Introduction: 3-D Printed LED Lightsaber
Have you ever wanted to make your very own lightsaber? If so, you've come to the right place!
My name is Aaditya Jadhav and my recent creation that I want to share with the world is a 3-D Printed LED Lightsaber! This is my very first engineering project which involved coding, 3-D printing, and electrical wiring all in one.
Before I get into the details of how to make the lightsaber, I want to give a big shout out to my totally awesome Principles of Engineering teacher Ms. Berbawy! This project would not have been possible without her help and guidance.
The foundation of this project came from my passion of coding and love for LED lights. I wanted to make something simple, with me being relatively new to engineering projects, yet something striking at the same time. I thought: why not a lightsaber? And although I have yet to watch the Star Wars series, I do know how awesome lightsabers are. Despite being a little ambitious for a beginner, I wanted to put my mind to creating something I would be proud of, and the 3-D Printed LED Lightsaber was born. The oversimplified concept of this build is to CAD a handle and bottom cap that resembles the handle part of the lightsaber, program the LEDs with an Arduino, and install an on/off switch.
Tools & Materials
● 3-D Printer + CAD Software (Prusa Mini & Onshape)
● 3-D Printing Filament (Prusament PLA)
● Super Glue / Hot Glue Gun
● At least 2 AA Batteries (more are recommended)
● AA Battery Holder
● Spray Paint (White)
● Acrylic Tubing (~2' long, 1.25" Outer Diameter, 1" Inner Diameter) - available at TAP Plastics in store
● Pliers / Wire Strippers / Surgical Scissors / Tartar Scrapers
● Heat Shrink Tubing
● Male to Female Dupont Wires
Step 1: Creating CAD Models
Creating the 3-D models is the first step in starting the journey of this build. A handle needs to be made which will house the components of the build including the Arduino, batteries, wiring, and switch. The model I created is rather simple and more function based. The rings near the bottom are for additional grip on the handle. The hole in the middle is where the On/Off switch will be fixed. The protruding pieces are made to closely replicate the look of a real lightsaber. A cap for the bottom of the handle also needs to be created so that the internals do not fall out. The handle cap should close off the hole in the bottom and have a way of latching onto the inside of the handle so it doesn't fall out either. The handle cap I used had extruded threads to keep it in place as a friction fit. Another cap for the saber also needs to be made that will fit on top of the acrylic tubing to ensure that the LED's are completely enclosed.
Important Note: Be sure to account for tolerances when creating the holes for the switch, acrylic tubing and the cap.
Inspiration for my models came from 3-DPrintingWorld. The cap for the bottom was taken directly from their lightsaber project. Thank you and shoutout to John Mulac for the 3-D model!
Step 2: 3-D Printing Models
Once satisfied with the 3-D models, upload them into a slicing software and slice the parts in order to turn it into g-code. It is important to add supports according to wherever you may have parts that stick out horizontally. Normally the software will do a good job of informing you where you may need supports. Pick a detail level and the type of filament you are using. Now the model can be converted into g-code and uploaded to a 3-D printer to print. After a successful print, carefully remove the supports without damaging the actual handle and caps. Do this effectively by using precision tools such as pliers, surgical scissors, or tartar scrapers to remove the supports.
Step 3: Programming LED's
To program this LED strip, I used an Arduino Nano and wrote my code in the Arduino IDE. This specific Arduino board works well because the Nano fits perfectly into the slim handle of the lightsaber. I recommend using the FastLED library in the Arduino IDE to take advantages of its various functions. There are many possibilities with the amount of colors and patterns that can be made. In the sample code I have provided, I have coded the LED's in a way that makes them switch between the colors red and blue every 3 seconds.
Important Note: Remember to define the total number of individual LED's on your LED strip to ensure that they all light up properly. In addition, the more extravagant the pattern/code, the faster the batteries will drain.
Step 4: Preparing Assembly
Next, pre-assembly preparations need to be done. The acrylic tubing needs to be colored in a way so that it is no longer see through, but light can still pass through from the inside. White spray paint does this very well. Only spray 2 thin layers on the tubing as any more layers may prevent the light from shining through. Let the tubing fully dry before inserting the LEDs.
Remove the sticker to reveal the adhesive on the back of the LED strip and fold the strip into half so that it sticks to itself. This is to make sure that there are no dark spots and the LED's illuminate the complete inside of the saber.
Strip the wires of the LED strip (normally will include data, ground, and 5V cables), switch, and battery holder using wire strippers. Leave a generous 0.75" of stripped wire at the ends. Splice the wires together using an effective method like the racecar twist. Protect the connections with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing (more effective).
Test out the LED's, batteries and switch by completing the circuit before placing it into the actual 3-D printed parts. The image above shows one way of completing the circuit for testing. Connect the male to female wires to go from the Arduino to the LED strip's wires. Once the circuit is complete, check that the LED's are lighting up exactly as programmed and that the switch is working properly.
Step 5: Assembly
Feed the folded LED strip into the acrylic tubing. Feed the the Arduino, batteries, and attached wires into the handle. Fit the tubing into the top hole of the handle. It should fit tightly, but if it doesn't, it can be cemented into place using super glue or hot glue. Then, insert the switch into its designated hole. It should firmly snap into place. Screw in the handle cap from the bottom to prevent the Arduino and batteries from falling out. Insert the saber cap onto the other end of the acrylic tube to finish the assembly.
Step 6: Optional Improvements
Some additional improvements that can be made include wire management and internal arrangement. Some wires that are unnecessary or lengthy can be trimmed to take up less space. Also, battery can be arranged so that it comes out the bottom when the cap is taken out to provide easy and accessible battery replacement. Furthermore, the LED strip can be attached to the top from the inside to prevent it from slowly slipping down the tube over time.
Other than that, your very own LED lightsaber is complete!