Back when our Ender 3 was shiny and new, one of the first projects I designed was a mount to hold my webcam. It was a great success, but it’s slowly been overtaken by events. For various reasons I now have four cameras on my monitor, and with all of them on separate mounts things were getting more than a little messy up there. Last weekend I decided it was time to tidy up a little bit, and of course being a 3D printer enthusiast the obvious solution was to design and print something.
So What Did I Print?
The challenge was to mount four cameras – my original webcam, a much larger face recognition webcam, one of my Ring security cameras and the infrared camera from a head-tracking system I use for flight sims – so they were all securely mounted, as close to the centreline of the monitor as possible, and didn’t interfere with each other’s fields of view. I quickly decided that the big webcam should stay on its existing mount, which works fine and can’t be easily removed from the camera anyway. That left the small webcam and the Ring, both on their own 3D-printed mounts, and the TrackIR camera, which was precariously balanced on top of the big webcam and kept slipping. Those three, I decided, could all be fitted to a single mount. To get all the cameras as close together as possible, that mount would need to fit around the big webcam without getting in its way.
I started off with a design similar to my original webcam mount, but as it doesn’t need to have a speaker clamped to the top anymore I could simplify it quite a bit. I also redesigned the actual bracket that holds the camera. For my first design I used the original mounting screw that came with the camera, with a couple of spacers, but that was too long and a bit fiddly. This time I replaced it with a shorter M3 bolt and a nut, which simplified things and also made it easier to tighten it. I added a channel on top to hold the camera cable, then started thinking about where to put the other two.
My first attempt had a short hollow pillar, just high enough to take the Ring’s mounting screw, that would have placed it beside the big webcam. Then I thought about it a little more and realised that if I turned the pillar into a mast a couple of inches high, and moved it to the other side, I could get the Ring above the webcam and much closer to the centre of the monitor. The mast is hollow, and for most of its height the internal diameter is big enough to take the head of the Ring’s mounting screw. The top 15mm narrows down to accommodate the M6 screw, leaving 5mm sticking out the top to screw the camera onto.
That was two cameras out the way, but what about the IR tracker? This absolutely has to be right in the centre, but that also means it’s right above the big webcam’s clamp. The obvious solution was to mount it on an arm extending out from the mast, so the clamp can fit under it. I could have integrated the arm into the design, but to avoid printing a mass of supports under the arm I opted to print it separately, with a collar at one end that’s a friction fit on the mast.
Making 3D printed parts that fit together isn’t a precise science. No matter how carefully you measure, sometimes things just won’t fit unless you do some experience-based tweaking as you design them. The first arm I printed wouldn’t fit onto the mast; the collar was exactly the right size, but the surface texture of both parts caused too much friction. Making the inside of the collar 0.2mm larger for the second attempt gave a nice snug push fit.
Talking of a nice snug fit, the IR tracker connects to its mount with a very shallow push-fit joint and a pair of small magnets – and it likes to fall off. I added a stud to the end of the arm that fitted a little more tightly, and then cut a hole in it to hold a short M4 bolt and give the magnet something to hold on to. The final result is much more secure than the factory mount.
So, there it is – a simple 3D printed multi camera mount, but it tidied up the top of my PC, moved all my cameras a little closer to where I wanted them, and holds them more securely than their original mounts did. I find 3D printing fascinating in its own right, but it’s genuinely practical too. I’ve spent years bodging things together out of whatever I had lying around. Now, thanks to my 3D printer, I can do a lot better.