Before we get started, you will need:

You don't need the same light that I have, I just happened to have this on hand. The techniques can apply to any type of light. The light that I have is round, can lay flat and is battery operated. Instead of gutting the unit, I decided I would make a sort of sculptural lamp shade with a housing that holds the light as its base. You could omit the housing part that I make for the light (the little inward feet) and make only a plain shade that you can place over a small candle or LED light.

I've also uploaded the generic versions of this design as .STL files to Thingiverse

Step 1: Getting Started: Planning & Measuring

As with any new project, I always start with pencil and paper. I measured the light that I have to get the measurements that I would need to work with. Since my light was round, I used a protractor to draw it on paper to visually see how much space I was working with. I used digital calipers to accurately measure the light. You also have to take into account that if you print in ABS plastic, there will be a little shrinkage so it's probably a good idea to go a bit bigger or round up your measurements. You can always change the sizing. Even with accurate measuring for the model, I took multiple test prints for the base alone to test the fitment so there would be no wasted filament when I printed the entire thing. Something to think about. You will notice that I have a cut out pattern in my final lantern shade. It was free hand and I didn't plan a design for that. If you want to, you can pre-plan your design ahead of time with a rough sketch.

You can use any 3d program that you want such as Blender which is free. I'll be using 3ds max but the techniques/suggestions can be used in any program or are basic enough so that you can apply the way I build a model to any project. It does help to know a little 3d modeling but even a beginner should be able to follow my steps.

Step 2: 3d Modeling: Set Up Measurements

Before we get started with 3d modeling, make sure that you've set up the measurements in what ever program you are using. Since I am using 3ds Max, I will go to:

Customize> Units Setup and then proceed to change the Metric to Millimeters. If you're using another software, check the user's manual on how to set up the measurements.

Step 3: 3d Modeling: Visual Guide

When modeling for 3d print, I like to draw a visual guide like a cube if I want to make something large but within my build platform size. In 3ds Max, when you make primitive objects, they have built in measurements in the parameters that you can adjust when you create the object. To start my guide, I go to:

Create>Standard Primitives> Box

In the Perspective View, I then draw out a Box by clicking and dragging. You'll notice you have to click and drag one time for the initial shape/size, then click drag again to create the height. Don't worry, it doesn't have to be exact or look perfect.

When you created the Box, a panel on the right appeared with a section that says Parameters. In this section, you can modify the dimensions of the Box. If you lost this section, make sure you have the Box selected and then click on the Modifier tab (second tab). From there, I edited the Length, Width and Height to 125mm. 

Now that the guide is set, you will begin blocking out your light.

This would also be a good time to Save (Ctrl+S). Save frequently, you never know when the program you're working in may crash!

Step 4: 3d Modeling: Blocking Out the Light and the Lantern Shade.

Now it's a good idea to block out the shape and measurements of your light.

Go to Create>Standard Primitives>Cylinder or Tube. I created a few cylinders to serve as the blocked out shape of the light so that I could make the shade. You can move the objects in place with the move tool. You can access the move tool by hitting the W key and moving the object by placing the mouse arrow over the X, Y or Z axis gizmo and left mouse click+dragging. Use the Top View, Left View, Front View and Perspective View to align your objects accurately. Also, you can access the rotate tool by hitting the E key and the scale tool by hitting the R key. You can also move the guide cube that you created earlier over your blocked out light to make sure that you haven't exceeded the maximum print size.

Once you're finished with blocking out the light, you can start creating the lantern shade.The way that I started to create the lantern shade for my light is that I duplicated the widest part of the light to use as a base to start from. You click on the object and then press Ctrl+V, change to Copy and Ok. I altered the parameters and made sure there were enough sides to give a semi-smooth appearance. Right-click the object and select Convert To:  Convert to Editable Poly. If you're following my examples step by step, I selected Polygon and then chose some of the side polygon faces to start creating the legs. Hit the W key to access the move tool and move the faces until you get the shape you need. Alternatively, you could also select Vertices to refine the shape even further. 

By selecting the polygon faces under the polygons you've just moved, you can create the legs by selecting extrude and adjusting the height accordingly. Same with any of the other details of the enclosure. You can omit this part and just opt for a straight leg version as it'll be easier to fit the light. You can also just place the lantern shade over any light source.

This would also be a good time to Save (Ctrl+S). Save frequently, you never know when the program you're working in may crash!

Step 5: 3d Modeling: Building Up the Lantern Shade.

In the Top View, select the polygon faces of half of the object and delete. With it still selected, go to the Modifier Tab, add a Symmetry modifier. Rotate if needed by hitting the E key and rotating along the Mirror of the object.

Since my design is going with the round shape of the light and i wanted 4 'feet' or 'legs', I deleted more parts of the object to create 1/4 pieces. So when I add a Symmetry modifier on top of that object, it would create almost a 360 degree circular shape. Next, Right-click on Symmetry and Collapse All. In my example, there seem to be gaps. No worries, you can fill those in!

With the object selected, go to Editable Poly, select Outline. Select two opposite edges like in my example picture. Under Edit Borders, select Bridge and Ok. You can alter the parameters if you want to but usually the default suffices for a quick bridging of the adjoining surfaces.

Viewing your model in the Perspective View, you should have something like in my example. A base enclosure (of some sort) that could hold the light.

Next, you can extrude the lantern shade shape. I did this by selecting the faces on the top and under Edit Polygons, I selected Extrude and extruded to the height that I wanted.

This would also be a good time to Save (Ctrl+S). Save frequently, you never know when the program you're working in may crash!

Step 6: 3d Modeling: Adding Custom Cut Out Designs - Part 1

The light that I have, has a motion sensor. So I needed to make some cuts in to the design near the base to allow motion to be seen by the sensor. We'll only be doing the designs on half of the lantern shade since later on, we'll delete the blank half and add a Symmetry modifier to mirror the design half, creating a whole lantern with. Doing it this way creates less work for you in the end.

On one of the sides, I put a hole. I did this by selecting the faces on the interior and exterior of the object, then simply deleting them.

With the object selected, go to Editable Poly, select Outline. Select the two opposite edges and under Edit Borders, select Bridge and Ok. Create as many as you want, I opted for a simple rectangular shape.

Step 7: 3d Modeling: Adding Custom Cut Out Designs - Part 2

Finally you'll want to add a nice design that you can cut out of the lantern shade.

In the Front View, go to Create>Shapes>Line. You've just created a Spline. If you click in the Front View and click+drag again, you'll notice that you start creating a line but with a curve.  If you just click+click+click and continuously move the mouse, you can create hard edges. Take a while to experiment with this. You can only become familiar if you play around a little. With the Spline still selected, go to the Modify panel and under Selection, select Vertex. If you select a vertex, you can right-click on it and adjust the Bezier Corner, Bezier, Corner and Smooth. This will change the way the line was created by either smoothing out the appearance or adding hard edges.   Don't forget to save your files though before experimenting!

In my example pictures, I did a freehand abstract floral inspired design. I even used simple Spline shapes like circles. Once you've got your design finished, under Geometry select Attach, attach all of the splines of your design together by clicking on them. Then right-click the design and select Convert To:  Convert to Editable Poly.

In the modifier panel, select Editable Poly>Polygon. select half of the polygon faces in the Top View. Hit the W key to access the Move Tool and move the design so that it intersects with one of the sides (see example). Make sure it completely goes through the interior wall and the exterior wall. Under Selection, go to Outline. CTRL+A and under Edit Borders select Cap.

Before we cut out the shape, you'll want to delete half of the polygon faces from the main lantern shade. With the lantern shade selected, in the Modifier panel, go to Editable Poly>Polygons. Hit the W key to access the Move Tool which also can also make selections. Click and drag over half of the polygon faces in the Top View and delete them.

Now, in the Front View, go to the Modifier Panel, Create>Compound Objects>ProBoolean

In the Pick Boolean section, select Pick Operand B and click the design you made to be cut out. The design should be subtracted from the lantern shade. Then right-click on ProBoolean and click Editable Poly.

In the Top View, select the object. In the Modifier List, select Symmetry. Under Symmetry, click the + symbol to open it. Select Mirror. Hit the W key to move the Symmetry line if needed and change the threshold to 0.1 if the polygon faces along the mirror look odd. You now should have a design on every side of the lantern shade, mirrored down the center. Right-click on Symmetry and Collapse All to create a solid object.

Step 8: 3d Printing: Getting Print Ready

The next thing to do now that the lantern shade is designed is to get it ready for 3d printing!

Continuing in 3ds Max, you will want to export the model as an .STL file. With the model selected go to File>Export and save your model as an .STL (StereoLitho) file.

Then you can double check to make sure your model is watertight using a service such as netfabb Cloud Service. Just upload your .STL file and it will check your file for any errors as well as attempt to fix them. You will receive an e-mail with a link to your file as well as a comparison of the original file versus the repaired file. I find this solution quite fast and works fairly well.

Be sure to check your model though to see how the repair looks. Just because it's repaired, it doesn't mean that the model will look the same as you intended every time. i.e. You may have left some unintentional holes somewhere but when the file is repaired, not only are the holes repaired but other geometry is skewed or pulled into where the hole was filled.

Step 9: 3d Printing: 3d Printer

Not all 3d printers are created equal.

These suggestions are for those of you who have an Afinia H-Series 3d printer or an UP! 3d printer. Some of the settings can be applied to other 3d printers.

Before you start to 3d print your model, you should always check to make sure your build platform is level. Calibration is key to a good 3d print. If you're printing in ABS plastic, a leveled platform can reduce warping. If you've experienced warping, then you should enclose the unit in some way to block drafts from interfering with your 3d print. I personally just use scrap art board or card board and stand it up by scoring a line with a sharp blade to fold the ends, then clipping them together to form walls. Gives me easy access to the printer and I haven't experienced any warping since using it. Also, if you have experienced warping, note what side of the build area your model is lifting from. You most likely need to re-calibrate the height and make adjustments to the leveling of the platform. One other thing, don't scrape your model off the platform, glass or perf board while still clamped to the 3d printer. This can cause calibration issues. You wouldn't want to go through a large print to see a part of your model lifting off one of the edges.

These suggestions are just things that have worked for me so if they work for you too then great.

After you load your model into what ever software powers your 3d printer, you can try out the settings I used or use it as a starting point.





Part Settings

Angle: 30 Deg
Surface: 2 Layers
Fill: Solid

Support Settings

Dense: 2 Layers
Space: 8 Lines
Area: 8mm
Angle: 30 Deg

That's pretty much it. I've included some photos of the model that was printed from this instructable. Hopefully this instructable has helped you in some way or at least has given you a decent understanding of how to create 3d objects for 3d print.

*I've also uploaded the .STL file on Thingiverse so you can download and print.  http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:71465

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to make and create lot's of things! Follow me on Twitter, Thingiverse and Instagram under my name: christinachun to keep up with ... More »
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