If I had the time I’d sit kneeling in front of my 3D printer at all times watching it print. It’s like a grown up version of Sesame Street’s trip to the crayon factory. Unfortunately I don’t have that kind of time. I did however find a work around with a spare laptop and Skype (and with New Years parties kicking off shortly, you just might find this handy).
I’ve tried several webcam streaming services in the past (Ustream.tv and Livestream.com to name a few) but they haven’t really filled the need I had for an on demand bot-watching camera. I also looked into wired and WIFI webcams that I could setup and leave monitoring my bot. While the internet enabled webcams look great they cost a bit more than I’d like to spend for this project.
So here’s my cheaper ‘bot monitoring camera, to do this you will need the following:
- Laptop with a webcam (external USB webcam preferred)
- 2 free Skype accounts (your normal Skype account and a “dummy” account)
The setup for this is fairly simple. First start by creating a new “dummy” Skype account for your laptop. This account will be the one watching your printer when you’re away. After setting up the account install Skype, check “Log me in when Skype starts”, and login.
You’re going to want to add your regular Skype account to the contacts list for your new “dummy” account. Because we’re going to be automatically answering calls it’s better to only allow incoming calls from known contacts (in this case your normal Skype account will be the only known contact on the “dummy” account).
Now to setup your Skype client to accept incoming calls from your main account. Here are the two settings you’re going to want to change. The first limits who can contact your dummy account.
Secondly we’ll tell Skype to automatically answer incoming video calls with the setting pictured below.
Lastly you’re going to want to position your external USB webcam (or laptop itself if you’re using an internal camera) so it can see your 3D printer. I prefer using an external USB webcam because it can be attached to your printer with a mount like this and left there when using your laptop for something else. When you’re ready to broadcast you can just plug in your webcam and go.
Now with your settings configured and webcam installed you’re ready to view your printer remotely. To do this you will start a video call from your normal Skype account with your new dummy account. Your dummy account will automatically pickup the video call and show you a video feed of your printer.
While this isn’t quite as elegant as purchasing a wifi or wired internet enabled webcam I’ve found it to be pretty effective. Not to mention you can’t beat the price!
Note: These instructions were written for Skype for Mac v6.11. I imagine the same or a similar procedure should work for Skype for Windows as well. If you notice any inconsistencies between the two versions please leave me a comment below and I’ll add it to the post.