How to Create Stunning 3D Printed Lithophanes
Converting photos into 3D objects adds depth to your memories, and lithophanes offer a simple method to achieve this. They're essentially embossed images created with a 3D printer. While they appear unremarkable initially, illuminating them reveals intricate details. Thin areas transmit light, while thicker ones block it, highlighting the image's nuances.
This article guides you in turning photos into lithophanes, starting with choosing the best images for the process.
Part 1: Why 3D Print Lithophane?
3D printing lithophanes offers superior quality, detail, and flexibility, revolutionizing a once labor-intensive process. The traditional method was complex, limiting quality due to porcelain constraints and intricate craftsmanship.
With 3D printing, the automated process simplifies production, enhancing intricate detail and material choices. You can opt for FDM for larger sizes and easier post-processing or resin for cleaner, high-quality lithophanes. We'll delve deeper into the distinctions between FDM and resin lithophanes later.
Part 2: 3 Easy Ways to Make a Lithophane Model
Way 1. CAD or 3D Modeling
CAD and 3D modeling software offer alternative ways to create lithophanes. Blender and Photoshop, especially versions like CS5 and newer, introduce 3D elements, simplifying the conversion of 2D images into 3D lithophanes.
How to Do It?
To begin, download the “Make lithophane” action set and install it in Photoshop.
Here's the process:
- Open your image in Photoshop.
- Access the Actions tool from the Window menu (or press "Alt + F9").
- In the Make Lithophane folder, choose the action and click the play icon.
- Photoshop will perform a series of actions, including adding texture maps, to create your 3D lithophane. Adjust the image if needed by blurring sharp edges.
- The entire procedure relies on Photoshop's ability to estimate the correct depth based on contrast differences. Higher-contrast images generally yield better results.
- The action may take some time, depending on your computer's specs. Be patient and avoid clicking during this process to prevent software crashes.
Once your lithophane model is ready, export it as an STL file:
- Navigate to the 3D menu and select "3D Print Settings."
- In the Properties tab on the right, set "Local" as the "Print to" option, and choose "STL File" for the printer.
- Configure printer units to "Millimeters" and detail level to "High."
- Click the "Start Print" button under the bar.
Please note that these steps are generally standard, but some users encounter difficulties downloading actions and creating lithophanes in Photoshop. If you face issues, consider trying alternative methods.
Way 2. Slicer Software
Creating a lithophane becomes straightforward with 3D printing slicer software. A popular choice is UltiMaker's Cura, known for its versatility across a wide range of printers and user-friendly interface. While its primary function is slicing, Cura offers additional features, including mesh handling and photo uploading.
Cura's advantages include its user-friendliness and speed. However, it does come with some limitations. You'll have less control over the process, and options like adding frames or shaping your images differently are somewhat limited. Despite these drawbacks, Cura is an excellent choice for beginners.
How to Proceed?
Begin by ensuring that you have the image you wish to convert into a lithophane saved on your computer.
Follow these steps:
- Launch Cura and import the image by selecting "Open File(s)" from the File menu. A pop-up window will appear, offering various settings affecting the print's appearance.
- Focus on the following settings:
- Height: This determines the model's thickness. While it can be as tall as desired, it's recommended not to exceed 5 mm to avoid significantly increasing print time.
- Base: The base is where the image will be printed, with the height added to it, akin to a building's foundation.
- Width: Relates to the overall surface area, with the entered value influencing the model's width.
- Depth: This setting refers to the model's length; increasing the value makes the model longer.
- Contrast: After setting the model's dimensions, choose "Darker is higher" to emphasize the darker areas blocking light.
- Color Model: Some users suggest the translucent version for better lithophanes, but both linear and translucent models should work.
- Smoothing: Increasing smoothing blurs the image. For the best-looking lithophane, set Smoothing to 0 or between 1-2.
- Once you've adjusted these settings, Cura converts the image into a 3D model. After this step, you simply slice the file and save the G-code.
Before proceeding, it's advisable to review the printing tips for recommendations on print settings and your model's print orientation. For now, save the model as an STL file.
Way 3. Image-to-Lithophane Converters
Another method to obtain STL files for lithophanes is using browser-based image-to-lithophane converters like 3DP Rocks, ItsLitho, and Lithophane Maker. These services follow a similar workflow: upload your image, select your desired shape or frame, and download the generated STL file.
Image-to-lithophane converters offer more customization with less complexity than slicer software. For instance, ItsLitho allows you to adjust image colors and insert frames, and you can switch between various lithophane shapes, including planes, arcs, and spheres. These options are typically lacking in slicer software.
If you seek greater versatility without the intricacies of other software, image-to-lithophane converters are worth exploring.
Follow these steps to use 3DP Rocks:
- Visit 3DP Rocks.
- Select the "Images" tab and upload your image.
- In the Model tab, fine-tune your lithophane's shape.
- Adjust settings in the Settings drop-down menu to your preference.
- Finally, click "Download" in the Model tab, and your browser will save the STL file for your project.
Part 3: FDM or Resin Lithophane: Which Is Better?
Now that you have your lithophane's STL file, the choice between FDM and resin 3D printing becomes crucial. Both have pros and cons, and we'll assess them based on key criteria to help you decide.
3.1: FDM 3D Printing
Printing lithophanes on an FDM printer is straightforward. Print vertically to maximize Z-axis resolution for higher quality. While this may pose bed adhesion challenges, it's worth the risk. Consider using a brim or raft for added stability. Align the longer side with the Y-axis motion to prevent detachment.
Key considerations include:
- Material: Avoid transparent filaments.
- Layer height: Use the lowest setting for vertical prints.
- Print speed: Opt for speeds below 33 mm/s to preserve detail.
- Infill: Set it to 100% for optimal light diffusion.
With these settings, a standard lithophane may take around six hours to complete.
3.2: Resin 3D Printing
Resin 3D printing offers exceptional detail, enabling rapid lithophane production. Even with high resolution, some lithophanes take just 20 minutes to print. Consider the following resin 3D printing features:
Key considerations include:
- High Detail: Resin prints provide intricate and precise lithophane details.
- Speed: Rapid printing, even with intricate designs.
- Optimal Thickness: Suggested thickness of 4.5 to 5 mm for ideal contrast and detail.
- Support-Free Framing: Adding a 7-8 mm frame eliminates the need for supports.
- Printing Orientation: Flat or vertical, offering flexibility.
- Post-Processing: Utilize standard post-processing methods.
- Resin Choice: White or grey resins are recommended for best results, avoiding clear options.
Bonus: Materials and Tool for 3D Printing Lithophanes
Allow me to introduce the HALOT-MAGE PRO 8K Resin 3D Printer Basic Combo , currently priced at just $699.00, down from its original $889.98.
This exceptional printer offers a range of advanced features, including a professional 10.3" 8K LCD screen, a Smart Resin Pump, and a Smart Air Purifier. It's designed for hyper-speed 8K resin printing at 170mm/h, and its spacious build volume, high-resolution 10.3" monochrome screen, and innovative Smart Resin Pump make lithophane creation a breeze. Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity to explore the world of 3D printing at a reduced price.
Creating 3D print lithophanes is an art that requires experimentation and experience. Try various tools, designs, materials, and lighting options to find your best configuration. This guide helps you convert memories into 3D-printed designs.