Introduction: Illuminated Twist Vase

About: Vladimir Mariano is the founder of and instructor of the online course Designing for 3D Printing with Fusion 360. He is cofounder and president of the Fairfield County Makers’ Guild, an …

This is not one of those ideas that's going to make you millions but it sure was a lot of fun to make. The inspiration came from the Make Anything Channel where Devin Montes did a video titled "Super Satisfying Twist Containers". I took this idea and ran with it. As with most ideas, the end result wasn't the original intention. It just kinda snowballed as they usually do.

After experimenting with my own twist container designs and recording a how to video with Fusion 360, it was time to print a giant one. I maximized the size for my Prusa i3 MkII and took out the GoPro for a time-lapse video. If you would like to learn to design your own stuff in Fusion 360 I also have several online video courses to get you started.

Some projects have this ability to just capture you and this was one of them. The smoothness of the spiraling motion between the two twist containers was just so oddly satisfying as Devin put it.

I love electronics and combining 3D printing with anything Arduino related is my happy place. Therefore, the obvious next step was to automate the twist container. I thought of different ways to tackle this and decided to go with a servo motor, pully, a magnet, and a rope. Keeping it simple is always a good way to start.

Parts Needed for this Project

  • Copper Pipes - I used 3/4 inch pipes
  • Pipe Cutter
  • Five Elbow 90 degree fittings
  • Two t-fittings. One will need to have a 3/4" and 1" opening in order to fit the servo.
  • Gorilla glue
  • Acrylic Sheet
  • Any scrap wood for a wooden platform
  • Magnet
  • Rope or string or even some fishing line.
  • Copper Tape
  • Servo Motor
  • Limit Switch
  • Adafruit Circuit Playground board

Step 1: Build the Frame

The frame is built out of copper pipes. I used 3/4 inch pipes that I grabbed from a local hardware store along with five 90 degree fittings and two t-fittings. After cutting the sections to size with a pipe cutter, I did a dry fitting to make sure all the sections lined up properly.

Once I was certain the pieces were the correct sizes, I applied some Gorilla glue for a permanent connection. Gorilla glue needs moisture to bond so I made sure to moisten the pipes prior to application.

Step 2: Attach Servo Motor and Limit Switch

I designed the servo motor mount and the pulley above in Fusion 360. These were 3d printed and spray painted a copper color. After press fitting the servo into the mount, it was glued inside the pipe fitting. The pulley was glued to a servo arm and attached to the motor.

Next we need to add a limit switch. The purpose of the limit switch is to reverse the motor only when the container is released. The limit switch is encased inside a 3d printed cylinder that is glued in the pipe fitting. The motor used is a micro servo motor (continuous rotation) instead of a full sized one. This allows the motor to be concealed inside the pipe fitting. The pipe fitting used above has two 3/4" openings and one 1" opening to allow the servo motor to fit. The mounting brackets on the servo motor had to be cut in order to get it to fit in the pipe. The wires run on the inside of the pipes and come out through a drilled hole at the base.

Step 3: Add Circuit Playground Board

Next we need to add a micro-controller. We will use the Adafruit Circuit playground mainly because it comes with LED's already built in which saves us a step of having to wire them in separately. It actually comes with 10 neopixels and each one can display a different color. However, I did not want to use alligator clips so I designed this screw terminal block. I recorded a Fusion 360 tutorial on designing this model which you can find here.

The wires from the limit switch and servo motor were soldered to an Adafruit Perma-Proto board and then attached to the Circuit Playground with the 3D printed screw terminal block.

Step 4:

For the clear top I used a table saw to cut a piece of 5mm thick acrylic. I used a grinder to give it some rounded corners and a drill press to cut the half circle on one side. I did the same with a wooden base (minus the half circle). Acrylic has a glass-like transparency that allows the copper to be visible and will allow light from the Circuit Playground neopixels to shine through.

In order to allow easy access to our electronics we are going to go with a hinged mechanism to allow the acrylic platform to easily lift. The simplest way I could think to do this was to apply copper tape between the acrylic platform and the pipe. The copper tape does the job without detracting from the look.

Step 5: Lifting Mechanism

A magnet inside the blue 3d printed casing snaps to an M3 nut that was glued to the inside of the twist container in order to pull it up. To glue the nut to the inside of the container, I used double sided tape to secure the nut to a dowel and used the dowel to transfer the nut to the inside top of the container. I added a bit of hot glue to the nut and held it in place using the dowel until the glue dried.

In order to keep the inside twist container in place while the top container is being twisted, this 3d printed platform was printed and hot glued to the acrylic base. I chose to go with clear pla as to allow as much of the light through as possible. The clear pla will also not change the color of the light. Since the neopixels are individually addressable on the Circuit Playground, I can simply change the color in the Arduino code. The final version has a hole in the middle.

Step 6: Upload Code and Impress Your Friends

All that's left to do is plug in the Circuit Playground and upload the Arduino code.

Above is a video of the entire build process. This was a fun project to build that combined 3D printing, electronics, programming, and mechanics. It also leaves you with a fun visually captivating illuminated kinetic sculpture to take to Maker Faires and other events. Add this to your booth and it will be a magnet for curious makers.

Below are links to the .stl files in case you want to print your own along with the Arduino Code I used and Fusion 360 tutorials for parts I designed. Enjoy!

STL Files

Circuit Playground Screw Terminal Block

Twist Vase

Fusion 360 Tutorials

Also enjoy this cool time-lapse of the vase being 3d printed.

Visit my website at for video tutorials on learning Fusion 360.

Lights Contest 2017

Participated in the
Lights Contest 2017