Friday, November 28, 2014

Snowflake Lithophane

There is something magical about looking at a lithophane.  I like handing them to people with the light coming from the front.  Most of the time they are polite and say, "that's nice."  Then I have them hold the lithophane to let the light come in from the back and the image pops out.  "Wow," "cool" they say and the expressions on their faces are ones of awe and surprise.

For christmas this year, my wife came up with the idea of putting a picture of the kids inside of a lithophane inside of a 3D printed snowflake.

Took a while to figure out but got much easier when I found an openscad program to generate snowflakes I found on Thingiverse:

I picked a random seed that fit well with my idea and then I tried importing my the stl file from my lithophane program.  I could not quite git it to work. So, instead I decided to make the print in two parts and glue them together. I did some minor modifications to the openscad file add an area for the lithophane, the hole for a ribbon and in latter modifications a way to add the year:

You can download the stl file for the frame on youmagine:

Now I just print the lithophane separate from the frame and it turns out quite well.  Here is a video:
I am happy to share any of the code or you can just upload a photo and order one of these on our etsy store:

I wife has challenged me to do something similar with a heart for valentines day.  That should be fun.

- Dirk


I saw my first 3D printer when I was visiting the University of Notre Dame.  It was over 10 years ago, it was fairly expensive to operate and it printed in a kind of expensive wax.

Anyway, this was the first time I saw a lithophane.  It was a picture of Marilyn Monroe that just popped out if you held it so up to a light so that it is backlit.  It was just so cool that I really wanted to make some Lithophanes when I got my 3D printer.

Once I finally found some time I did some research and there were a few programs on the web which would make lithophanes for me.

I tried a few but nothing excited me so I just wrote one myself.   I am very pleased with the results:

If you just want a lithophane, we added them to my wife's etsy store:

If you already have a printer I am happy to send you the MATLAB code to generate these for yourself.  However, I must warn you that it is not very robust and I am reluctant to post it until I can add a bunch of error checking and a little better user interface.  It's also written in MATLAB, ideally I would like to change to something like Python but I am just quicker working with MATLAB.

Learning to use a sewing and embroidering machine

We are trying to turn our basement into a mini makerspace for the kids.  Quite a few years ago my wife bought a fancy sewing machine that does embroidery which I thought would make a fun addition.  My eldest daughter and I got playing with the machine and it is quite amazing.  In no time at all we were able to embroider a bow and make a cute little pillow.  I look forward to seeing what we will make next time.

- Dirk

Fairy House

Over the summer we spent some time up at our Aunt and Uncle's cottage.  Kids were picking up a lot of nature detritus to "keep" and my wife got the idea to make a Fairy House.  Turned out to be a really fun project.  I particularly like the paper lantern made from an old hornet's nest and the ladder.  The trick seems to be start with the big stuff and keep filling in the details until it looked right.  

- Dirk