they don’t quite heat the bed all the way to the edges. So, those large pieces and gears would curl up off the build platform before they’d finished printing.
With the Snapmaker 2.0 A350, though, with its 320x350mm build platform, printing these large gears and components is a doddle. And if you really want to see how much of a doddle it was, I’ve got countless hours of live streaming of these parts being printed (and redesigned & printed) on my YouTube channel.
Building the thing up is fairly simple and straightforward. Aside from the printed parts, all you really require are a few M3 screws, a couple of Nema 17 stepper motors, an Arduino, CNC Shield and some stepper drivers (I like TMC2208s, but you can use A4988s, too, if you’re only doing timelapse and don’t care about it being a little noisy) to get the basics up and running. For those curious, this is the case I’m using for the Arduino & CNC Shield.
From here, you can add sensors and end stops (so that it knows its rotation and position to be able to make repeatable moves), customisations such as those I made to a couple of parts in Fusion 360, or even swap out parts completely (like trading out the 16-tooth printed spur gears for metal ones).
While this gimbal is already a pretty fantastic tool for both timelapse and filmmaking (especially if you go with silent TMC2208 stepper drivers), there is definitely some wiggle room there for improvement and to be able to tailor it to your exact needs.
If like me, you’re a fan of not just printing and using but also tinkering and modifying, then it might be good to view this particular gimbal as a base from which to develop your own custom motion control solution. That’s what I’ll be doing, and you’ll see this gimbal coming back to DIYP in the future with a new look and definitely some new functionality.
I said it at the start and I’ll say it again now. 3D printers are invaluable tools for me, and I think they can be so for many photographers and filmmakers. I’ve already made enough items with mine that they’ve saved me more money than I would have otherwise spent purchasing the items I’ve created. I’ve also not had to wait for items to be shipped and delivered, as most items can be printed off in just a few hours. Ok, perhaps a few days for larger and more complex items like the gimbal. But when you think about the cost of buying something like a motorised 2-axis gimbal vs making your own… That difference goes a long way towards justifying the cost of the printer itself.
All of the items shown in this post were printed either with the Snapmaker Original or the new Snapmaker 2.0 A350. One benefit of the Snapmakers over other 3D printers on the market is that as well as 3D printing, they also offer CNC milling and laser engraving features. Those are both things I’m definitely looking forward to playing with in the future to see how those can help me produce my own tools to make creating content, or my life in general, a little easier.
Have you added a 3D printer to your kit yet? How do you use it to help you with your photography and video work?
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