Rotating Lithophane Box




This Rotating Lithophane box is a derivative of my previous box, with the added feature of rotation!

My wife liked the first version, but said that it would be much better if it rotated. Makes sense. I thought about incorporating a small stepper motor, or a servo motor to get the box to rotate, but since this is more of a static object that will be sitting around most of the time, it doesn't need to be fancy, or overly complicated. A slow, nearly imperceptible rotation would be ideal, about one full rotation every hour or so. Hmm, what rotates once every hour? A minute hand!

I used a simple battery powered mechanism out of a cheap clock I had laying around. There are many of these clock mechanisms available on Amazon and other sources for a couple of bucks, and only requires one AA battery to operate.

This revision uses the same sized Lithophane panels (75mm x 100mm) in my previous design, but all other parts from the previous box had to be redesigned.

The LED lightstrip used is a newer variant, with the control module smaller than a stick of gum, much smaller than the bigger cube used in my previous lithophane box.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Purchased Parts

There are only 2 purchased items (plus one AA battery) to complete this project. Here are a couple examples:

clock mechanism: Amazon

LED lightstrip: Amazon

The clock mechanism I used for this build has visible hour and minute "tubes" that stick up as seen in the photo. We'll be driving the lithophane box using the "minute" tube. Other clock mechanisms exist, so choose the style as shown. It should hopefully work straight up.

Step 2: 3D Printed Parts

Only 4 printed parts to build the mechanism, with 4 printed lithophane panels. A new top with vertical posts pointing downward, with a new central post that captures the minute hand post of the clock mechanism.

The lithophanes slip in upside down, with the top frame inverted. The bottom plate is then pressed in, with the printed guide pins pressing into place. The pins are now longer, providing for a better lock once installed.

A tip is to try to install panels such that the assembled box is as close to being balanced on the central post. This will ensure that the box rotates without sticking or binding on the base.

UPDATE: The central post has now been thickened to accommodate the heat and to lessen the likelihood of distortion.

Step 3: Assembly - Clock Mechanism and LED Module

The LED cable/module gets installed first, with each end press fit into the base as shown.

The clock goes in next. The clock may require a washer between the base to act as a shim, to get the protrusion height correct. The goal is to have the lithophane box installed on the base (clock mechanism), leaving about a 1mm gap between the rotating part and the base.

Step 4: Assembly - Light Tower

The light tower is wrapped with an appropriate length of LED light strip, using the 2 sided tape provided adhered on the strip. Peel and stick. Cut the strip on one of the LED cut lines to the desired length.

The assembled tower just sits on the base and "clicks" into position, through the 4 holes.

Note that it may be easier to insert the LED cable connector through one of the 4 holes before installing the clock mechanism.

Step 5: Assembly - Lithophane Box

The assembled lithophane box just slips on top, with the central post slipping over the minute hand post of the clock mechanism. A light press fit is all is needed.

Note that it only rotates clockwise! (another bad pun)

The clock mechanism was never intended to be used this way, with this much mass, so it will "wobble" a bit, depending on the gap. Provided there is at least a tiny gap (attained by adjusting the clock mechanism up or down), it will work as intended.


Be the First to Share


    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest

    10 Discussions


    Answer 2 months ago

    100% for lithophanes is a must. Everything else is thin enough that I use 100% on the other parts as well.


    Question 4 months ago on Step 5

    Both the Clock Mechanism and the LED Light Strip are not (currently) available from Amazon.
    What would be the dimensions for an alternative mechanism, and the LED strip.
    Thanking you for your time, and assistance.

    ChrisN219Francisco JavierT1

    Reply 7 months ago

    75mm x 100mm. The gap in the frame is 3.2mm, so max thickness I recommend is 3mm.


    1 year ago

    Oh, ha! I didn't think to use a simple clock mechanism... I was trying to do something similar and I got motors and was trying to print gears and stuff... a mess, and noisy, etc. Thanks for the idea! Great project!

    Penolopy Bulnick

    1 year ago

    Lithophanes are so much fun! Great idea with the rotating light-up box :)


    1 year ago

    I really like what your Design, The rotation is a perfect add on

    Awesome Job !!

    Thank-you for Sharing