Litho Lamp




Introduction: Litho Lamp

About: I make projects, they have names. Some are obscure and some straightforward. Form or Function; I go either way. Battery powered or edible, I love making things.

I'm getting married in a few months and like most wedding couples we want a way to display our personalities and save a few bux.  Our rehearsal dinner is going to take place in a park from 6-10pm.  This presented the problem of poor lighting.   Having seen MakerBot's awesome lithograph customizer, I had an idea for a lamp.  Well....about a dozen lamps.  

We also live in Indiana and are getting married in Colorado.  Needing ten to twelve lamps also means that shipping completed 106mmlamps would be cost prohibitive.  I need these lamp to be flat-packable and capable of being rapidly assembled.  I also need the light to last for 4-5 hours.  The LED will draw ~200mA, so two AAA batteries will power it @3V for about 5 hours.  I had originally wanted to use coin cell batteries, but they wouldn't last long with this powerful diode.  Once I knew what parts I would be using, it was time to design.  

Step 1: Parts, Tools & Files


Bright LED
AAA battery holder
3-d printed parts  ----   I printed these, but they could be sent to ShapeWays or other service.  


Hot Glue gun
solder iron or conductive glue

FILES & LINKS:  Derivative of Makerbots Lithopane that I've used.  No border or hole.   TinkerCad File.  Delete my picture and insert your own. Web based image editor used to crop and reverse pictures.  Use whatever image program you like.  

Step 2: Preparing Your Pictures

I wanted the print bed side(Super Smooth Side) of the print to face outward.  For the photos to look right they needed to be mirrored.  Also the customizer uses a square file or it will distort the picture to fit.  Lighting contrast is also important here.  

With the customizer you can pick different slicing heights(translates to resolution level) for you lithophane.  My printer is capable of pulling out 1mm prints so I have chosen that.  Printing in purple filament makes things much darker than a natural or white filament, so I achieve best results with about 15 layers.  I also set the "Flow Rate" to about 70 in Repetier Host.  This keeps globbing down and my prints sharp.  Use whatever settings you find best for your printer.  

Pictures with well defined features work better.  And for my purposes here, close shots of faces are what I am wanting.  

Pixlr does a great job at all of this and even though I am not an experienced user with it,  I was able to do what I needed with the files relatively quickly.  

Step 3: The Sides

Again I used to do my image processing and the Makerbot Customizer for the stl rendering.  Unlike most people doing lithophanes, I have chosen to reverse the image so on my finished product the flat, clean side is facing out.  

To make the litho's, simply go to Thingiverse and use the Customizer.

It might take a few times before you dial your setting down right.  Don't be discouraged if your pictures don't come out right the first time.  Try changing the resolution, slicing program, image contrast and whatever other settings might be hindering your prints.  One thing that really worked for me was to lower the Z screw by 1-2mm between areas and starve the print by limiting the flow rate of filament.  

Step 4: Creating a Top


This was among the more difficult parts of this process.   I used tinkerCad for this because I couldn't figure out how to import .stl files into 123D design.  It may not be possible or I may not be smart enough to figure it out. This was one of my first attempts at designing 3D part and these software suites made it real easy.  For this model, I made one side of the rail with three different box at different heights.  I married the boxes together, copied them and resized them for the other sides.  I then had to use the 'box hollow" tool to regroove the corners where the sides intersected.  

To use this file, go to, open the file, delete my lithopane picture and insert your own.  

Step 5: Making a Base

This thing was made in 123D-design very simply.   I started with the outside square with dimensions of 106x104mm and used the offset tool to make concentric squares 2mm apart.  Once that was done, I extruded to the proper heights.  The middle battery holder was made much the same way.  Because of the ease of use of this program, it took no time at all.  After I had 'finished' the design, I realized there was no hole for the battery wires to poke through.  I exported the .stl and imported it into TinkerCad and plopped a hole in real quick.  

This must be printed with support,  pictures below show me removing the support with a handy pocket knife.  The design is not perfect, but it'll do for this purpose.  

I couldn't upload the 123D files, so I have linked to them below.

Step 6: Side Supports

Another very simple part.  1mm thick and 5x5 wide.  Each box will need four of these.  Although not needed for support, they do help.  These sides serve a more important function of making the corners look clean.  There are area where two lithophanes meet that have different thickness to them and don't sit perfectly flush.

123D File

Step 7: Putting It All Together

Once all the pieces are printed, the build is rather easy.  Solder the battery leads to the LED and hot glue it down.    Slide the lithophanes into the base and glue the supports on.  Next, remove the body from the base and wedge it into the top.  This takes a little elbow grease to jimmy everything together.  It will be fairly snug against the top.  Place the completed unit into the base and throw some batteries in it.  Viola,  You're DONE! 

Special thanks to MakerBot for creating the Lithophane customizer.
Also thanks to Autodesk for providing such great software for free.   
And last but not least,  Thanks to my beautiful fiance for letting my add some tinkering to our wedding.  

Step 8: More Photos

Some additional photo with the device turned off and in other lighting situations so you can see how well this works.  Taking pictures of things that emit light is not my strong suite.  

I hope you've enjoyed this instructable and please vote for this in the 3-D printing contest.  

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    7 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    The web based editor which you have shared,specially the pixlr one, But you should also try which is similar to pixlr, but toolpic have aniamtion and many ready made function, which i like the most


    6 years ago on Introduction

    How is 3D printing so expensive? Is there no cheaper way to make something like this. There is no way one picture should cost 40 bucks. Am I doing something wrong?


    Reply 6 years ago

    the equipment itself is really expensive. but if you buy like a reprap (about $700 for a kit) it will only cost you for the plastic which is about $13 for a pound of plastic.

    another reason might be the company uses the method where they put down material dust and melt it with a laser. (really expensive machine and really expensive dust)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, thanks. I liked that I could design something unique enough and cheap enough to help with our wedding. This project really helped justify some of the cost of the printer. The rehearsal dinner that these are for are tonight and I hope to be able to post a picture of all 10 lamps in action before too long.

    Purple is my favorite color and this lamp just looks awesome :). Thank you for sharing your awesomeness :).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I forgot to include..... Our wedding color is purple. Hence the purple and the further customization of the wedding.