The camera manufacturing process begins with its design. A designer starts the process by creating an electronic "sketch" using CAD (computer aided design) software. Here, the cameras parts and inner workings are drawn. During this time, the designer decides the components of the camera: electronics, materials, mechanics, and other features like how the camera interfaces with lenses and other attachments (e.g. flash units, light meters, etc.).
Once the design is complete, it is tested in a computer simulation environment. Here the design is checked against the original concept and marketing goals. If the design passes the test, it can then be pushed to prototype production.
Prototype and Testing
After the camera has been approved for prototyping, a test camera is produced. The purpose of prototyping is to check performance capabilities and prepare the camera for mass production. The camera is taken through a series of tests both in the lab and outside the lab. The tests consists of general use, special features, and stress tests (case durability, lifetime, etc.). If the prototype is selected for mass production, a team of engineers take the CAD file used in the design process and begin to develop the necessary tools and processes for building the camera. Here, the engineers look at how to make the components of the camera, how it will be pieced together, and what (if any) manpower is required. This process is usually aided by another piece of software called CAM (computer aided manufacturing). If any other components do not fit with the camera (e.g. lenses, flash units, etc.), the combination of the CAD and CAM software can help to design the equipment to fit perfectly with the new design.
Once the prototype has been tested and approved, it can be moved to mass production.
First, the chassis or casing for the camera is created. The material used to create the casing is usually a form of polycarbonate plastic that is extremely durable. The casing itself is produced through a process known as injection molding. A mold is filled with a liquid version of the material and heated until it hardens. Once it's removed from the shell, the cameras edges are trimmed and smoothed to fit together evenly. The case is then sent forward in the production sequence, serving as the base for the rest of the components.
Next, the shutter assembly and film transport system are created. While this system is mainly mechanical, it does harness an electronic chip to verify the film speed. In addition, the shutter is constructed using brand specific materials. Because the speed/accuracy of the shutter determines photo quality, these materials are kept secret.
After the shutter is added, the viewfinder is added. This is where the photographer looks into the camera to line up their shot. This piece is usually composed of glass, plastic, or a combination of the two. To increase visibility inside of the viewfinder, a small reflective mirror is added to increase light. This supports the photographer's eyesight when setting up the shot. On traditional cameras, once this piece is added, the camera casing is sealed and production is complete.
On modern devices, the last piece of equipment added to the camera is the LCD screen and electronics. This piece of the camera is used to display the lens image (the picture being taken), information about the photo (e.g. shutter speed, light settings, and frequency). The screen is made up of a thin sheet of glass and liquid crystals. A series of LEDs (light emitting diodes) cause the crystals to light up and show the image.
After this piece is added, the camera is finished. To complete the process, the camera is packaged and shipped to retail outlets.
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