Today’s blog post is brought to you by Eva Wolf, the co-founder and marketing mastermind behind Airwolf 3D. Eva created this 3D-printed lithophane nightlight to demonstrate a type of fun and functional 3D-printing project that is easy to do, even if you do not have extensive experience in engineering, 3D-modeling, or 3D printing.
How to create a personalized 3D-printed lithophane nightlight
I decided that it was finally time to get a night light for my son’s room. But since we make 3D printers, I couldn’t just install any ole’ standard night light! It had to be something really cool, so I designed this custom lithophane night light. No engineering required! You can make this fun project with your kids or students with free software and little effort.
To create this customized nightlight, I started with this simple light by Amerelle. I picked it up at an ACE hardware store for $1.95.
1. Prepare your image
Choose an image that you want to use for your night light and be sure that it’s saved as a JPEG. Use the photo editing software of your choice to flip this image. In this case, I used Microsoft Paint which comes with Windows for free!
Here is the flipped image (geez! I look better in reverse!). Save it as a JPEG file (although other formats might work too).
2. Use APEX to transform your image into a lithophane file
Next, I used this awesome slicing software by Airwolf 3D, called APEX. This is where the magic happens. Under the file menu you will find a fantastic and little-known option: Load image file.
APEX will prompt you for some settings. Set the height at 10mm; this is how thick the photo will print at the highest points. Set the base height at 0.7mm (this is for the lowest and thinnest parts). The depth should be at least 85mm, so that the printed image is tall enough to cover the top of your light bulb. APEX will change the width to the default ratio. Leave the other settings as they are.
APEX will then convert your image into a 3D-printable model or, as some like to call it, a “lithophane.”
You are now ready to export the lithophane model into your preferred CAD program for editing. Save your model as an “STL” file.
Be sure to add “.STL” under the file name prompt.
3. Use Tinkercad to design your night light
Next, import your lithophane model into a CAD editing software. I am using TinkerCad to demonstrate this, because it is incredibly easy — and FREE!
I then designed a cap with the same dimensions as the clear dome cap that came with the light. I also designed a new box to cover the light bulb. But don’t worry about redesigning a new cover, you can download my design on Watertight.com.
Connect the lithophane model to the box cover and voila! You have designed a custom night light!
You are almost ready to start 3D printing! Download your box as an “.STL”
4. Now 3D print your lithophane night light!
Open APEX again and load your model. You will want to print it with a strong material, like polycarbonate, that can withstand the heat emitted by the light bulb. White or a light color works best. Use the standard settings for “PC.”
The only other setting you will want to modify is the FILL DENSITY to 100%. For those 3der’s out there who want to geek out on the specifics, here is a screenshot of the 3D printer settings for polycarbonate:
Make sure to print it with 100% infill and use WolfBite Mega to ensure a nice, smooth, flat part!
Here is the list of supplies and resources:
+ APEX 3D-Slicing Software by Airwolf 3D – FREE
+ Night Lite by Amerelle #71053 Faceted Manual On/Off
+ TinkerCAD by Autodesk – FREE
+ Airwolf 3D printer with a high temperature range, such as the AXIOM
+ Polycarbonate Filament in a light color
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