Introduction: Animating Multilayered Engravings

Engraving/etching is nothing new but there is always room for new ideas and ways to make them look even better. Back in 2001 when I introduced engraving to the modding community with the Glowpad article (world first lighted mousepad), the basic one colored line drawings were enough to make everyone smile. 2002 saw the introduction of multicolored engravings. It was about time to make them animate and that is what this tutorial is all about.

I'll first introduce the technique with a simple logo and then move on to something bit more flashy.

I have to apologize about the watermarks on the images. The article was originally published on my modding site:

Step 1: Idea

Getting the engraving to animate involves more than one engraved surface. Basically one just slaps as many sheets of engraved clear acrylic on top of another, as many as the animation requires. Animation is them played by lighting up one layer at the time.

To show the basic princible I selected the Intel Inside logo. It has three distinctive objects that can be divided to separate layers.

Each layer is engraved by using whatever engraving tool you like. I prefer the Dremel Engraver for more detailed work and regular Multitool for larger surface areas.

Impotant note: As we are lighting up one layer at the time, one should try to keep the engravings from overlapping one another if possible. This is not that much of a problem if the image is a simple line drawing but if the topic calls for larger sanded/engraved areas, they will block the light coming from the layers behind them. Just something to keep in mind when selecting the ideas for the image.

Step 2: Preparing the Lights

Acrylic that I used happened to be 3 mm thick so I had to file down some 5 mm leds for them. Led size should be equal or less than the thicknes of the acrylic so that the light does not travel to wrong layers.

To make sure that the light stays on its own layer I used aluminum tape. This blocks the light meant for one layer from shining to other layers too. It will also reflect the light inside that one layer so it lights up the engraving more evenly. Great trick to get away with using low amounts of leds.

Step 3: Electronics

There are several ways on getting the layers lighted up one by one. I wanted bit more control and made
a little circuit by using Atmel's Attiny45 to drive the leds with PWM signal. One could use for example 555 timer chip in combination with 4017 decade counter to advance the animation one step at the time.

Step 4: Finishing Up...

I happened to have a picture frame with near perfect dimensions. Perhaps this is something to make the project appear even bit more professional.

Step 5: Advanced Stuff

I had previously made this dragon engraving. It looks great as it is but I just knew it could look a whole lot better with this new animation technique that I came up with.

Steps are the same.

- Select the image
- Divide the image to sections you want to animate
- Engrave
- Install the tapes and lights

In this case the dragon layer is the top most one. It will be contantly lit by two white leds. Each flame layer will go behing it, starting from the smallest flame. This to keep the flame engravings from blocking one another from view.

Step 6: Camera, Lights, Action!

I hope that you enjoyed this little tutorial. Complete article can be found on my site but all the information needed to make one of these by yourself is listed here, in this Instructable article.

Full article at Metku

Technique by itself is very simple but it involves several steps. It is best to try this out with smaller scrap pieces of acrylic first.

I just feel that combining multicolored engravings with bit of movement is just the ticket to impress your friends. Mount this to the car window, on top of the amplifier stack inside the trunk, side of a computer case, frame it to the wall etc. Tons of uses and you can personalize it the way you like. An animated heart to your loved one perhaps? ;)

As this was my first instructible, please, give comments and feedback. I'm also happy to answer questions about engraving and modding in general too.

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