Mukesh Sankhla’s enthusiasm for tech jumps off the page. His responses to The MagPi’s questions about his TouchCam camera project are packed with words such as ‘inspire’, ‘love’ and the absolute joy he’s found in sharing his roster of makes over the past three years. Having completed his studies only a year ago, the computer science graduate was quickly snapped up by Siemens India, where Mukesh works as a software engineer with an Internet of Things focus, and spends his spare time creating and sharing technology-based designs. The TouchCam has gone through several iterations, which Mukesh has shared as an Instructable. Its design is loosely based on Adafruit’s 3D printer camera case for Raspberry Pi HQ Camera. Mukesh’s initial version, the PiCam, added remote access options and was pitched as a means of monitoring, as well as offering on-demand photography and remote printing. He used Fusion 360 to come up with his own camera case design, and NextPCB for the bespoke printed circuit board. Both the Linux-based PiCam and the TouchCam have Raspberry Pi 4 at their core and Remote. It and SSH, so the HQ camera can be triggered from anywhere.

Iterate and improve

Designing the TouchCam gave Mukesh a chance to combine his skills as a maker and a computer science enthusiast. “My goal was to blend my love for creating things with my technical knowledge,” he enthuses of the versatile device “that can even work as a server for my test applications and database.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that, as a computer engineer and developer, Mukesh works in a process of continuously improving successive designs. Mukesh says many of the design updates and improvements he made when moving on from the PiCam and developing TouchCam were directly influenced by the feedback he got from the design of the PiCam. It is also an apposite demonstration of how far his Fusion 360 computer-aided design skills have developed and was used to showcase his design prowess for his BSc.

The TouchCam’s screen provides instant video and time-lapse playback

With the TouchCam, Mukesh was keen to design a system that is compact and easy to carry and that would appeal to multitaskers who enjoy activities such as 3D printing, time-lapse photography, electronics, robotics, programming, and machine learning. He also thinks the TouchCam could be used for software development, low-cost personal servers, and similar uses.

Fine new features

The TouchCam builds on the PiCam by integrating a high-definition touchscreen display and has a touch sensor that is used for live view, to access the photo gallery, and to switch between still, time-lapse, and video capture modes. The HQ Camera remote server also gained more prominence. “I chose the Raspberry Pi because it’s affordable, powerful, and has an internet full of resources. I am using the Raspberry Pi 4 8GB variant.” The components were sourced online, with standard items such as the HQ Camera paired with a DFRobot Raspberry Pi Touchscreen, cooling from a 5 V fan, and open-source software libraries such as Imager, and Silvan Melchior’s Raspberry Pi Camera Web Interface.

TouchCam is an evolution of the PiCam Mukesh designed and built

Having already got the basics down pat with the PiCam, the case design and touchscreen integration were the real challenges for this build. Only three 3D-printed versions were needed, and even these were simply to fix minor fit issues to accommodate the screws. Overall, Mukesh was pleased with the way the TouchCam turned out: “Everything from the outer shell that feels good to hold, to the special mounts that hold the camera perfectly. Each piece came from my careful design work, making sure they look good and work just right.”

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