Introduction: 3D - LED Garage Art

About: I am a maker, DIY'er, Dad, Engineer, and all around life Long Learner. My mission is to try new things, attempt to do more by learning from others and share my experiences with others for enjoyable experience…

Tired of looking at that boring garage where you park your dream ride?

Does your garage look like Familyville Horror Show with bikes, soccer balls, and folding chairs piled up higher and deeper?

Pay tribute to that ride of yours (where you spend hours of your time each year) by creating some garage art for an aesthetic upgrade your wheels would be proud to park under.



3D print files - (found online at a number of sources but I drew mine and put them here:

Sheet metal - A piece of duct work - square or round that you can flatten out to a sheet.

1/2" Plywood back board, scrap lumber (2x4 or 1x3 etc.), stain, paint. LEDs, wire, toggle switches, and a 'wall wart' transformer. Muriatic Acid or Copper sulfate / Stained glass lead patina solution.

Step 1: Get a Logo in 3D !!!

Decide on what your sign is going to represent and look for a logo that can be printed on in 3D format. I crafted two (Corvette C7 Racing and a BMW Logo for a friend). I drew them out on CAD referencing the logos but made them slightly different for making them uniquely mine. Only upon on close inspection and a well trained eye can one see the differences. You can find the files here and others on many websites such as CGTrader and Tinkercad. Just look for them or even ask and maybe somebody will make one for you!

Here is where you can find the ones I used:



I scaled the 3D prints to be fairly large (~14") so one can easily see them from outside the garage. No sign was ever made small to attract attention! The files I drew are 8mm thick with a 8mm stand offs to have the LED light shine out from under them. Depending on the file, and the density of the infill, the BMW logo took approximately 40 hours to print in total.

Step 2: Fab the Sign Backboard

I unfurled a 8"round section of ducting and flattened it as much as possible but it is really not critical to get it completely flat. Reason being is to make a rustic sign as if the metal is fatigued, bent or has seen better days in the past. Once unfurled and reasonably flat, I estimated a good sign sized from that and went with 16 x 20". I cut a piece of plywood to that dimension and then traced it on the sheet metal and cut it out to match.

Antique the sheet metal: I took a belt sander and sanded off the galvanized finish and because the metal was wavy, it only sanded off the high spots where the wrinkles were. I also used a palm sander to even out the sanding a bit and to get the low valleys of the sheet metal as well. Once i had the metal sanded down, I washed it is a thin coating of Muriatic acid followed copper sulfate solution. The copper sulfate is used to patina the lead came of stained glass. If you do not have any of these solutions, just put the metal outside, wet it down, and let nature rust it up a bit for you in a day or two.

The sheet metal was fasted to the plywood with sheet metal screws randomly placed for enhancing the upcycled look of the sign.

Step 3: Determine LED Locations

I traced the 3D logo pieces on tag board to make a usable pattern of the logo. Then I positioned them on the steel sign for centering / layout purposes. To locate the best positions of the LEDs to provide adequate coverage, I evenly spaced the LED locations by nailing finishing nails through the pattern and to punch the steel. Now I know where to drill the holes for the LEDs.

Because I used three sizes of LEDs (3, 5, and 10 mm diameter), I labeled each nail punch hole accordingly to know how big to drill the holes so that the LEDs would fit into the hole. Drill all the way through the sheet metal and the plywood.

Similarly, use the pattern to mark holes for mounting screws to mount the 3D logo itself. Mark the positions to coincide with the stand off of the 3D print. At this time you can fasten the 3D print to the backboard, but be careful moving forward in the next steps to not damage it.

Step 4: Wire It Up!

I wanted even lighting as possible so I used 7 LEDs in a string, with 5 strings (35 LEDs in total). Not all LEDs consume the same amount of current draw or function at the same voltage drop (2 - 3 vdc), but a good rule of thumb is each LED will draw about 0.020 Amps at drop 2.5 Volts DC. I used an old wall wart transformer from an old cordless phone that outputs 5 vdc as a source. This is perfect low voltage that I can keep the sign lit all day long, consume very little power and be safe voltage (very low) in case the cord or some wiring gets damaged in the garage etc.

To control the current flow and protect the LEDs long term a resistor must be added in the circuit. See picture of the wiring diagram for the circuit I used. The diagram basically says each LED needs a flow of 0.020 amps so 7 in one string totals 0.140 A of flow. The LEDs can only handle 2.5 volts DC or they will blow out, so I need to drop the 5 Volts coming in to 2.5 volts out to the LED string, hence a resistor regulates the flow. By Ohm's law I calculate 18 ohm resistor is needed for an exact match but it I round it up to 20 Ohms, I throttle the voltage a little bit down and I have the circuit I am looking for.

I routed out the back of the plywood to facilitate the wiring but I realized after I didn't need to do that as I put a back 1/8th inch thick masonite cover over all the wiring. To support the cover I glued in stand off blocks of wood.

On the BMW sign, I only used 8 LEDs so I used One string and did the similar math to get the correct resistance.

i = 8 * 0.020 = 0.160A V/I = R or.... 2.5 v / 0.16 = 15 Ohms.

Step 5: Stain / Paint and Assemble

I fabricated the frames with scrap wood, cutting all different strips and widths. I started by making a simple box the dimensions of the backboard and then nailed in a support trim on the INSIDE to create the lip for the backboard to drop into the frame (this hid the edge of the backboard / sheet metal).

BMW frame - To get a greasy / rustic feel of the frame, I spray painted the entire frame flat black and aluminum silver paint in a very haphazard manner. After drying completely, I then sanded off the paint wherever my sander could reach. This left a lot of paint in the grain of the wood and gave it a really good look.

Corvette Frame - I stained and painted the frame in a variety of stencils etc to make it look like it was from crate wood. Regardless of what method I just wanted it to look upcycled, so have fun with this. Do whatever trips your trigger! See photos for reference on the three frames I made.

I screwed the backboard into the side of the frame from the inside and put on a masonite cover to protect the back. The on off switch when through the wall of the BMW sign, but is on the rear cover for the corvette sign. If you make it this far, you will figure it out where it can go!

That's it ! Now go hang your art in your garage and enjoy!

Lighting Challenge

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Lighting Challenge