Best Camera for Monitoring Your 3D Printer
If you’re a keen maker, you’ll want your 3D printer to run continuously, even when you are not around to keep an eye on it. Unfortunately, this leaves your print vulnerable to failures due to simple problems like filament clogs.
The best way to monitor the printing process to prevent print failures without having to be in the same room as your 3D printer is by using a camera.
Best Uses for a Camera on your 3D Printer
A failure during printing can be a waste of your time and money in wasted filament.
The loss might be even more substantial when you are using that special exotic, high-quality filament that you invested in.
Many complete print failures can be avoided if spotted soon enough. Tangled filament spools, running out of filament, and prints coming unstuck from the bed are all easily rectified by pausing your print in time to avert disaster.
Aside from monitoring, you can also use a camera for documenting your 3D prints. You can create a really cool time-lapse video to show off your most impressive prints.
If you combine your camera with a controller, like the Raspberry Pi, you can take control of your 3D printer as well as monitor it. So, if you spotted a problem such as a clogged nozzle, you could remotely pause the print to prevent it from failing, and fix it later at a convenient time.
What to Look For in a Camera
There are certain things you need to consider when looking for a camera for your 3D printer, such as the size, resolution, and mounting solutions.
You may value these features differently depending on the application you have in mind.
For example, if you’re only going to use your camera to monitor for failures remotely then, you don’t need to be too concerned with getting a high resolution, whereas if your primary use for a camera will be to post time lapses on YouTube, then an excellent resolution will be essential.
Best Cameras for Monitoring Your 3D Printer
Logitech HD Pro C920
This is what I use! There’s a mass of webcams available, but I went for the C920 because it has fantastic resolution and image quality and it has the most mounting options as it includes a built-in standard tripod mounting screw. This is especially useful if you need to mount it to several different 3D printers.
There’s currently a wide variety of webcams on the market with the ability to shoot full HD 1080p video. However, most of these models have a lower frame rate. This means that the footage produced will have high resolution but won’t have that movie theater/GoPro smoothness to the motion.
One of the most notable features that set the Logitech HD Pro C920 apart from its competitors is the ability to shoot and stream 1080p at 30 fps.
This high resolution and high frame rate will allow you to capture and stream clear, detailed, and high-quality videos and time lapses.
In addition to the high-quality video capture, the C920 also has a very high 15-megapixel count for still images that will guarantee you high-quality photos.
It has a 78-degree field view that will be more than enough for capturing your whole print bed.
Also, the camera has motion detection that starts recording when it senses movement. So you could leave the camera always on and allow it to begin recording automatically on its own when your 3D printer begins printing.
A standard tripod mounting screw is built-in to the webcams stand so you have plenty of options for mounting it to your printer, or a tripod sat outside of your printer.
- Impressive resolution
- Fast framerate
- Wide-field view
- Quality videos
- Security feature
- High-resolution stills
- Slightly expensive
- Video Max Resolution: 1080p @30fps
- Still Image Max Resolution: 15 Megapixels
- Focus: Variable with auto-focus
Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000
The Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 is an excellent webcam for monitoring your 3D printer, especially considering its modest price.
It lacks some of the advanced features found in other cameras like the Logitech HD Pro C920. Nevertheless, this camera is hardworking, has excellent video quality, and is easy to use.
The HD-3000 can shoot 16:9 cinematic video in up to 720p. The frame rate is decent at 30 frames per second.
Microsoft has employed TrueColor technology that enhances brightness and color under different lighting conditions.
The lens has a fixed focus that enables you to zoom up to 4X. Also, it has a built-in social media sharing that let you share the videos on various social media platforms at the touch of a button.
Microsoft offers an impressive three-year limited warranty, which is longer than most webcams on the market.
Also, customer support is directly available all the time, and there is a useful FAQ section on the Microsoft website where your questions can be answered.
It has a standard webcam clamp style mount but no tripod mount.
- TrueColor technology to enhance brightness and color
- Inbuilt social media sharing
- No vertical tilt
- Video Max Resolution: 720p@30fps
- Still Image Max Resolution: 1.024 Megapixels – 1280 x 800
- Focus: Fixed 0.3 to 1.5m
Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2
If you want to both monitor and control your 3D printer, then the best method is through OctoPrint software running on a Raspberry Pi computer or via OctoPi in a web browser.
The Raspberry Pi is a low-priced microcomputer that’s about the size of a credit card.
Even though this microcontroller can connect with other USB webcams, it is most compatible with the Raspberry Pi Camera.
The camera measures 25 X 24 X 9 mm and weighs 3g which makes it an ideal size for fitting into most 3D printers, especially if you want to mount it to your printers’ bed.
At a resolution of 1080p at 30fps, this camera will enable you to monitor your prints with crystal clarity.
The growing popularity of this camera means that there is a large user base of 3D printer owners that trust its functionality and offer tips and guidance online to how to get the most from it. This includes freely available designs for mounts to many popular models of 3D printer to enable you to mount it to your 3D printer.
Mounting the camera to your printer enables you to create cool videos that move with the print bed keeping your print at the center of the movie frame.
On the downside, some people have noticed there is some distortion on the outer edges of the video image, so you may want to consider a camera with a higher quality image.
- Remote control of the printer
- Ideal size
- High resolution
- Excessive pincushion distortion.
- Video Max Resolution: 1080p @30fps
- Still Image Max Resolution: 8 Megapixels – 3280 x 2464 pixels
- Focus: Fixed
GoPro HERO 7 Black
If you want to splash the cash, then a GoPro is always going to be hard to beat for video recording.
The GoPro Hero 7 is GoPro’s new flagship camera that replaces the Hero 6. This new model maintains the same frame rates and pixel resolutions but improves on the usability and experience of using the device.
Given GoPro’s excellent reputation for high-quality videos, the latest model is undoubtedly an excellent choice for monitoring your 3D printer’s progress.
The Hero 7 features the same 12MP sensor and a wide-angle lens that was found in the Hero 6. Also, the high resolution of 4K at 60fps and full high definition remain unchanged.
A wide variety of additional features makes this camera more powerful than its predecessor.
One of the most significant new features is HyperSmooth technology. It is a form of video stabilization that GoPro equates to using a gimbal.
This technology allows regular stabilization to be applied even when capturing 60fps footage at full resolution. There is also a combination of hardware and software, which is a definite advantage for anyone looking for a high definition recording device.
- Enviable 4K video quality @ 60fps
- HyperSmooth technology
- Impressive UI improvements
- Image stabilization
- Relatively expensive
- Video Max Resolution: 4K60 / 1080p@240fps
- Still Image Max Resolution: 12 Megapixels – 1280 x 800
- Focus: Fixed 0.3 to 1.5m
Smartphone Webcam Apps
Instead of leaving your old Android or iPhone to gather dust, you can put it back in to use by installing a webcam app on it and turning it into a fully functioning Wi-Fi Webcam.
Currently, there is a wide range of webcam apps on the market that cost as low as $2.
Most 3D printers on the market do not have a designated camera system to monitor printing progress.
As a result, your 3D printer will continue printing even if the filament runs out or the nozzle becomes clogged.
Installing a camera can help you monitor your 3D printer wherever you are and prevent catastrophic print failures.
Recording your prints can also be fun, and it’s straightforward to create some very cool time lapse videos if you choose the right print.
Hopefully, my article has helped you make a decision, and I look forward to seeing your 3D printing timelapse on YouTube soon!