How 3D printing helps produce custom-moulded digiscoping adaptors.

Digiscoping is a neologism for afocal photography. The term consists in using a (digital) camera to record distant images through the eyepiece of an optical telescope. Experts in the field often need  digiscoping adaptors to turn a digital device capable of filming into a digital camera. Through the example of Phone Skope, we learn today that 3D printing can be used in the production of these adaptors.

  Phone Skope, for instance, is a company headquartered in the US that aims to make engineered adaptors for almost any smartphone, enabling a smartphone camera to capture enhanced images and video through a scope for birding, wildlife, microbiology and astrology applications. The expert called on manufacturing service provider Merit3D, a partner of Photocentric, who used its 8 Photocentric LC Magna printers and Photocentric post-processing units, the Air Wash L and Cure L1 and Cure L2 units to create its custom-moulded digiscoping adaptors. 

For those who are not familiar with Photocentric, note that they are headquartered in the UK and they develop photopolymer 3D printers based on LCD screen technology. To enhance the user experience of their products, they partner with material companies like BASF to develop new materials or CoreTechnologie to have a dedicated software for their 3D printers.

In this specific case, using Photocentric AM solutions, Merit3D could model adaptors and fabricate them without the need for costly and time-consuming moulding. Merit3D utilized Photocentric’s Daylight Magna Duramax resin as material.

Phone Skope’s design is a simple two-part system that is interchangeable and works with most smartphone and optics combinations. With just a couple of small design changes to the 3D model, a new case could be designed and printed at a large scale with minimal revisions required using additive manufacturing. This reduced upfront costs and increased the production time considerably, with consistent high-quality output.

Phone Skope’s manufacturing was challenged by the fast-moving nature of the market, requiring its products to be compatible with a huge number of new phone models released every year,” says Sally Tipping, sales director, Photocentric. “In order to create a compatible digiscoping adaptor for a particular phone model, a mould would have to be created for each new case, and there was always a chance that the phone itself may not be a commercial success. This meant that Phone Skope had to choose between which models to support and create moulds for in order to maintain viability. 3D printing was an excellent solution to this problem, giving Phone Skope the flexibility to bring a greater variety of adaptors to market at speed without the cost implications of creating additional moulds. Phone Skope products are renowned around the world for their precision and durability, and so it was also vital that these characteristics were retained without compromise.”

Photocentric also explains in a press release that the production required the use of Studio software and 4D-additive to incorporate the supports required for printing into the actual design of the cases.

Depending on the size of the finished product, a single Magna platform could accommodate up to 52 cases. Following a simple workflow within its manufacturing facility, the completion time for each of the orders ranged from 1 to 2 days. The new solution allowed thousands of dollars in equipment costs to be saved on creating a moulding, and times to create a new case model design has also been slashed from 1-2 months to just two weeks. Thanks to the AM solution, a previous minimum order of 2000 units (in order to be viable) was also completely removed.

The LC Magna suits a wide range of manufacturing applications, offering significant print speed, build volume and cost advantages. Merit 3D also knew that the high-quality prints produced by the LC Magna would significantly reduce the time spent on final finishing thereby further reducing cost and increasing speed to market.

The speed and agility of additive manufacturing has given us the ability to expand coverage for more phones giving us a larger market to pursue,” says Jason Bairett, Operations Manager, Phone Skope.

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