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It is time to do some extreme macro photography and explore the world not seen before with Stack Rail
It is time to do some extreme macro photography and explore the world not seen before with Stack Rail
50 backers pledged $11,385 to help bring this project to life.

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StackRail for Focus Stacking

$11,385

50

One of the most difficult challenge of macro photography is shallow depth of field. And when we get into extreme macro photography territory where depth of field is measured in sub-millimeters, it is even more challenging.

Focus stacking is a powerful method to extend depth of field by taking a series of images at different focal plane and use computer software to pick the sharpest part of each image for the final result. One way to acquire such series of images is by moving the camera towards or away from the subject (or by moving subject towards or away from the camera) so that different part of the subject will be in focus in each image. Then by applying computer algorithm, these images will be combined into one sharp image.

In order to move the camera (or the subject for that matter) and automate the process of image captures, an automated rail system is preferred method.

However, current products on the market are extremely expensive and many macro photographers have to do it manually which is a tedious work to do. Besides expensive rail system, good stacking software are either expensive (but really good) or difficult to use (though free).

The goal of this project is to offer macro photographers with three solid solutions for focus stacking at affordable prices and ease of use.

Stacking and Motor Control System  

Stacking and Motor control system consists of two components -- hardware controller and PC software application. The software application communicates with hardware controller via USB port that emulates a serial port.

The hardware controller allows motor power to be set digitally. Along with lead screw pitch information, a motor profile can be set up for any rail system. By default, all of our rails systems are there (total of four), but custom profile can be set up by user so that other rails system can be supported.

Motor control hardware also has limit switch input so that motor can be stopped automatically when slider reaches either end of rail when limit switches are installed.

Another key feature is the hardware controller can be easily expanded to use wireless technology, such as Bluetooth. As matter of fact, a prototype is already being used, but its case design is not done yet. With this Bluetooth technology, mobile phones are also potential controllers. You can download Stacking and Motor software application for PC and PDF manual.

 

Stacking and Motor Control Software for PC
Stacking and Motor Control Software for PC

Standard Rail SR-90

The standard rail system has minimum 80mm travel distance. The key component of this rail is the linear guide rail used in industrial automation. This linear guide rail makes overall system design much simpler yet it ensures smooth and precise operation. 

Motor is NEMA 17, 1A per phase, 200 steps per revolution step motor. Pitch of lead screw is 2mm, with motor set to 1/8 microstep, minimum step size is 1.25um, at 1/32 step size, minimum step size is 0.3125um. This rail is a versatile rail and can be used in many situations, in studio or in field due to its compact size and light weight. It has been routinely used for 5x magnification work with great results.

Its base actually is a standard 38mm quick release plate, it can be quickly mounted on a tripod with such system. It can also be bolted down on a piece of T-slot board with M5 screws.

SR-90 on Tripod
SR-90 on Tripod

 

SR-90 on 2080 T-Slot Aluminum Board
SR-90 on 2080 T-Slot Aluminum Board

Precision Rail PR-18

This is a precision rail with 18mm travel distance. It is driven by a NEMA 14 motor with 200 steps per revolution and 0.75A current per phase. It has fine pitch of 0.5mm and a dovetail construction to ensure stable and smooth operation at higher tightness. 

With fine pitch of 0.5mm, even motor is set at 1/4 microstep, the minimum step size is 0.625um. It can also be mounted on a tripod and used in the field though its intended use is indoor studio because often it is used with microscope objectives at 10x or higher magnification where wind alone in the field can make it impossible to stack.

The bottom of this rail has 5 1/4-20 threaded holes so that a tripod plate can be attached to it and then mounted on a tripod or other fixtures.

PR-18 On Tripod
PR-18 On Tripod

High Precision Rail PR-110 

This is a high precision rail with almost industrial automation specifications. It has travel distance of 110mm. The motor used is a NEMA 17, 1.25A per phase, and 400 steps per revolution. The lead screw is a ballscrew of 12mm in diameter and 4mm pitch. At 1/32 microstep mode, the minimum step size is 0.3125um.

It is very heavy due to its high precision construction, weighing 1.5kg by itself without motor. This rail is intended for indoor use for professional macro photographers. 

Specimen Holder

Last but not least, the Specimen Holder. This is designed to hold subject on a swiveling base with rotating arm for increased degree of freedom when manipulating and posing the subject. It is an essential tool that is often forgotten or omitted.

When mounted on a T-slot board, it has two thumb screws that make it much easier to slide along the T-slot, making another dimension adjustment much easier.

Flexible Specimen Holder
Flexible Specimen Holder

SnapFuse Focus Stacking Software For PC

This is one of our proudest piece of technology. It is easy to use, just drag and drop files over it. We have been using it for many of our focus stacking works. You can download a copy of it for trial use. Note, this application needs a lot of memory to run and it is better to have 64bit Windows.

For 64bit Windows OS

For 32bit Windows OS

PDF Manual in English

Currently, only English and simplified Chinese are supported and user can select either one. We do not have the resources to localize it to support other languages, but user can customize it themselves.

 The following images were created while developing these rails.

 

 

 

To see more images, please check out Peter's Facebook Extreme Macro Album

REWARDS

EB SMCTRL and SMCTRL

This is the reward for backers who wish to use our control hardware and software combination to control their existing rail (either commercial or DIY'ed) because our solution is very flexible (motor power control, for example) and economical. Backers can enjoy future updates of our software.

Backer will receive stack and motor control hardware - controller box, camera cable of choice, and a 4-wire cable with a connector that fits into our controller so that backer can wire their own rail to fit our hardware. The PC software can be downloaded online. 

EB SR-90 and SR-90 Rail System

This is our standard rail system as described in Technology section. This reward is for those who want to get into focus stacking but kept away by the high price of current rail system. It is the most affordable solution on the market as of now.

EB PR-18 and PR-18 Rail System

This is our precision rail system as described in Technology section. This reward is for those who want to do higher magnification work at affordable price.

PR-110 Rail System

This is our high precision rail system, there is no early bird option for this rail because of it high cost. The rail is specified at industrial automation standard and it is the preferred tool we use for any work.

Round Quick Release 

All rail system rewards (exclude SMCTL and EB SMCTRL) will come with ONE round quick release system as shown below.

Round Quick Release System
Round Quick Release System

SHIPPING

All shipping will be via DHL. In case locations considered as remote area by DHL, EMS will be used except Stack and Motor Controller which will be shipped by Hong Kong Post.

For backers who does not want to use DHL, please contact us BEFORE funding finishes so that we can find out costs.

As explained and disclosed in Risk and Challenges section of this project, we are a bunch of risk aversion people, we do not like unfinished prototype. Current status is that we are ready to make large orders of each system, but for to happen, we need initial funding for tooling setup, manufacturing, and packaging material.

All manufacturing will be done in Shenzhen, China by our trusted contractors and ourselves.

For the first batch, packaging will be off the shelf boxes and material if minimum funding is met.

Risks and challenges

In any project, there will be unseen risks, no matter how sure we can be. For example, our last project, SnapPal, we ran into trouble with OLED display supply RIGHT after we were about to do manufacturing. Fortunately, we located another supplier, though at much higher price and redesign of PCB, we secured enough displays to fulfill our obligations for that project.

For motor control hardware, all components are off the shelf and easily obtainable in Shenzhen, China. However, we do not manufacture the USB to serial conversion part. It is available in large quantities, however. Even if not, it is not something that is not replaceable, we can even design our own.

For SR-90 and part of PR-18, we have a factory that we have worked with for long time and their workmanship is excellent. They are sometimes very busy with other orders of their own, so to avoid delays, we can put in our order as soon as this project is funded.

For the high precision rail, PR-110, we have a new supplier and we have only been dealing with them in past few months. Though all parts are off the shelf, we do have limited resources to find another supplier who can assemble it at strict specification and at negotiated price.

All software were tested for about 3 months and they seem to be very stable. These software can be downloaded online, so the risk is very little.

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Support

  1. Reward no longer available

    Pledge US$ 41 or more About US$ 41

    Control Software and Hardware Only

    EB-SMCTRL

    This is early bird reward of the Stack and Motor Controller with saving of 10USD off the normal reward, so hurry.

    This is used to control focus stacking process for an existing rail with proper connector. It includes the following:

    1x Stack and Motor Controller
    1x Camera cable of choice
    1x Motor connector with wires

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 52 or more About US$ 52

    SMCTRL

    SMCTRL

    This is used to control focus stacking process for an existing rail with proper connector. It includes the following:

    1x Stack and Motor Controller
    1x Camera cable of choice
    1x Motor connector with wires

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    5 backers
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  3. Reward no longer available

    Pledge US$ 201 or more About US$ 201

    EB-SR90

    EB-SR90

    This is the early bird reward of our standard rail system with 80mm travel distance, the SR-90. This early bird reward represents 50USD savings off the normal reward, limited quantity.

    It includes the following:

    1x Stack and Motor Controller
    1x SR-90 rail
    1x 12V 3A power supply
    1x Round camera quick release system
    1x Camera cable of choice
    1x Specimen holder
    1x Snapfuse license

    Optional: two pieces of 30cm long 2080 aluminum T-slot boards where this rail can be mounted on for stability.When pledge please add 20USD to the amount.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 15 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 251 or more About US$ 251

    SR90

    SR90

    This is our standard rail system with 80mm travel distance, the SR-90. It includes the following:

    1x Stack and Motor Controller
    1x SR-90 rail
    1x 12V 3A power supply
    1x Round camera quick release system
    1x Camera cable of choice
    1x Specimen holder
    1x Snapfuse license

    Optional: two pieces of 30cm long 2080 aluminum T-slot boards where this rail can be mounted on for stability.When pledge please add 20USD to the amount.

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    9 backers
    $
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 301 or more About US$ 301

    EB-PR18

    EB-PR18

    This is the early bird reward of our precision rail system with 18mm travel distance, the PR-18. This early bird reward represents 50USD savings off the normal reward, limited quantity.

    It includes the following:

    1x Stack and Motor Controller
    1x PR-18 rail
    1x 12V 3A power supply
    1x Round camera quick release system
    1x Camera cable of choice
    1x Specimen holder
    1x Snapfuse license

    Optional: two pieces of 30cm long 2080 aluminum T-slot boards where this rail can be mounted on for stability.When pledge please add 20USD to the amount.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 6 backers
    $
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 351 or more About US$ 351

    PR18

    PR18

    This is our precision rail system with 18mm travel distance, the PR18 rail system. It includes the following:

    1x Stack and Motor Controller
    1x PR-18 rail
    1x 12V 3A power supply
    1x Round camera quick release system
    1x Camera cable of choice
    1x Specimen holder
    1x Snapfuse license

    Optional: two pieces of 30cm long 2080 aluminum T-slot boards where this rail can be mounted on for stability.When pledge please add 20USD to the amount.

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    0 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 601 or more About US$ 601

    PR110

    PR110

    This is our high precision, long travel distance (110mm) rail system. There is no early bird rewards for this because of its high cost.

    It includes the following:

    1x Stack and Motor Controller
    1x PR-110 rail
    1x 12V 3A power supply
    1x Round camera quick release system
    1x Camera cable of choice
    1x Specimen holder
    1x Snapfuse license

    Optional: two pieces of 30cm long 30120 aluminum T-slot boards where this rail can be mounted on for stability.When pledge please add 40USD to the amount.

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    2 backers
    $
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Funding period

- (42 days)