Since 1975, the movie Jaws has made millions of people hesitant about swimming in deep water. Just as many others, though, remain committed to diving and exploring the scenic depths of seas and oceans worldwide. This latter group is the reason Paralenz ApS recently introduced its Paralenz Dive Camera for taking selfies and recording video underwater.
Founded in 2000 as a branch of the MOEF innovation agency, the company initially did commercials and special effects for standard and stop-motion movies, according to Michael Trost, senior product designer at Paralenz. It created a range of products using CNC machining and 3D scanning before switching to 3D printing after several years.
In 2016, at the suggestion of a diver colleague, Trost spent several months developing several designs of a small, affordable action camera for divers. Shortly thereafter, Paralenz purchased a Form 2 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer from Formlabs Inc. to build various prototypes.
“This printer saves us man hours because [parts just need to be] cleaned, sanded and painted,” notes Trost. “FDM (fused deposition modeling) machines take about three times as long to get a high-end finish, and with a lot of parts, you cannot even get the same finish, regardless of the amount of work.”
Cost-effectiveness and reliability are the printer’s other main benefits, according to Trost. For this project alone, he estimates that the company would have had to pay a third-party contractor $15,000 for the required SLA parts. Printing the parts in-house cost less than one-third of that. As for reliability, Trost notes that, in the past, workers would often run three 3D printing machines to make sure that one would be able to complete a project. The new printer also rarely produces unusable parts.
After making four camera prototype designs in four sizes, Paralenz presented them to a large number of divers for manual handling and evaluation. The divers were asked for input on which size camera they liked best and which features were most important to them.
“The divers pressed several versions of the [activate] button while wearing gloves to help us determine the best design,” says Trost. “We also made internal-part changes, and 3D printed about 20 to 25 housing iterations in a few months.”
Interestingly, Paralenz’s high-quality prototypes proved to be somewhat of a challenge for the company when it went looking for a contract manufacturer in China. At one meeting, the manufacturer’s representatives thought the prototype was the final product.
“They were saying, “You want us to make this, but you already have it,’” recalls Trost. “Then we would explain, ‘It’s not real. It’s a prototype.’”
After finalizing design and beginning production, Paralenz brought the camera to market last June. It is waterproof to 656 feet and captures ultra-high-resolution photos or video at a rate of 30 frames per second. A built-in depth sensor autocorrects image or video color based on the person’s current depth.
Formlabs started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011 and developed the Form 2 printer in 2015. The company also makes the Fuse 1 SLS (selective laser sintering) printer, an automated 3D printing workcell, high-performance materials and 3D printing software (PreForm, Dashboard). It employs more than 250 people at offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. For more information, call 617-702-8476 or visit https://formlabs.com.