Introduction: Lithophane Cube
Design and create a beautiful, personalized photo lantern. Each photo is 3D printed and the frame is assembled and lined with LEDs. This makes a fantastic gift for a friend or family member, or a wonderful decoration for your own home.
Step 1: Choose Photos
Effective photos are ones with high contrast, where the subjects are easily distinguishable from their background. This can be helped by using a photo editing software to blur the background. It also helps to use a black and white photo. For this project, you will need to choose five photos, and there should be some common theme between them. It's also important to crop the photos into squares so that they fit the frame.
Step 2: Convert Photos Into STL Files
Use this free online software to convert your photos into STL files that can be 3D printed. The software is very easy to use, and I recommend leaving almost all of the settings at their defaults. The only ones to change are, in image settings, switch from "negative image" to "positive image" and, in model settings, to adjust the size. This value should be the length of one side of your finished product. Once you have changed these two settings, simply refresh and then download (both found on "model" tab) the STL files.
Step 3: Prepare Photos in Slicing Software and 3D Print
Make sure the size of your print is the same as what it was set to in the software. Set the layer height of the print to very small, between .08 and .1 mm, and make sure rafts and supports are turned off. Then, print your lithophane. Repeat this process for each of your five photos.
Step 4: Create and Assemble a Frame
This step is a bit complicated, and you could definitely take some creative liberties with it. I'm lucky enough to have access to a laser cutter, so I used that to create six panels that fit into a cube. I'll explain my particular method here. I began by creating a panel that can be repeated six times into a cube. That drawing file is shown as a photo in this step. You could laser cut or possibly 3D print six copies of that side, which will be assembled into a cube. First, hot glue each lithophane to one frame piece. Next, super glue four of the frame pieces into a square that is open on the top and bottom. Then, attach a strip of LEDs around the top and around the bottom inside of the cube. This will probably require soldering the two strands together using wires. Next, super glue in the bottom panel. Use a little bit of hot glue to attach the power cord to the bottom panel, once inside and once outside the cube. Then, attach four small pieces of rubber (or anything really) to the bottom of the cube to serve as feet. Next, glue in the top panel. Then, glue a piece of aluminum foil across the opening in the bottom panel to reflect the light. Glue cardboard over that for durability. Make sure to leave a small opening in both for the power cord.
Step 5: Enjoy
Plug in the lithophane and watch it light up beautifully. Use it as a decoration or give it as a gift to a friend or family member.