In medicine, the term “off-label” is used when a doctor prescribes a drug for a reason or in a way that is not specifically intended by the manufacturer or approved by the FDA. When doctors prescribe something off-label, it’s usually because they think the drug will be successful in treating a condition that doesn’t have a good solution with another drug.
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I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. But as a techie with a penchant for working on unusual or special-purpose projects, I often use electronics and software in off-label ways. That’s what I did Amazon’s Ring Stick Up Cam Battery. This is not what Amazon intended for this product, however it is very good.
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Ring Stick Up Cam Battery
The battery-powered Ring camera can be placed anywhere.
Staring at a laser and spinning wheel of death
The off-label problem I want to solve is looking at my Glowforge laser cutter and Inventable X-Carve CNC while they work to make sure nothing bad happens. After all, the Glowforge is a robotic laser — it shoots an actual laser beam — that burns the material to cut or engrave it. The X-Carve is a robotic cutting machine that rotates a steel cutter at thousands of revolutions per minute.
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So, yes. In one room I have a robot controlled laser beam that can slice through most materials, and in another, I have a robot controlled spinning wheel of death. My wife is very tolerant. I am very lucky.
Generally, the best practice when using either of these machines is to stay with them while they do their work. That way, if something goes wrong, you can see it happen and shut down the robot. Unfortunately, it’s not good to be in the room with either of these machines.
Although I have ventilation that exhausts the Glowforge fumes outside, the small room where it is located is filled with fumes that persist for a long time after the cutting process.
And even though I have a CNC dust collection, there is a lot of very fine particulate matter that gets sent into the workshop air that I can’t get rid of. Both engines are also very noisy, especially with the add-on ventilation fan.
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Installing a camera is the next best thing out there. Through the remote camera, I can view these devices on my phone or computer. If there is an issue, it’s just my room.
Why the Stick Up Cam Battery
I’m thinking about using a combination of a Raspberry Pi and a webcam to monitor my 3D printers, but I don’t want all the extra wires (and some hours of configuration complexity in the usual monitoring of Linux distro). More to the point, Amazon used to send me to Install the Cam Battery camera back when they sent me one of their Alexas to review, and it was sitting on the review shelf, waiting to be put to work.
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If only that was the case, I wouldn’t have chosen the Stick Up Cam. But the device has a large battery. Amazon claims it can monitor a home for about six months on a single charge. The battery easily pops out of the camera and connects to any micro-USB charger to give it a fill-up.
It also comes with the Ring app, which allows for live viewing either on a desktop browser or on a phone. While I didn’t need most of Ring’s ecosystem features (like motion detection and two-way audio), basic functionality and solid 1080p video quality were a win. Plus, setup is a quick five-minute job, which is a big win, especially compared to what it takes to connect a webcam to a Raspberry Pi and install a a custom version of Linux.
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But there is one problem: the field of view, especially under the camera, is not good enough to see my dangerous little robot friends. I had to change the camera.
Design a custom camera mount
I did a quick test with a piece of cardboard and found that while increasing the camera angle helped, that small angle didn’t help much.
In order for the camera to see the full interior of the Glowforge and to see the CNC bed, I need the camera tilted at 45 degrees. Unfortunately, that much tilting resulted in the camera falling. So I had to come up with something to keep it at 45 degrees.
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Since I was already working with a CNC and a laser cutter, I decided to round out the desktop fabrication trio with a 3D-printed camera mount. I modeled it Fusion 360 using parametric values (which allows you to easily change the dimensions) and recalculate the design and lofting (which creates a mesh between two objects, and this is how I did the angled swoop ).
The design has three main parts. On the left is a tube, where you slide the camera. On the right is a rectangular area where you can slide a 1-2-3 block as a counterweight. If you’re not familiar with 1-2-3 blocks, they’re inexpensive tools that measure one inch on one side, two inches on the other side, and three inches on a third side. It is heavy precision steel and has many uses in the shop and lab. I got it two from Amazon for $18.
Here is what the final mount looks like after it has been removed from the 3D printer.
The third part of the design is a hook that allows me to hang it when it is not in use. It looks great on my pegboard.
I’m proud that I remembered to put a hanging hole in it, it’s useless not to do it. Let’s see how this happens.
Using a Stick Up Cam Battery to monitor my gear
This solution works well. As you can see, it sits nicely in the corner of my Glowforge. Since the camera is both wireless and battery powered, there are no wires to get in the way of using the laser. All I have to do is remember to move the camera so it doesn’t interfere with opening the lid.
It does a good job of monitoring the cutting. Although you can’t see the actual laser beam cutting, here’s a screencap of the Stick Up Cam’s video feed taken as the laser burns through the plastic material. Sure, if there’s a fire in the room, I can see that – and act quickly.
I see what is happening without having to breathe in the harmful smell – and that is with a conventional ventilation system that ventilates the outside. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for laser users with no outside ventilation.
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Battery life is fantastic. After making the 15-minute cut, the camera’s battery level is still at 98%. This means that I can do 20-50 laser cutter projects on one battery charge (although, in practice, I can charge it once it drops below 50%).
Since this rig is portable, I can place it on anything I want to monitor. Here is the unit sitting on my CNC.
So that’s it. the Place the Battery on the Cam makes for a great monitoring camera, especially when paired with an affordable weight and the 3D printed holder. If you want to make one yourself, you can buy one the camera and 1-2-3 blocks direct from Amazon. I posted the .STL file for my 3D design on Thingiverse, so you can download that for free. 3D printers aren’t that expensive, so even if you don’t have one, you might want to consider getting one for projects like this. Here’s ZDNET’s list of cheap 3D printers you might want to consider.
You can follow my daily project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtzon Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.