Introduction: Custom Glowing 3D Printed Ornaments

Picture of Custom Glowing 3D Printed Ornaments

Make the perfect gift for Grandma or a great special decoration of your own! Upload any image and make your one-of-a-kind ornament for use with standard holiday light sets! How cool is that?

This is my 1st instructable and an entry into the "3D Printed Ornament Design Challenge 2015". The design I am featuring (see below) is a re-mix of the US Presidential Seal with a holiday spin. I changed the words on the banner the eagle is carrying from E Pluribus Unum (from many one) to Pax in Terra (Peace on earth) to give it more of a holiday spirit.

BUT that's not all. My design is actually a short program that will let YOU make your OWN PERSONAL ornaments!

Below you can download the STL files for the Presidential Seal Holiday ornament. Please do read on because I will give you tips on printing this STL and some simple tips on preparing your own art work for STL generation with my program and printing. NOTE - I have uploaded 2 different STL files one is 12 Layers (for plastic with opacity of 1.2mm max thickness) AND one is 10 layers (for plastic with opacity of 1.0mm max thickness) - this will make sense after you read more.

For this instructable I am only going to show the simplest method for making the STL file using the really neat "Thingiverse Customizer". (Please note if you do not have a thingiverse account then you will need to make one. It's free and you do not have to share your things. If you want to keep you things private just do not check "publish". I will make another instructable that will show you how to download the code I wrote and do all these steps on your own local computer, but there are a few more steps to that process.)

Step 1: Choose Image - Adjust If Needed

Picture of Choose Image - Adjust If Needed

As illustrated above the image should

  1. be square
  2. be resized 100x100 pixels, since thingiverse prefers 100x100 pixels. You might get away with higher res images but be careful going over 200x200. **Also note if you download the openSCAD file you can have more control over this process. There are a few more steps which I will cover in another instructable. For example openSCAD can handle higher res images but does bog down around 400x400.
  3. have a good range of light to dark.

TIPS and NOTES:

1. If your image has words then make sure to reverse the image before uploading to thingiverse so the letters are not backwards.

2. I often will change the image to black and white and play with brightness and contrast until I get a good range from light to dark, especially on the focus of the image.

Step 2: Know Your Plastic's Opacity

Picture of Know Your Plastic's Opacity

This ornament relies on the different thicknesses of the plastic and the light inside to create the image you will see. Knowing a little about the plastic's opacity (how much light is blocked) will help you get a good print every time. Since each color of plastic will have a different opacity, I have made a small test print for you.

Download this file from thingiverse (or below too ) (click link) lithopane-test_opacity_3mm.4x4-pad1.3.stl

To use this file slice at:
0.1mm layer height
100%fill
Set initial layer= 0.1mm
Each row is a 0 - 10mm layer opacity scale. Hold it up to the light to see at which thickness the light stops passing through. I made it go all the way to 3mm thick since some of the transparent plastic colors would be able to go that far.
Now that you know at what thickness (in milimeters) the plastic stops light you can set this as your MAX thickness when you make the lithopane.

Step 3: Create the STL File

Picture of Create the STL File

Now that you have your image ready(step1) and you know the Max thickness(step 2) for the color plastic you will be printing with, you are ready to use my program to generate a STL file.

One last thing you need to know is what layer height you will be using in your slicing software (typical values range from 0.1mm to 0.2mm). This setting will be familiar to anyone who uses a good slicer like CURA. If your printer only has layer height setting like "high, fine, low, fast, etc" then you'll need to look up what those words mean. Note the thinner the layer height the more detail you can get out of the lithopane, so I recommend using 0.1mm layer height.

SIMPLE MATH NEEDED for the settings:

Number of layers = Max thickness / Layer Height

Example #1:
I like to get the best results from my lithopanes, so let's say I will slice and print the STL file with a layer height of 0.1mm (or maybe "high quality", or "fine"). Also let's say that I know the Max thickness of the color plastic I am using is 1.2mm. This means I will choose Number of layers = 12

Example #2
Let's say I will slice and print the STL file with a layer height of 0.2mm (or maybe "fast print", or "normal"). Also let's say that I know the Max thickness of the color plastic I am using is 1.2mm. This means I will choose Number of layers = 6

OK NOW we are ready to make the STL file. For this instructable I am only going to show the simplest method for making the STL file using the really neat "Thingiverse Customizer". (Please note if you do not have a thingiverse account then you will need to make one. It's free and you do not have to share your things. If you want to keep your things private just do not check "publish". I will make another instructable that will show you how to download the code I wrote and do all these steps on you own local computer, but there are a few more steps to that process.)

This is the link to my design http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:189268

Follow that link and log into Thingiverse, then while on my design page:

  1. Click on "Open in customizer".
  2. Upload your image (click the box INVERT image box).
  3. Click the tab for "adjustments" and change any setting you want for size etc.
  4. SPECIAL: double check your settings for "Layer Height" and "Number of layers".
  5. Click "create thing". NOTE-uncheck "publish" if you don't want to share your ornament.
  6. Wait for the system to render. (If you get an error, try again.If this happens, it's probably not your fault. Just try again.)
  7. Once your thing is done, download it!

That's all there is to it. Now you have the file.

Step 4: Print It

Use whatever you normally do to print your STL file.

Remember to use the layer height setting you used to choose number of layers when you slice the STL.

Step 5: Hanging Your Ornament

Picture of Hanging Your Ornament

The ornament has a slotted hole in the back and should fit on most standard holiday lights. (Not the big hot ones.) I have been using these on LED lights for over year now and they been fine.

Notes:

1. USE COMMON SENSE when installing your lights and all holiday decorations. Follow all the manufactures safety instructions.

2. One of the sets of LED lights I had did not have diffusers on them and cast sharp shadows inside the ornament, so I used a bit of white plastic grocery bag to make a diffuser. DO NOT TRY THIS WITH non-LED lights. They would get too hot for the plastic bag material.

Enjoy, have fun and thanks for reading my 1st instructable. :-)

Comments

Bad Bunny Girl (author)2014-11-11

I think I want to try this!

peetersm (author)Bad Bunny Girl2014-11-20

Post us a photo if you make one.

MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-11-10

This is has a great effect, and it's pretty unique! Welcome to instructables!

About This Instructable

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Bio: I like making all kinds of stuff! I strive to live in all three to seven halves of my brain ;-) I struggle with publishing since ... More »
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