With technology changing constantly and the invention of new ways to do things, there is no surprise that there are advances to the camera world on a regular basis. One trend that is picking up steam is 3D printing. With the cost of printing and the ability to print anything, there could be a potential for less expensive gear as well as reduced chances of the camera having issues with all its interacting parts since it would be printed as a whole.
Have you ever seen a camera broken all the way down? No doubt you have noticed that it is made up of hundreds of tiny parts. All of those pieces are made to exact measurements and are set to fit in a very precise location. With one piece out of sync, no doubt your frustration level rises to a new high when your camera starts to malfunction. But what if you could print the structure without having to assemble or worry about all those tiny pieces?
NASA aerospace engineer, Jason Budinoff, is planning to do just that. It is expected that by the end of September, he will have completed the first imaging camera ever made from almost exclusively 3D printed parts. His project is being funded by Goddard’s Internal Research and Development (IRAD) program. The fully functional 50mm (2-inch) camera whose outer tube, and optical mounts are printed as a single structure. Thus eliminating all those tiny parts.
Besides printing the camera, another goal of his is to demonstrate how he can use powdered aluminum to produce a 3D printed mirror. This is a challenge since the aluminum is porous, which makes it difficult to polish the surface to a mirror like shine. His plan is to create an unpolished mirror blank, which is then put into a pressure chamber filled with gas. As the pressure increases to 15,000 psi, it will essentially squeeze the mirror and its particles, thus reducing the porous surface. Which then allows it to then be polished.
Upon completion in September, the camera will undergo extensive flight testing to approve its use in space. If it passes, then they will start to use this technology on other instruments. And could make it’s way into commercially produced 3D cameras.
Can you imagine a 3D printed camera one day? It could be on our horizon. To read more about the plans NASA has, click here.