How to motorise a cheap camera slider without a 3D printer

Aug 25, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to motorise a cheap camera slider without a 3D printer

Aug 25, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

YouTube video

This is a video that was posted to YouTube a while ago but doesn’t seem to have seen much traffic. It was posted by the channel Handy Bear (aka, Michel), and unlike most camera slider motorisation conversions these days, there’s not a 3D printer in sight!

The Slider shown in the video is just a cheap one Michel found online. It looks like many inexpensive sliders, and these are often the best candidates for a motor conversion. An Arduino Nano controls the electronics.

Michel has posted complete instructions on how to build your own, along with a bill of materials and some code, at Instructables. It works like many DIY motorised slider solutions and uses similar principles to a 3D printer.

Michel’s solution uses the Arduino Nano with an A4988 stepper driver, to drive a Nema 17 stepper motor. This is 99% of cheap 3D printers. Michel’s slider even has end-stops, just like an axis on a 3D printer. It also uses a GT2 belt for the drive system.

The one thing I would suggest here, especially now they’ve fallen so much in price is to pick up a TMC2208 stepper driver. It’s much quieter than the A4988 and it’ll allow much finer control for those of you who want to shoot timelapse!

That’s about as far as this project’s connection to 3D printers goes. All of the parts used in this are either off the shelf or easy to build yourself from what you have lying around. Literally. Michel used scraps of wood and hot glue to secure his end-stop switch.

The video shows Michel carefully dismantling his slider in order to access its constituent parts to modify them. Various holes are drilled, allowing him to pull wires through it so that the Arduino at one end can communicate with the switch at the other without wires trailing all over the place.

The enclosure for the electronics appears to be an aluminium project box. Michel cuts various holes in it to hold different dials (potentiometers), switches, an LED and the motor spindle. A Sony NP-F style battery slot is (once again) hot glued onto the end of the box.

In Michel’s defence, he did drill a bunch of holes in the metal end of the box so that the hot glue could seep inside and get a good hold. The controller attaches directly to the end of the 3D printer and a GT2 belt is used to move the slider carriage up and down its length.

For those who speak French (or want to rely on YouTube’s auto-generated subtitles), Michel has also posted a tutorial video (in French) going more in-depth into how he modified his slider to make it a bit more automated.

YouTube video

I like the way this is built, and I actually think he’s done better than most people who do have full access to 3D design software and a 3D printer. I suppose if one has an eye for design, the tools and materials don’t really matter.

I do particularly love the Gibson Les Paul style knobs on the potentiometers!

Be sure to check out the full build details on Instructables.

[via PetaPixel / Images Michel (Handy Bear)]

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *