Introduction: Life-Size Charmander Flame Lamp
As a child I absolutely loved Pokémon, I spent countless hours on the Gameboy Classic, trying to catch them all and also collected the cards. Therefore the Pokémon franchise still has a place in my heart and reminds me of my happy childhood.
More than two years ago I had the idea to build a life-size Squirtle fountain. But living in a small apartment, this didn't seem like the most practical idea. By now we are living in a house with a garden, but we are renting it and in about two years we are going to move into our own house. Therefore I postponed the idea and instead decided to build a Charmander lamp that can be used on the inside and the outside. The flame turns on automatically once it gets dark (or when you turn the solar panel around like I have done in the first picture). It has a fading mode, can be used to emulate a flame or turned on permanently. The mode can be selected with a switch.
Every time I see it, it makes me smile and reminds me of all the good times I had as a child. This is by far the biggest print I have ever done with more than 270 hours of print time. Now that I have created the lamp I really want to make the fountain and a life-size Bulbasaur planter.
I hope you will enjoy this video of it:
Step 1: Things You Need
I used this awesome model by PatrickFanart.
- Solar Torch Lights 96 LED (I used this one*. Check out Chinese suppliers as Aliexpress as well. You might get them a lot cheaper.)
- 4 core cable (about 0,5 m (19.7 inches))
- autobody filler (e.g. this one*)
- filler primer (e.g. this one*)
- Sandpaper (80, 120, 240, and 360 grit)
- Paint (I wanted it to look like a statue. Therefore I used bronze paint (which actually looks more like copper))
- Optional: metal effects paint and patina kit (I used this one)
- Three M3 30 mm screws + nuts
- Two-component glue
- Hot glue
- Optional: lead as weight in the feet
- Optional: epoxy to add strength to the print
- FDM 3D printer (+ about 5 kg of filament)
- Optional: SLA 3D printer
- Optional: airbrush
- Dremel with a cutting wheel and a milling bit
- Soldering iron (+ solder)
Solder Sucker (I can highly suggest this one*)
* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Step 2: Sizing and Cutting Off the Flame
I decided that I wanted the flame to have a thread so that should the LEDs need a replacement, I could just unscrew it. I also wanted to use a SLA printer and not my regular FDM printers to print it.
I decided to document the whole process, so should you want to use another type of solar torch or your own electronics, you can replicate what I have done and change it to your needs.
In order to manipulate the mesh, I used Meshmixer and Fusion 360 by AUTODESK. Meshmixed is free and Fusion 360 has a version that can be used by hobbyists that is also free of charge.
The first thing I did was to scale the model to Charmanders life-size. Open the model in Meshmixer and select EDIT and then SCALE. Make sure "Uniform Scaling" is checked.
Charmander is two feet, therefore I picked a height of 610 mm.
Next, use the select tool and mark where you would like your cut to be (as shown in the second picture). Then select "Edit" (still in the SELECT tool), pick "Plane Cut". And cut as close to the flame as possible. Pick "Slice (Keep Both)" as the cut type. In order to separate your two cuts, you will have to click on "EDIT" and then "Separate Shells".
Step 3: Removing the "Stem"
Next, we are going to remove the stem of the flame, by selecting it and hitting "del". Once you have done that click on "Analysis" and then "Flat fill".
I wanted the flame to be slightly more upright and therefore rotated it. You can do so as well by selecting "Edit" and then once again "Transform".
In order to make positioning the thread easier (and since Fusion 360 has a polygon limit), I duplicated the flame, cut it at a length of about 23 mm, and kept the bottom part (as shown in the fourth image). Export the bottom part of the flame as an STL file.
Step 4: Going Into Fusion 360
In order to add the thread, we are going to use Fusion 360. Start by importing the bottom part of the flame, as shown in the first picture.
Before you can turn the mesh into a BRep 3D model, which you can use in Fusion 360, you will have to turn off the design history. You can do so by right-clicking on the name of your design on the design tree on the left-hand side. Mine is named "FlameThread", as you can see in the first picture. Next select "Do not capture Design History".
Now right-click on your mesh body and select "Mesh to BRep". Once you have done that you can turn the design history back on (once again right-click on the name of your design and this time pick "Capture Design History").
Next, start a sketch and draw two circles. One with a radius of 21 mm and one with a radius of 23.5 mm. You can pick your own measurements, but make sure your LEDs fit into it (mine is already quite a tight fit).
Step 5: Adding the Thread
Extrude the two rings as shown in the first picture. Now we are going to add the thread. As you can see in the second image, I did some test prints and found out that a M42x4 thread prints way better than a M42x4.5.
Choose "CREATE" and then "Thread". Make sure that "Modeled" is checked. Otherwise, you won't be able to export it.
Finally extrude the cylinder by another 35 mm.
Step 6: Cutting the Thread
Next, we are going to turn the bottom of our flame into a tool, to cut the thread.
Start by creating a cuboid as shown in the first picture. Next pick "MODIFY" and "COMBINE". Use the bottom of your flame as "Tool Bodies" and your cuboid as "Target Body", as shown in the second picture. Then cut the pieces.
Lastly, you will have to cut the thread. This time use it as the "Target Body" and the part you created last as "Tool Bodies".
Step 7: Working With Tolerances
In order for the threads to work, you will have to give them some play. In my experience, SLA prints are a bit smaller than what you've designed. Therefore, hit "q" in Fusion 360 and select the faces. I made a few test prints and found that a value of -0.15 mm works the best. Do the same for the top and the bottom of the thread as shown in the pictures.
Finally, we will need another cylinder. It has to be slightly bigger than the thread and slightly smaller than the outside. We will need it to cut a hole into the flame later on.
Step 8: Outer Thread
Now we are going to design the outer thread that needs to be connected to the tail. Pick the circle with a radius of 21 mm that you designed at the beginning and extrude to a length of 15 mm.
Then we are going to add the outer thread to the cylinder we just created. Pick the same settings as for the inner thread. Once again we are going to offset the faces of the thread by -0.15 mm.
Step 9: Finishing the Outer Thread
I offset the outer face of the thread by -0.15 mm and added a fillet of 0.45 mm because I cut myself on the first version I designed and wanted the edges to be less sharp.
I added a cylinder at the bottom of the thread so that I could add it to the tail later. Finally, I offset the face of the cylinder by -0.2 mm, to ensure a smooth fit.
Step 10: LED Holder
Now we are going to design the holes where the cables will run through and the cylinder that holds the LEDs later on.
You can see the measurements I used in the pictures.
Export the inner and the outer thread, as well as the cylinder that is used to cut the flame as STL files.
Step 11: Adding the Thread to the Flame
Now we are going back into Meshmixer and add the thread to the flame.
Start by making the flame hollow. I used a wall thickness of 1.2 mm. Click on "Edit" and "Hollow" and set the offset distance to 1.2 mm.
Next, we are going to import the cylinder that is supposed to cut a hole into the flame. Select "Append" and "No" when you are asked whether you would like to scale the model. Click on the flame first, hold "ctrl", click on the cylinder and select "Boolean Difference".
Once you are done, import the inner thread and combine it with the flame, as shown in the fourth picture. "Boolean Union" would be the cleaner solution, but I couldn't get it to look right and the combined version printed without any problems.
Step 12: Adding the Thread to the Tail and Cutting the File Into Pieces
Dupliate your Charmander model, and make one of them hollow with a distance of 5 mm. Add the outer thread to the tail and combine the pieces.
I designed a small slot and a hole (in Fusion 360 and cut it in Meshmixer), that allow me to thread the wire through (make sure that they fit your wires).
I smoothed the eyes slightly because the quality wasn't great.
Then I cut the model apart. Most parts have a wall thickness of two centimeters. I left the head solid since it required less print time than adding support structures. If you would like to use different wall thicknesses as well, simply duplicate the (non hollow) model, add the desired wall thickness to it and make the cuts in the same places.
Cutting it apart can be done by selecting "Edit" and then "Plane Cut" make sure to select "Slice (Keep Both)". Afterward, go to "Edit" and "Separate Shells".
Step 13: Print All the Parts
Now onto printing all the parts.
I have uploaded all the files to this step. I printed them with a layer height of 0.2 mm and a nozzle diameter of 0.6 mm. I used old filament. Some of it was more than 7 years old. Therefore I had to dry it first and still had some brittle parts and some parts that didn't print well. But since it was such a big model it didn't really matter.
The flame was printed with my SLA 3D printer.
Step 14: Adding the Cables
The cable can be pushed through the hole in the tail. I used wire to pull the individual cables through the holes in the thread. Once you have done that, hold them in place with tape. Also, use the tape to cover the thread, so that no paint can get onto it during the painting process.
Step 15: Assembling the Printed Parts
I wanted the Charmander to feel even heavier than it already was. Therefore I added lead to the feet and covered it with epoxy, as you can see in the first step.
The Charmander was assembled with a strong two-component glue. Just go layer by layer.
Step 16: Smoothing
I have written a whole instructable on how to smooth 3D prints. You can find it here.
In my experience working with smoothing prints, I found out that especially if you have bigger cracks, just using a primer filler is not going to work. Therefore start by smoothing the print with automotive body filler. Once it is dry, sand everything with rough grid sandpaper (I used 80 grid). If you are planning on using an electric sander, make sure not to meld the plastic.
Since I wanted to be able to use the Charmander on the outside. I covered everything in epoxy. Make sure not to get any drips and pick a viscous epoxy. Once it is set, sand the whole piece again.
Step 17: Priming and Painting
Now onto priming. Start with a filler primer. I used two layers and sanded between them. Once everything was covered with primer I could see some more unevenness that I covered with automotive filler (just using filler primer would have meant having to use too much of it).
At this point, I was unsure about the paint job I wanted to use. Option one was to go with a statue like paint job and option two was to go with Charmanders original colors. After some debating, I decided to go with the statue look.
The metal paint I used requires a black primer and therefore I primed the Charmander black. Once I was done airbrushing it with the bronze paint, I wasn't happy with the look. To me, it didn't look realistic at all.
Step 18: Adding a Patina
Since I wasn't happy with the look I achieved in the last step, I decided to go with a metal effect paint.
I tried two different types of paints. The one on the left is by Modern Options and the one on the right by Modern Masters. I preferred the look on the right and therefore went with it.
Once I was happy with the result I got, I used bronze paint and dry brushed it over the elevated areas like the lips, teeth, and eyes, as shown in the second picture.
Finally add a varnish on top. On another project I used a cheap varnish from the hardware store and it ruined the finish (the patina turned really dark). Therfore I used the sealer from Modern Masters and it worked perfectly.
Step 19: Printing the Flame
Printing the flame is pretty straight forward. I broke the support structures away, before cleaning and curing the print.
Step 20: Curing and Sanding
After curing the print I sanded away the leftover support structures and wet sanded it with 360 grit sandpaper. Since the print was slightly yellowish after the curing I airbrushed translucent white paint onto it.
Step 21: Taking Apart the Lamp
There are multiple small screws holding the lamp together. Unscrew them and take it apart. Remove the glue on the bottom that is holding the cables in place.
Make sure not to lose the rubber thingy that is protecting the switch, since we will need it later on.
Step 22: Taking Apart the Electronics
The tricky part is removing the battery since it is glued into the shell. Unsolder it before moving on.
First I tried pulling it out with pliers, sadly it didn't work. Then I used a Dremel with a cutting wheel to remove it. If you are going to do this, be very careful not to cut into the battery.
Mark the positions of the pins of the LEDs. Once you are sure where they go, unsolder them. Be careful not to damage them, since they break easily.
Step 23: Reassembling the Electronics
All that is left to do is to reassemble the electronics. Make sure to secure everything with hot glue, but be careful not to melt the 3D printed parts.
Before gluing the switch in place, place the rubber thingy that was covering the switch in the lamp into the hole, as shown in the second picture.
I shortened the wires from the solar panel slightly, since they were way too long.
Once everything is back in place, screw the two parts together. I left an indent in the back of the 3D print so that I could add a pole later on.
Congratulations, you are done! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
First Prize in the