I’m not a 3D printing expert. It’s something that I do on my spare time, and as someone who loves to build things, it’s been really valuable in creating prototypes. This post serves as documentation on my experience working on a 3D printed camera grip for my Voigtlander Bessa R. I’m fully aware that there’s an official grip for the Bessa available for purchase, but where’s the fun in that?
Calipers – It would be very difficult to 3D print a grip for an existing camera if I didn’t have a way of measuring where things should go.
Tinkercad – Simple, browser-based 3D modeling software, I love Tinkercad. There’s definitely more free and feature-rich programs out there, but if you’re a beginner or just looking to whip up a quick model to 3D print, I highly recommend Tinkercad.
Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer – This gets the job done if you’re looking for a 3D printer that won’t take up too much space. It can use PLA or ABS, I’ve only been using PLA for my prints so far.
1/4″ Mounting Screw – This was needed to attach the grip to the base plate of my camera using the tripod screw mount.
Phase 1: Measure all the things.
When creating an attachment for an existing object it’s important to get measurements as exact as possible. In general, 3D printing takes hours. I can tell you from experience that it’s quite heartbreaking to finish a print only to find out that it’s not the fit you expected or that you’ve covered up something you need access to on the original object. It’s a lot of time (and plastic) wasted.
In my case, I needed to make sure that i still had access to the film rewind button on the base plate of the camera, and make sure there was nothing obstructing the film door on the back. Covering the battery compartment was okay considering the batteries on this camera last (what feels like) forever.
Phase 2: 3D Modelling
Tinkercad offers primitive shapes as well as a “hole” feature that allows the user to sculpt out parts of existing shapes. Making complex models takes some time and patience, but the Tinkercad interface definitely makes it easier.
Phase 3: Test Prints
Before committing to 3D printing an entire grip, I started with only printing the basic shape of the grip’s base with a hole on where the tripod screw would be. This initial print was relatively quick and allowed me to check whether my measurements were correct. This process resulted in four test prints, each one with corrections and improvements from the previous. The print on the far right of the image above is extremely close to what my final print would look like.
Phase 4: 3D Printed Camera Grip!
Once I was happy with the test prints, the only thing left to do was make the final print. The video above starts with a quick recap of the process then a demo of the final product. Considering it’s made of PLA, I’m not entirely sure how long it’s going to last, but so far it’s been pretty solid.
Others would typically move on to giving the print a smoother finish, but I was quite happy at its current state, the ridges from the print definitely help with the grip so I didn’t see the need to smooth it out for aesthetics.
I’m sure there’s a lot of room for improvement in this process but that’s part of the fun! This build took many hours, but there’s something quite satisfying knowing that *I* made a 3D printed camera grip. Of course, this grip is specific to the Bessa series, but I’m hoping to make one for other cameras in my collection. What should I 3D print next?