3D-Printing Time-Lapse

by Ben N on November 6, 2022

While I’m no master of C.A.D. or 3D-Printing, I sure think those time-lapses of 3D prints look AMAZING. So, I decided to figure out how I could do it with my own 3D Printer.

My 3D Printed test object – the Low-Poly Fox
First successful Time-Lapse Video.

A while back, I bought an Ender 3 S1 printer. (https://amzn.to/3fGq0Bt)
A friend of mine runs a small electronics business and had purchased SIX of them, so I decided it was the printer to go with. $400 seemed pretty reasonable, and the printer worked very well right out of the box.

I read a few articles and watched several YouTube videos to find the best approach. It seemed like the best way to do it was to have the PRINT HEAD physically press a button on a camera remote. The camera I would use is a Canon M50 mkii.
https://amzn.to/3Ta4kv5

That camera is smaller than a Canon Rebel, and more importantly, it’s MIRRORLESS. Essentially, it has all of the manual controls and features of a DSLR, only WITHOUT a mechanical mirror which has to flip out of the way. Time-lapses require MANY still images, and over the long-run, could actually wear out a DSLR!

I purchased a third-party wireless remote for the camera.
https://amzn.to/3fB6vds

It features a nice round shutter release button, which would be easy for me to target.

Next, I had to figure out how to mount the remote.
I took measurements of it with my calipers and then 3D modeled a basic shape which would hold it.

Holder for the camera remote control

I then printed that out on my 3D printer, and tested it. The remote fit pretty well. I designed the “hook” of this part to fit over an existing 3D file that I got off Thingiverse. That was a camera mount designed to clip onto the printer. Of course, now that I’m looking for it, I can find it, but it was similar to this one: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5487703

The remote could slide up and down in the holder, and the holder could slide side to side on the part connecting it to the printer.

Now, all I had to do was have a 3D printed “poking stick” mounted to the print head. I had previously downloaded and printed one. (https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3676341) However, it was designed for the Ender 3, NOT the Ender 3 S1, so I had to slightly modify it with a knife.

I could then manually control the position of the print head to see exactly where I would need to adjust the position of the remote. Once I did, I locked it in place by simply placing a 2″ spring clamp over it.

The software that came with my 3D printer is Creality Slicer.
In the software, there is a “Post Processing Plugin”. This can essentially add in G-Code automatically to the G-Code that the slicer software creates from the 3D model.

In this case, I’m adding in G-Code when there is a layer change. Every time that happens, the custom code runs. The code I added was:

G90

G1 F9000 X220 Y215

G1 F1000 X230

G4 P500

G1 F9000 X220

This essentially moves the print head almost all the way to the right very quickly, then moves the last centimeter more slowly to press the button, pauses for half a second for the photo to be taken, and then moves away from the button.

After that, the script continues for the 3D print shape. As the print head moves all the way to the right, the bed also slides all the way forward (Y215) so that the print is in the same spot for every photo.

I set up the camera, blasted a light at the ceiling, and ran a 3D object with the time-lapse G-code as part of it. Sure enough, it worked! The print head moved over, pressed the button, and the camera took a photo!

My first test of this was a 1″ cube, which isn’t very exciting, but it does print relatively quick and shows me if everything is working or not.

Very first test – just a boring 1″ cube.


I did find that there was a little bit of an issue with “Stringing”. As the print head moves to the right, the pressure on the molten plastic causes just a little bit to ooze out. That, and the movement away of the print head stretches out a string of plastic. Not the end of the world, but it doesn’t look good and leaves imperfections in the print.

I experimented with the G-Code to retract the filament before moving the print head, and then re-extruding it on return, but with poor results. Most of the time, the filament ended up retracting too far and actually coming out of the hot end! Adjusting the settings in the G-Code didn’t seem to help. I’ll have to address this issue later to figure out the best fix.

So, I 3D printed the Low-Poly Fox while still having the stringing issue. But this time, I had good lighting and a longer print. Other than running out of filament mid-print, and NOT having more of the same color, the print and time-lapse went well.

I brought in all the still photos as an image sequence into my video editing software. From there, I could re-time them, add pan and zoom, and some background music.

Not bad for my first real 3D Printing Time-Lapse!

If you want to more thoughts on trying this type of time-lapse, take a look at the same videos I did. I found these two to be the most helpful:

Well, that’s it for now!
As I work on future projects, I should be able to make some cool time-lapses when I create my 3D prints!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben

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