PrintSnap Instant Camera

Marketing

You probably noticed that the video for this project was a little more…involved than what I normally do.

As I showed the camera around to people during development, I kept reiterating that it was only a novelty device meant as a gift for my sister, but people kept telling me that I should think about making it into a product.  The reality is that it’s not a great product and doesn’t really solve any problem that people have.

Wait, a product that solves a problem that people don’t have? TO KICKSTARTER!

I thought it would be fun to stretch my video production legs a bit and see if I could come up with a convincing Kickstarter-style video on a shoestring budget.

Most of the video was shot by me in my apartment while the outdoor segments were shot near the Seattle Pacific Science Center with the help of a friend.

The “time lapse” feature was meant as a joke and really doesn’t perform that well.  It turns out that the printer starts to overheat after printing too many consecutive photographs.  This causes black blemishes to show up on the image, and eventually the printer will actually slow down in an effort to cool off.  I suppose this is preferable to the paper catching fire.  You can see the blemishes starting to form here:

If I ever wanted to bring this camera to market, I’d probably just write some firmware that would keep track of how fast pictures were being taken and intelligently refuse to snap another photo until enough time had passed.

Just for fun, I threw in a few Easter eggs into the video as well:

This is the license plate of the car I used for my beat tracking windshield wipers.  You’ll also find some Chinese currency in the drawer from my trips to China.

“18 Karat Wood” is obviously ridiculous, and “A Most Unusual Camera” is a reference to the 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone featuring an instant camera that took pictures of what was going to happen five minutes in the future.  Surprise, people died.

On my left monitor, you might recognize the manual for the infamous Turboencabulator, a fictional piece of technology that uses “the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters.”  Technobabble at its finest.

Also a fun side note: I wasn’t able to get anyone to help me operate the camera for this scene, so I actually have a piece of string tied to my foot that pulled the camera along its slide.  You’ll notice that it’s a little shaky even after an attempt at stabilizing it.

Also, just in case anyone asks, the picture of myself and a woman that I cut up and burned were used with her permission.

The really hilarious thing is that I had completely shot this commercial before fixing the printing bug and staining the wood, so I then had to reshoot the entire thing once I made those changes.  See?

I had a friend help me design the logo, the music is called “Carefree” by Kevin MacLeod which I got off a royalty free music site, and the website is based off of the free css theme that I modified a bit.

So yes, this was all a joke, but it’s also a great learning opportunity.  I have plans to launch a crowdfunded campaign sometime in the future, and I think I could learn a lot from how people react to this presentation.  I was also surprised how easy it was to produce something that looked somewhat legitimate.  If I was trying to start a crowdfunding campaign, I think I might actually have a chance with this kind of effort.  As such, I signed up for an account with MailChimp, so if you click the link at the bottom of the page, it’ll actually let you sign up.

Who knows, if I drum up enough interest, maybe I’ll make PrintSnap a real thing!

Conclusion

Jeez, what an exhausting project.  I learned so much working on this thing:

  • CNC tricks
  • DMAs
  • ARM processors
  • JPEG
  • Dithering
  • Gamma correction
  • More inrush limiters

and it’s probably one of the most polished things I’ve made for this blog.  I really had a lot of time to drill down and make incremental improvements.  Many of my projects end up as gifts, but I think this is one where I fully plan to make another one for myself.  It’s a practical and useful product that you can’t buy in a store.

At the moment, the firmware is a complete train wreck and needs a lot of work.  I think I need to change my software development process altogether. I’m so often fixated on figuring out if my ideas will even work that I make horribly ugly code to bring me to a proof of concept as soon as possible. The same thing happened with the QR clock.  If I organized my thoughts a little better then I’d have more serviceable code that can be easily ported to other processors if the one I chose isn’t fast enough.

And for all of you looking to get one, I am serious about maybe trying to bring it to market.  It probably won’t be as cheap as you’re hoping (the prototype costs about $200 in parts alone), but maybe with enough work, I could make it practical.

If you don’t want to wait that long, you can download all the project files below. 🙂


Download the files for this project here: PrintSnap v1.0

Table of Contents

 

123 thoughts on “PrintSnap Instant Camera

  1. Pingback: Towards More Interesting Instant Cameras | Hackaday

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  6. Thoughts about heading toward a KS project:

    1. Separate the battery/charger from the camera/printer: Support attached and/or detached/cabled power, with standard LiPO standard and the option of a pack with replaceable/rechargeable NiMH cells (dirt cheap). Then, also offer the camera without a battery pack (DIY power is relatively easy if the interface is simple).

    2. Personally, I’d want a clear case with all the internals visible, using standoffs and 3D-printed brackets where needed. Hopefully, this would also be the simplest/cheapest case.

    3. Kit the custom parts and include a simple “no-solder” BOM for the rest. This permits a “partial gift” for the makers among us. And I certainly don’t mind giving Adafruit some business, especially if a small discount can be negotiated for this project’s BOM.

    I think the above can provide a wider range of KS options and price levels with (hopefully) relatively little change to the core device.

  7. Pingback: PrintSnap Wants to Bring Back the Instant Picture Using Dirt Cheap Receipt Paper

    • Yep, I’m well aware of that problem. I wash my hands compulsively anyway, and I’m sure someone will come around with a BPA-free option soon in response to public outcry. The same thing happened with Nalgene and leaded gasoline.

  8. Pingback: PrintSnap Wants to Bring Back the Instant Picture Using Dirt Cheap Receipt Paper - news from Allwebsolutions.net

  9. Pingback: l’appareil photo instantanée le plus économique | news-apple

  10. Hi Ch00f,

    Your PA15 pin isn’t busted; the problem is that it is by default mapped as a JTAG debug pin and not to the GPIO block. In the device datasheet (the 100-page thing, NOT the 1000-page reference manual), there will be a “pin definitions” table near the front containing pin numbers for all the different package options, pin names (“PA15”), pin-types (“I/O”) and 5V-tolerance (“FT”), a “Main Function” column (this is the important part) and “Alternate Function” columns.

    Note that for most GPIOs, the Main Function is GPIO, i.e. at power-on, PC12 is PC12, etc. However at power-on, PA15 is JTDI (jtag data in). This is necessary so that JTAG can start talking to a device when it boots. If you’re using SWD (and it seems you are) and want to make use of the PA15 pin, you need to disable the JTAG peripheral and its pin remapping.

    Note that if you don’t want to be able to debug or maybe ever load code into the device again, you could also free up PA13 and PA14 which are the SWD pins.

    Email me if you get stuck and I can send you the specific line of code you need; I just don’t have it here right now.

    (I found this one out the hard way while playing with an stm32; I wasted a good 4 hours figuring it out)

    • THANK YOU

      I figured it was something like that. I mentioned that part specifically hoping someone would figure it out for me.

      Thanks for the tip!

  11. Pingback: Prints for less than penny

  12. Pingback: PrintSnap: A Home-Built Camera That Prints on Receipt Paper (and Almost for Free)

  13. Pingback: The Quirky PrintSnap Instant Camera Let's You Create Instant Prints On The Cheap - DIY Photography

  14. You are a silly man with silly ideas. As soon as I started the video I thought, “Why is he recreating the GameBoy Camera/Printer?” Your presentation was mockingly beautiful. It’s good to see your personal projects continue to be so whimsical.

  15. What’s nice about the Cortex series is that some of the “peripherals” are standardized by ARM, so no matter the manufacturer, they’ll all behave the same. SysTick, FPU, NVIC, etc.

    To enable the FPU, google “cortex m4 enable fpu” and you’ll find the following asm to do so (basically setting a couple bits to turn on the coprocessors in the coprocessor access control register):

    ; CPACR is located at address 0xE000ED88
    LDR.W R0, =0xE000ED88
    ; Read CPACR
    LDR R1, [R0]
    ; Set bits 20-23 to enable CP10 and CP11 coprocessors
    ORR R1, R1, #(0xF << 20)
    ; Write back the modified value to the CPACR
    STR R1, [R0]

    I'm actually working on a project right now using a thermal print head, but rather than an all-in-one module like you have, I am using discrete components: a solenoid to push a kyocera print head onto the paper and a stepper motor to drive the paper through. I can print a 1450×672 px image in 3-5 seconds. In my case, going faster actually improves the quality of the print because the print head stays warm.

  16. Pingback: PrintSnap: eine Sofortbildkamera, die Thermopapier statt PolaroidInstant-Film verwendet | Foto[gen]erell

  17. I like this idea, the camera itself is sound for a version 1.0 project. To make it “sellable” you should consider a different housing altogether to make it look like an old school camera. Two ideas I thought are a TLR (like a Rollei) where the user looks down at a mirror to compose the image through a lens, while the camera is in a lens just below it, and the printer goes out the side. Another is a Brownie box camera style with an offset finder and the camera in a central front port. Either way something that looks like an old school film camera from a few feet away would be a winner.

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  25. This is fantastic! You basically made a spiritual successor to the King Jim Da Vinci DV55. I really want to see this becoming a real product and hope you go with Kickstarter on this project!

  26. Pingback: This instant camera will print images on a receipt paper roll * The New World

  27. Pingback: This instant camera will print images on a receipt paper roll | xoneta.com - majalah online gadget, komputer dan teknologi terbaru

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  40. It is a great idea. This would be a great present for my 8 years old daughter who loves to take pictures. PLease make it at an acceptable price for normal people.
    Thanks

  41. Pingback: PrintSnap Instant Camera

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  43. this would be a hit on kickstarter, its totally geared towards the 20-30 something year old, new and upcoming product loving, crowd that kickstarter brings in. where are you based out of?

  44. Hi ch00f!

    We really like your “PrintSnap Instant Camera” project and want to cover it on EEWeb.com for our readers.

    EEWeb.com is an online resource community site for Electrical Engineers and I’m sure that your project will be a great addition as an entry on our webpage.

    Would it be ok, if we write an article about your project and include some pictures and other relevant materials?

    We will give you credit for the project and link back to your site so our readers can learn more about you.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Regards,

    Tin

  45. Pingback: Instant Camera, Instant Receipt Paper Pictures / Receipt Rolls Blog

  46. It could be really nice if you can use your code to create something like an app for smartphone who can automatically dither the photo you take and send it to a bluetooth thermal printer !

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