Innovative Maker Uses 3D Printing and Electronics to Create Polaroid Replica that ‘Prints’ Animated GIFs

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The Instagif NextStep in action

We’ve all got that favorite meme that was turned into a fun 3D printed representation of a mass pop culture phenomenon, from Grumpy Cat and Left Shark to that strange blue and black (white and gold??) dress. It’s even possible to create and convert your own meme into a 3D printable STL file. But while memes are non-moving images, a GIF, which stands for Graphics Interchange Format (learn something new every day!), is animated. Disney Research uses 3D printing to bring animation to life, and we’ve seen programs that can extract frames from 2D animation and stack them into 3D printed sculptures. So while you could still design a still image of your favorite GIF and 3D print it to put on your desk or counter or wherever, it wouldn’t really be the same. But DIY tech tinkerer Abhishek Singh has created a cool invention, called the Instagif NextStep, that lets you print out and hold a moving photograph.

After you’ve spent about ten seconds on Singh’s website, you’ll see that the maker has completed all sorts of cool tech projects, touching on virtual reality, coding, 3D printing, and everything in between. The Instagif is a retooled, Raspberry Pi-powered Polaroid camera that can actually ‘print’ animated GIFs. Singh was looking for a new “fun challenge” after his most recent project, recreating the opening level of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros for the augmented reality HoloLens headset, and was inspired by the Polaroid 600 Instant OneStep camera range.

He wanted to see if there was a way to create a moving photo that he could actually pick up and hold, similar to the way that we children of the 1980s would hold our instant Polaroid pictures once they popped out of the end of the camera…thus, the Instagif was born. Singh used some 3D printed components to build the Instagif, though the device itself doesn’t actually 3D print GIFs.

While the Instagif looks almost exactly like a regular Polaroid instant camera on the outside, the interior holds a small LCD panel that plays short GIFs recorded by the device’s camera unit. Once the video has been captured, the device will actually eject the panel out of the front; to keep things even more authentic, Singh has even added a fade-in delay to the video, so that it mimics the old Polaroid photos.

“What I love about these kinds of projects is that they involve a bunch of different skill sets and disciplines – hardware, software, 3D modeling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design, fabrication etc that need to be integrated for it to work seamlessly. Ironically this is also what I hate about these kinds of projects,” explained Singh in an Imgur blog post about the Instagif project.

According to the post, Singh underestimated how complex and time-consuming the Instagif project would be, and it took him about four weeks to build the device from scratch, using “homebrew components” and 3D printing. He first designed the Instagif in 3D, using Autodesk Fusion 360, and spent a long time figuring out how to make the ejection mechanism and sliding platform.

“The platform was getting badly stuck while sliding on the bottom rails it was placed on causing the servo to burn out.. After some design iterations, I was able to come up with a solution that involved printing additional wheel attachments and gluing it to the existing platform with epoxy,” Singh wrote.

Singh visited the LaGuardia Studio at NYU to print the parts on a 3D Systems ProJet 7000 SLA printer.

“This material is easy to sand and paint, though it can tend to warp in load bearing areas over time,” Singh wrote. “I made sure there weren’t any areas taking on too much weight and moving parts were printed using PLA on an Ultimaker 2+. I kept tolerances at 0.1mm. 3D printing is truly amazing and empowering!”

Raspberry Pi microcomputers and separate battery packs power both the camera and the screen, once he’d finished “abusing” the components so they would all fit inside the cartridge; he ended up soldering everything together as one circuit. However, the camera’s large main battery actually tops up the GIF panel’s 400 mAh pack. The finishing touch was adding the signature Polaroid rainbow stripe, which he made by “printing it on a sticker vinyl paper and then covering it with transparent matte scotch tape so the ink doesn’t chip.”

If you’re feeling retro and want to make your own Instagif NextStep, Singh has posted the code for the unique device to Github, and you can follow his step-by-step assembly instructions and videos on Imgur. Discuss in the 3D Printed Camera forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: International Business Times / Images: Abhishek Singh via Imgur]

 

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