Polymer Clay for Camera Parts?

Does anyone have experience of using polymer clay?

I’m researching various ways of making replacement camera parts, and this is one of the methods I’m looking into. I’m not talking about anything too complex or demanding, here; rather relatively simple things, such as button tops or lever caps.

I was just wondering if the results are relatively durable? I can see that it’s popular in jewelry making, so I’m assuming that it is?

You should look at epoxy clay.

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For prototyping I like Polycaprolactone.

Not super-durable and due to it’s nature a little sensitive to heat,
but that makes it one of the most easy to handle materials.

On the topic of durability: That blob has been on my D500 for over 7 years and more than 120k images. The black thing is a dot of Edding I made to see how that behaves over time. Spraypainting the part was a little too over the top for me. I prefer permament prototypes to look like prototypes.

And yes, I never want that 4-way button to be locked.


I found this informative article covering both – very interesting! Not heard of either of these materials before, so thanks for the heads up. heart:


Thanks for all your suggestions. If possible, I’m trying find a cheap and easy way (if one indeed exists) to sculpt or mould small replacement plastic camera parts, etc. (where finding original parts is either impossible or financially unviable). The parts would need to be durable and stand the test of time (well… in as much as can be expected from most cheaply manufactured plastics in common use these days anyway).

If there are any other suggestions, I’d love to hear about them too! All suggestions so far look good as options.

UPDATE: I found this article which concludes that polymer clay may well be durable enough for such a project :+1:

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Have you heard of instamorph or other plastics that you heat in water and become mailable?

I haven’t. I’m completely new to this, so it seems I’ve something else to look into.

That looks really good. The issue here might be the low melting point – I wouldn’t want any bits on my camera starting to melt on a hot summer day; also, working time would be limited as it would start to set as soon as it cooled.

And now, I’m looking into resin – wow; what a rabbit hole I’ve fallen down. :smiley:

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That’s what Polycaprolactone is.

Hot water (annoying), hot air gun (awesome), melt, form it, done … then use mechanical tools to do any fine tuning. In reality stuff rarely gets to the melting point, I haven’t had any problems. Anything you can touch with your hands that doesn’t make you go ouch! should be fine.

Also it is reusable, it can even be added upon without problems in structural strength. And if you really need something for eternity than you can use the tested part for a mold.

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Going for resin you might consider spending some time learning Blender FOSS and some money on a 3D printer for resin https://youtu.be/G7qAp1lGqKc?feature=shared

It’s a good investment both ways

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Ah, I see. Very interesting. Thanks for the additional info! Something definately worth considering, then.

Blender is something I’ve always wanted to dive into, but I’ve never plucked up the courage to start. I’ll definately have to give it a shot at some point (after all, I had RawTherapee installed on my system for three years until I gave it a whirl – I was a complete beginner when I started, but I know just about everything there is to know about it now and it’s the core of my entire workflow).

I’ve given a lot of thought to getting a 3D printer, but I don’t have the knowledge just yet to decide what to go for – it’s only a matter of time, though; the fun I’d have with a thing like that would be amazing, and I can think of a million and one projects off the top of my head.

Learning Blender is an endless process I suppose. Keep in mind that those projects of yours have to be implemented consecutively after you do the basic or advanced courses, to keep a relative contact with the program. Otherwise you might end up forgetting the 3D build process.

I suppose its like programming and mathematics. Once you stop playing with them you have to start all over again…

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Me too! :rofl:


For designing parts I wouldn’t try to learn Blender.
Some of the apps more tailored to technical design might be a better fit me thinks.

I have used FreeCAD some years ago and it wasn’t that hard. Way easier than any of the 3D rendering apps, from Lightwave to 3Dmax or Blender - which I only dabbled in with very limited success.

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What I meant by that is to say I was a complete beginner to processing RAW files — as in, I had no prior experience of using Lightroom, Dark Table, or any other such RAW-processing software; I jumped straight into the deep end, so to speak (sorry, but I really didn’t forsee having to fully explain or clarify that).

It’s me that should be sorry. I wasn’t asking for any explanation or clarification; I was just pulling a statement out of context and having some (attempted) fun with it.

There have been some amazing suggestions posted here – thanks to everyone for their input. There are far more options, it seems, than I ever realised.

I’ve looked into sourcing the materials suggested, and it seems most (if not all) are easy enough to source and don’t break the bank (at least, not in the quantities I’d be looking for, and I’m also lucky to have access to a communal 3D printer), so I’ve decided on a small project: I’m going to give as many of them a try as I can, and I’ll likely submit an article to pixls.us when I’m done. :slight_smile: