Introduction: 3D Printed Illuminated Large 7" Ornament - Aurora Borealis

About: I have always been curious in learning new things and wanting to be self reliant. I guess that works well with my professional Industrial Maintenance background of over 30 years. Recently I've been focused on …

Well, I didn’t get this Instructable submitted before Christmas, but this can be used for things other than just the holidays. My wife is obsessed with decorating for Christmas. I try to support her by making things that are unique and generally cannot buy down town. This was the first year that I had a 3D printer. I was thinking about what I can make this year when the idea of making a large Globe Ornament came to mind. I wasn’t sure how well I could print a large hollow sphere but decided to give it a try.


Semi Transparent PLA filament

Silver Paint

Wire Coat Hanger

100 Light String of LED Christmas Lights

3D Printer - Mine is a Creality Ender 3 Pro

Step 1: Creating a 3D Drawing for the Globe…

I used Tinkercad to draw the globe. I find that this program is simple and the easy for beginners. I could have used Fusion 360, but for this project I stuck to the basics. I used the Sphere shape as a solid in the Basic Shapes menu to create a ball 7” in diameter. I then made a 6-7/8” hollow sphere by clicking the “Hole” option on the shape detail window. I box highlighted both spheres and used the align tool to center them one inside the other, then combined them into one object. I now had a hollow sphere with 1/16” thick walls. I needed to add a hollow cylinder to the top of the sphere to a hanging point and I wanted it to be large enough to insert a light or lights. I made a solid cylinder that was 1-1/2” in diameter and 1-1/4” tall. Inside this cylinder, I inserted a “Hole” cylinder that was 1-3/8” diameter by 1-1/4” long. I then aligned and combined these pieces. Now I took both the sphere and the cylinder and used the align feature. Then I used the arrow to raise the cylinder, so it just penetrated through the sphere, then combined both pieces into one object. I then exported this file as a .stl file and saved it on my desktop.

Here is the .stl file if you want to make this project

Note: I didn’t change the sides and segments settings on the sphere to make the surface more round. I wanted to use the faceted shapes to accent the diffusion of the light I was planning on installing.

Step 2: Converting the File to G Code…

Again, I have used several different slicing programs to generate G Code but decided to use the Creality Slicer that came with my Ender 3 for simplicity. I placed the globe on the slicer bed so the cylinder shape was on the build plate.

The main things I set were…

Nozzle Temperature – 200 C

Bed Temperature – 60 C

Wall Thickness – 1 mm

Fill Density – 20%

Print Speed – 80

Layer Height - .15

Build Plate – Raft

I then generated the G Code File. It calculated that it would take a little over 14 hours for each to print.

Step 3: Let’s Get Printing! …

For this print, I used a semi transparent PLA filament. I turned on the printer and loaded the file. After the warm up, we were printing! It still amazes me that you can print usable items at home. Once the part was finished printing, I removed it from the print bed and peeled the raft off the ornament. The print worked, although the top and bottom surfaces of the sphere aren’t perfect, they will work fine for my purpose.

Step 4: Creating a 3D Drawing for the Cap…

Using Tinkercad I drew the cap. The cap needed to fit the cylinder on the top of the globe tightly so I made it the exact dimension internally as the external area of the globe cylinder. I then exported this file as a .stl file and saved it on my desktop.

Here is the .stl file if you want to make this project

I then used the Creality Slicer Program to create the gcode file. You should use the slicer program that you are familiar and comfortable with. I used the same settings as I did on the ornament in the steps above.

Step 5: Print and Paint the Cap...

I printed the cap upside down so I didn't need to use any support structure. It printed nicely and didn't have any clean up to do before I gave it a quick spray with some silver spray paint. (I used the same filament that I had for the ornament. The PLA print accepts paint very well. The alternative to painting would have been to print it with a silver or any color filament you may want.

Step 6: Create an Ornament Hanging Loop...

OK, now I needed to make a hanging loop to attach to the ornament. I fashioned it after something you would find on a smaller bulb ornament you would purchase, just on a bigger scale. To make this, I began with a wire coat hanger. I cut the top hook area off of the coat hanger and using two pairs of pliers, carefully made a straight wire out of it. The main loop was formed around the upper ring of a paint can. I then used the pliers to bend and cut the legs as shown. Overall, it is pretty easy to form.

Step 7: Adding the Lights to the Ornament...

I used a 100 LED light string to fill the inside of the ornament. I felt that it needed to be LED's not only for the extend life and reduced operating costs, but I knew they would produce a lot less heat inside the ornament. As I was stuffing the wire and light in, i slowly rotated the ornament in my hand. I think this helped keep the light wires towards the center of the globe and push the lights closer to the outside of the ornament. It may not have been necessary, but that's how I did it.

Step 8: Time for Final Assembly...

OK, lets feed the wire though the cap and begin installing the metal hanger. Once that assembly is together, gently squeeze the hanger so it fits inside the ornament cylinder. Push the hanger into the ornament until it opens back up as it goes int the globe. It should grip tight enough to hang the ornament. If not, pull it out of the globe and bend the feet out closer to a 90 degree angle to grip better.

Step 9: Place It and Power Up...

Hang the ornament where ever you would like, or just sit it on a surface. Plug it in and ENJOY!

As you see here, I made five of these and hung them above an illuminated snowman on our front porch. Once my daughter saw these, she asked me to make two she could use as a decoration/ nightlight in my grand-daughters bedroom.

The look of the diffused lights through globe reminds me of the aurora borealis. I would like to try using different colored light combinations to see the different effects it would create.Another variation I will probably try next year would be to use addressable LED's and program them as chasing colors.

I hope you enjoyed my build and hope you have been inspired to create either this or something of your own!

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