Picture of Animating Multilayered Engravings
Engraving/etching is nothing new but there is always room for new ideas and ways to make them look even better. Back in 2001 when I introduced engraving to the modding community with the Glowpad article (world first lighted mousepad), the basic one colored line drawings were enough to make everyone smile. 2002 saw the introduction of multicolored engravings. It was about time to make them animate and that is what this tutorial is all about.

I'll first introduce the technique with a simple logo and then move on to something bit more flashy.

I have to apologize about the watermarks on the images. The article was originally published on my modding site:
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Step 1: Idea

Picture of Idea
Getting the engraving to animate involves more than one engraved surface. Basically one just slaps as many sheets of engraved clear acrylic on top of another, as many as the animation requires. Animation is them played by lighting up one layer at the time.

To show the basic princible I selected the Intel Inside logo. It has three distinctive objects that can be divided to separate layers.

Each layer is engraved by using whatever engraving tool you like. I prefer the Dremel Engraver for more detailed work and regular Multitool for larger surface areas.

Impotant note: As we are lighting up one layer at the time, one should try to keep the engravings from overlapping one another if possible. This is not that much of a problem if the image is a simple line drawing but if the topic calls for larger sanded/engraved areas, they will block the light coming from the layers behind them. Just something to keep in mind when selecting the ideas for the image.
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Very nice instructable. Which glue dit you use for the resistor and led?

fmartens13 years ago
is there any way to be able to adjust the timing after the resister are installed or possible something to use instead?
japala (author)  fmartens13 years ago
Well, if you don't want to replace the resistor you have on the circuit already, you can solder a resistor in parallel with that. This will lower the total resistance below the original resistance that the resistor had. Also, you can solder a capacitor in parallel with the one that is on the circuit. This will increase the total capacitance that the timing sees.
zapedy5 years ago
 What gauge of wire is used to hook the leds up?
japala (author)  zapedy5 years ago
Hm... I have to say that I don't even know. As the leds get only arond 20mA each at max., the wire does not need to be that thick. Even the wrapping wire will handle the load.
neeterxxi5 years ago
A clever and beautiful idea! Quite inspirational for other projects too! With modification, this could make a great faux-neon type sign!
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japala (author)  DELETED_craz meanman6 years ago
Both the Dremel Rotary tool and the Dremel Engraver. First is good for larger areas and the Engraver is used for very thin hairlines. Some of my other engravings with the tool here:
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japala (author)  DELETED_craz meanman6 years ago
Yes but only from the side that I'm engraving. You must try to keep the protective films on as long as possible as they are the only defence against the unwanted scratches.
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japala (author)  DELETED_craz meanman6 years ago
Hehe, I'm glad that I could help. :)
MJTH6 years ago
Haha well, after looking through Acrylic window case modss.. I think I got an even better idea for my window :)
Wonderful Work! Congratulations!
japala (author)  Carlos Marmo6 years ago
Thank you. :)
This is great! I was just thinking about this in the garage and knew that someone on Instructables would have done it! Great Instructable it has really helped!
japala (author)  FullyInvolvedScientist6 years ago
Great to hear you liked it. This was on my todo list for years and I'm glad I finally decided to make it happen. Easy to trick that gives great visuals in my opinion. Thank you for your comment. :)
phoenix1246 years ago
omg this is just fantastic!! the next computer i do i am so doing this... great idea and great instructable
ha i use aluminum foil instead of tape and it worked just fine:)
hernanai6 years ago
Favorited! nuff said...
bethehammer6 years ago
This is very cool. Nice instructable, very well done.
puffyfluff6 years ago
Cool! I've always wondered how I could do something like this, but this is a perfect way to do it!
spacehonkey6 years ago
Very cool idea and easy too. This brings a normally still picture to life. I'm going to have to use this effect myself.
dalucero6 years ago
I see that you suggest that the engraving be made on the back side for all layers. Is the difference 'that' noticable? If there were only two layers for example, would it make a difference if the bottom layer was engraved on the front side (facing the viewer) while the top layer (the layer closest to the viewer) was engraved on the back side?
japala (author)  dalucero6 years ago
This can be easily tested by engraving some scrap pieces of acrylic. Yes, the difference is there as the light diverts towards the viewer properly. If you engrave the front, the engraved edge actually blocks the light from coming towards the viewer. There will be light but not as much and the end result will not look as "clean" as with the engraving on the back.
Wow! What a cool idea. The thickness of the layers could also be used as part of the animation effect - for example, imagine each frame of a dancing stick-man animation engraved on a separate layer of acrylic - as the the layers are illuminated in turn, he will appear not only to dance, but to be moving back and forth within the stacked plastic.
I'm not sure what you're getting at - any reasonable number of frames could be any orientation and image size/location...
The plastic has thickness - and you can only really illuminate each layer of it, or not - because of the thickness, the layers will appear superimposed, but it will be possible to discern the Z distance between them. If a 20 frame animation of a stick man was engraved on 20 frames of 3mm acrylic, then these were stacked together, illuminating each layer in turn would appear to make the animation proceed **forwards** through the entire 60mm of the stack.
a person could orient the frames randomly throughout the stack... perhaps even scale the size of the animation as it gets deeper, it gets larger so that it appears a uniform size..
LinuxH4x0r6 years ago
Wow, I want to try this!
japala (author)  LinuxH4x0r6 years ago
Please do, it is not as hard as it may initially seem...
ZachB6 years ago
That's Amazing! Do you think you could give me some links to sites about glass engraving so that I might attempt to make one of these?
japala (author)  ZachB6 years ago
I'm glad you like this. :) Did you notice that the piece was done with acrylic sheets, not glass sheets? The engraving technique is a lot similar to both. I believe you can find good engraving tutorial both for glass and acrylic here at instructables site. Use the search words like engraving, carving, routing.
PKM6 years ago
Just a thought- you could use RGB LEDs to change the colour of the "inner" parts of the flame as the "outer parts" light up so the first part to light up changes from (eg) red to orange to yellow while the others light up red. That's a bunch more complexity, though, and I don't know how much the colours would "bleed" between the sheets of acrylic. Top-notch Instructable! (pun not intended)
japala (author)  PKM6 years ago
Mixing different colors would indeed be doable but I wanted to keep the project "simple". This is something that I aim with my articles in Metku. There are many sites that show these "wow" mods but they are usually too expensive or hard to do for a regular modder. I try to aim more towards "weekend mods" or something similar. I'm glad you liked the instructable. Now remember to vote for it in the competition! :)
I agree with your "simple" design - you definitely got everyone going "I can go this!" Now you have to deal with us ripping off your idea and adding our own spin (I promise to credit you if I ever attempt a 100 pane laser etched RGB display housed in a 42U rack ;-P ). Keep up the good work at Metku.
japala (author)  flightsofideas6 years ago
Hehe, well, I believe it is the idea to try to take the ideas even further. :) I also believe that it is the hope of every modder/creator/inventor to get recognition for their work. Fair game and all, we do not need to lower ourselves to the same level as the companies that rip us off are.
rc jedi PKM6 years ago
rgb led s would improve an already great idea. cool!
tech-king6 years ago
are you the real metku? if so: i honor you! i love your work! if not: phoney!!!!!
Yeah I have doubts too, and agree that if it's the real metku he's excellent, I always loved the site and build some stuff from it myself in the past :) And if it's not the real one, at least he linked to it and gave the right target audience a good source! Only annoying thing about the metku site is the silly disagreeable EULA to sign up on the commentsystem, like 'if for some obscure reason you fall from grace I'm not just banning you but also calling your ISP' WTF is that all about? It always made me decide to not sign up.
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