Fashion Yourself a Custom Flash Diffuser Using 3D Printing


3D printing is becoming cheaper and more accessible, so photographers no longer need to rely on camera gear manufacturers for simple plastic gear items such diffusers and other light modifiers. Eric Chu over at MAKE recently noticed a photo intern using a piece of paper as a cheap flash bounce. Seeing that the makeshift bounce didn’t ever last more than a few days, Chu wanted to offer a better solution… so he decided to produce one himself.

After doing some research into good shapes for flash diffusers, he turned to Autodesk Inventer and had two designs printed out in 3D out of a corn-based plastic.

The first version, seen above, was a standard rectangular version that companies like Stofen sell for about $10-15. He followed that one up with a triangular model that “maximizes surface area for greater light diffusion:


Here’s a design warning Chu has for those who’d like to try the same thing:

A challenge I ran into while modeling the diffuser was that the body of the flash was not just a simple rectangle (it actually consists of a lot of curves), so I couldn’t easily or accurately measure the dimensions of it. This meant that I couldn’t make the diffuser that would perfectly contour around it. Instead, I settled on measuring the max width, length, height, a small curve on the front, and the two grooves on the sides of the flash, to allow the diffuser to slide up or down.

Chu says that the DIY 3D-printed diffusers have held up in daily use for over a month now, and work well for photos that end up being published in Make.

He has made his designs freely available for download over at Thingiverse. They’re designed for the Canon Speedlight 580EX II, but if you’re experienced with modeling programs you should be able to modify them for other flash units as well.

Canon Speedlight 580EX II Flash Diffusers [Thingiverse via Make via The Phoblographer]

  • Mark N

    Looks like the first design might be sitting too low on the flash. There needs to be about an inch and a half or so of diffuser sticking up above the flash.

  • Johan Robertsson

    I would use 3D printing to make lens and body caps, filter holders, grips for mirrorless cameras. Lens hoods. Hell even dumb extension tubes would be possible, follow focus mechanisms, possibly even tripod heads (depends on how durable you can make it, although i’ve seen them print a working bycicle )

  • 11

    first world problem?

  • Justafa

    well he could just buy on for 3$… what is this with finding complex solutions for simple problems?
    have these people too much time?

  • Mansgame

    Of course right now nobody is going to drop 6 grand on a printer for these things but even in 10 years when these might be cheaper, it might be like how inkjet printers are now and cost an arm and a leg to buy the refills!

    Oh and that diffuser does little to improve your picture unless you’re in an all white room.

  • Ken Elliott

    You would be quite unhappy with the results. I’ve used these machines. They make sense for making prototypes, but they cannot match the quality you get from injection molding. If you want to make the parts you mention, get a mill and lathe, and machine the parts from aluminum and/or plastic.

  • junyo

    It doesn’t require a $6K printer. A Reprap machine could do that, and you can be in one of those for under a grand, depending on how much you want to do yourself.

  • Emily Boyd

    If you think Nicole`s story is inconceivable,, 5 weeks ago my moms best friend basically also recieved a check for $7596 working a thirteen hour week from their apartment and their roomate’s mom`s neighbour has done this for seven months and easily made more than $7596 in there spare time on line. follow the advice at this site, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Al

    Actually, the new 3D printing systems produce results that are as good as if not better than injection molded parts. Objet and Fortus make systems that are used by manufacturers to produce end use parts. These parts can be more intricate than parts that are injection molded and do not need assembly because the printer can create them as a single piece (even with moving parts). The new Fortus machines can use up to nine materials in numerous colors.

  • Ken Elliott

    In the context of this discussion (making lens caps, hood, extension tubes and tripod heads), I don’t think he’d be happy with any hobbyist or low-end machine. But you are correct that my statements were too broad.

  • Albi Kl

    As he said, it was difficult to get accurate measurements due to the curvature of the speedlight. This version can be slid up and down to the desired height.

  • Jane E. Hawkins

    Software exists that can take a series of pictures from a smart phone and turn them into a 3D picture of an object. In theory, that would solve your problem with matching to the body of the flash.

  • Mansgame

    I was thinking of a commercial version but ok. They’re practically giving it away at $499. What about my other point that the refills would cost much more than buying a ready made one?