El Wire Lighted Headbands

TL;DR: My friends asked me to make custom light up costume headbands for them in the style of Naruto… so I did. I 3D printed channels through which I fed electroluminescent wire to make logos of their favorite DJ’s. While the project is simple in concept, I needed to dust off a bunch of tools I hadn’t utilized in a while to complete it. While I’m not quite finished with these, I’m too excited about how the project is looking NOT to share.

In the anime Naruto, the characters wear headbands to protect their foreheads while they fight. My friends wanted ones that light up for their costumes, and asked if I could help. If you want to skip over a lot of unnecessary detail, just go to the gallery at the bottom where I put the build photos 😛

El wire is a fantastic way to add lighting effects to projects since it is very bendable, easy to install, and does not require any programming at all (just add power!). Before this project, I hadn’t played with electroluminescent (el) wire for years, so I was excited to jump back in. The technology has become a lot more common and widely available than I remember—there’re tons of vendors for wire and the requisite DC to AC inverters. Unfortunately, the inverters still make an annoying high pitched buzz whenever they’re on.

In terms of the mechanical design, the headband was very simple. I created a base in Fusion 360 CAD to reuse in each version with a different logo. The majority of my time has actually been spent optimizing the image preparation pipeline. To go from a 2D-logo to a cut channel, the process I went through was as follows:

  • Prepare an outline image in Gimp (a free Photoshop competitor). The easiest way I found to do this was by using the fuzzy select tool to select the outline of the image I wanted to convert, then using the stroke selection tool.
Using stroke was key to getting a nice solid outline to begin my vector image with
  • After saving the image as a bitmap in Gimp, I imported the file in Inkscape (similar to Adobe Illustrator) and stroked the bitmap to a path. I resized the vector image to fit my headband base, and manually edited the nodes until all parts of the path were approximately 2.5mm in width to fit my el wire.
I ended up doing quite a bit of manual manipulation to change the logo shape such that the 2.5mm channels would fit and still look somewhat like what I started with. Simple automatic offsetting didn’t work well at all.
  • Initially, I was exporting vector images as 2D CAD-friendly DXF files. However, I made the groundbreaking discovery that Fusion 360 actually lets you directly import and use SVG files. Using the vector files (svg) directly is a lot more computationally friendly and MUCH easier to work with. For example, the dxf version of the Illenium logo had upwards of 670 line elements, whereas the svg file had two curves.
I can’t believe it took me so long to realize I could use SVG’s directly in Fusion 360… this was a gamechanger for my speed of productivity.
  • Within Fusion 360, I directly extruded the imported drawing. Next, I did a few manipulations with the combine and move bodies menu to create a “positive” model of the channel I wanted to CUT from the headband.
It’s a bit difficult to see, but I moved the positive cut out forward so it only intersects the model for the last 2.5mm of its extruded depth.
  • One of the limitations of working with el wire is that there is a minimum bend radius before you can actually break the wire and cause shorts. Unfortunately, since I was making headbands most of the detailed bends weren’t physically possible to make in a single piece. To maintain sharp edges required for the logo designs, I created pass through holes. This allows me to bend the wire in an unsightly loop where it can’t be seen in the final product. Positive models of the pass through holes were created by extruding cylinders from behind the headband up to the channel model.
Thru holes were simple extruded cylinders
  • Lastly, I created some “channels” on the back of the headbands to accommodate the loops. In an early prototype, I created actual channels out of spline sketches, but that proved to be a lot of work for no reason. Now, I’ve simply created large inset areas that can fit the el wire loops. It’s much less effort to achieve the same result. The positives for this were extruded initially as separate bodies to the channels so I could shift them backward about 0.8mm before joining to the rest of the positive channel model.
I cut the positive channel model away from the base headband shape
  • A simple combine, export as STL, and slicing in Cura resulted in a pretty decent print, if I do say so myself ;).
Here’s my first prototype blinking 😀

The first prototype I printed was in black PLA before I received this gorgeous silk silver shiny PLA made by Hatchbox on Amazon. I quickly realized that I didn’t have a great way of making the fabric for the bands since I don’t have any sewing skills. I am incredibly lucky to have super talented parents (check out my dad’s website here… he’s much more artistically talented than I am: www.bounsaypipathsouk.com) who are always willing to help. I Facetime called them to explain what I was making and mailed them my first sample. A few days later, I received some photos of my prototype solidly attached to a custom headband they made, and should receive them next week :D.

My parents were able to deliver!!

While there are still a few improvements left for me to make before I deliver my final product, I’m pretty stoked at how well the project has turned out so far, and just couldn’t wait to share.

As promised, here’s a gallery of the build:

Lithophane Lamp Shade

TL;DR: I made a lithophane lamp shade for my sister’s birthday. I used an online tool that combined multiple images with specific measurements to create a part that fit around my particular desk lamp. This was probably my longest single part print to date—about 60 hours, but the results were well worth the wait!

I continued playing around with lithophanes and made my sister a birthday present—a litphophane lamp shade! I found another online tool at: https://www.lithophanemaker.com/Lamp%20Lithophane.html. This one lets you enter various parameters to create an entire ready-to-print part very quickly. While I would design this part a bit differently if I were to do it from scratch, the speed of use was pretty undeniable.

I only had a two small hiccups—the size of the lamp retaining lip didn’t quite match what I expected. That is—the cylinder turned out undersized for what I needed. Luckily, I had the foresight to first print only the inner cylinder for a fit check. After I started the print the first time, I realized that I forgot to add supports for the cylinder retaining lip to come out properly, so I had to restart the print after a few hours >.<.

Once I started the print for real, I had the full lamp shade in hand after about 60 hours. This was my longest single part print to date, and I think it turned out incredibly well 😀

The gallery with descriptions below shows the process:


TL;DR: For Valentines Day, I made a lithophane—a 3D object which reveals an image when light is shined through it. The operating principle is basic—different “pixels” are created since thicker areas block more light.

Lithophanes are really cool. Essentially, they’re 3D photos that physically encode pixels of an image by varying the amount of material. Thinner sections of the lithophane allow more light to pass through. I discovered a simple to use, yet highly customizable online lithophane generator at http://3dp.rocks/lithophane/. Upon making this discovery, my mind immediately went to the perler project I worked on last year… I saw I could reuse most of the components (back plate, switch, LED backlight), only making a new front plate. Since I designed the perler project housing in Onshape using top-down design principles, all the modifications only took a few minutes to complete and export for printing.

It took me three tries to finetune my print settings. In the first print, I inadvertently made the image inverted:

My first attempt resulted in a scary looking inverted image… oops!

For the second print, I ended with a lot of blobs on our faces. Clearly this was because the nozzle dwelled a bit too long on the top surfaces since I printed this part flat on the bed:

My second attempt turned out nicer looking with the proper color inversion… but the blobs all over the place were less than ideal.

To correct for this, I reoriented the part on the print bed. I was worried about the part falling over (hence my original print orientation), so I added a really large brim to keep it rooted:

The 12mm brim I added, along with copious glue, helped keep the print from falling over

The third time really did turn out to be the charm, and I was very pleased with how it turned out:

Success! Third time’s the charm 🙂

There’s a ton of ways in which the lithophane idea can be expanded and improved upon. First, I need to redesign the housing unit to incorporate the switch and battery. Others on the internet have wrapped lithophanes around objects like cylinders to make custom lamps, trophies, and other neat projects. The possibilities are endless… as you can see in the summary photo below, you can use pretty much any light source and have the images turn out well:

It was very easy to progress pretty quickly since the parts were fast to print.

I’m excited to play around more with this type of stuff!

Star Wars Joycon Holders

TL;DR: I made custom Nintendo Switch Joycon Controller holders in the shape of Star Wars Y-Wing and A-Wings.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit this year, and my Switch has been a great companion surprisingly easy to bring around. However, the biggest gripe I and everybody else has with the device is that it is no fun to use the controllers in single joy-con mode. I found and printed some neat grips that make it a bit easier to use them in this mode, but I’ll cover them in a future post.

In this project, I made some ridiculously tardy birthday presents for two of my Switch-owning friends: Y-Wing and A-Wing Joycon holders. Honestly they aren’t that practical, but they technically *are* functional, and I think they look pretty cool. I started by downloading STL files from thingiverse of various Star Wars ships and a simple dual-joycon holder.

In Fusion 360, I chopped off the joycon rails and saved the bodies as separate components so I can reuse them in multiple projects. Next, I started processing the Y-Wing by simplifying a lot of unnecessary mesh details, cutting off the engines, then making the mesh into a solid body. I inserted the joycon rails where the engines used to be and played around with the scaling of the Y-Wing body to fit well. From there, it was a simple merge bodies, slice, and print… or so I thought.

Unfortunately, I messed up some of my slicing settings in my first attempt, and part of the print fell over. Even though part of the print had failed, I was still able to do a geometry check, and I was pleased with how well the joycon and strap both fit into this model.

My slicing error was in a boneheaded misconfiguration of adaptive layer settings. Using adaptive layers in slicing software allows for faster prints since the printer is programmed to use larger z-steps if it is safe to preserve model details. The base layer height for this was 0.12mm, and by entering the deviation to 0.2mm, for some reason I thought I was setting the absolute height limit for the print to 0.2mm, but this was not the case, and my printer was trying to print with 0.32mm layers, which it just was not able to do. On my subsequent attempts, I dialed the deviation back and was able to get a really nice print.

Y-Wing gallery here:

The A-Wing model took a bit more pre-print processing. First, I noticed a small hole in the surface, so I used meshmixer to mirror the better half of the model. Second, the model I had was hollow (there was an internal surface), which would have caused issues later on in combining with joycon holders and printing. The hollow body was simple to rectify—I created a block larger than the A-Wing then used combine to cut the A-Wing from the block. This left several bodies, including one that was the ship model cavity, which was added back into the main ship model. Just as for the Y-Wing model, I imported the Joycon rails, scaled the Awing body, and moved everything in place before combining the bodies.

I’ll admit the joycons on the A-Wing are less than ideal, but I still think it looks cool. 😛

Mario Kart Princess Peach Print

TL;DR: I printed and painted Peach from Mario Kart for a friend’s birthday. The model came from the video game and I think it turned out pretty well.

Back in the ancient days of Sophomore year of undergrad, my drawmates and I spent hours playing MarioKart 64. My roommate would always grab Peach before anybody else, so I decided to make him one for his birthday. I got surface models from a Mario Kart video game then did a bit of patching work to make everything into a nice solid model. The Kart and Peach came as two separate files which I combined into a single model for printing.

During support clean-up, I had an unfortunate accident with our dear Princess, and she pulled a Marie Antoinette on us. This actually turned out to be advantageous since I’m not sure how I would have accessed a lot of the body for painting without the decapitation. The only truly custom parts I made for this project were the wheels, which were printed in black and simply hot-glued on.

I already missed the birthday of the other drawmates, and I feel bad… but I have prepared the racer models for both him and the last of the drawmates… We’ll all be getting together in June 😀

Totoro and Snorlax Ocarinas

TL;DR: I printed and painted a Totoro Ocarina for my girlfriend’s birthday. There are 4 finger holes and is actually tuned to play notes correctly. After that, I created a positive model of the cavity so I can use a Boolean subtract to make ocarinas out of custom models :D.

I came across this amazing model on Thingiverse (https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1798728) while looking for inspiration of things to make for my girlfriend’s birthday. She loves Studio Ghibli films, and this is a cool application of 3d printing I had not really seen nor tried before.

In 2016, Autodesk research developed a software package called “PrinTone” which analyzes any arbitrary 3D model to add a cavity and holes so you can play tuned notes. Unfortunately, they have yet to release the software, so I couldn’t use it to transform any custom model into an ocarina. Luckily, the only customization I wanted to make was the addition of a birthday message through an extruded text cut.

The poor settings on my initial print attempt led to some underextrusion on some of the walls, and some small gaps in the head, which is no good for a wind instrument. I also tried printing a larger version at 1.5x scale, but the holes became too big for my fingers. I’m very happy with how the present came out after painting J.

After I finished this part, I still wanted a way to design and print custom ocarinas. Inspired by physical molding techniques, I was able to use CAD tools to create a digital model of the cavity, finger holes, and mouthpiece. I am now able to subtract this new “core” model from any custom model, as long as it has a similar-ish shape. The very first custom ocarina model I created was Snorlax. I admit… it looks kinda disturbing since the air inlet is basically his butthole, but I still think it’s a neat idea. Unfortunately I probably need to bring the cavity closer to the surface since this ocarina is broken as a PokéFlute.

Lotad Dish

TL;DR: I made a two-toned Lotad spill tray upon which the Oddish planters (or really anything) can sit. This model was easy to split into two colors—one for the body and one for the dish. Initially, I manufactured the part using a pause for a filament swap… this turned out ok, but ultimately I decided printing two separate parts gave better results.

Here’s the gallery:

I finished making this Lotad spill tray a few weeks ago, but hella lagged in writing this post >.<;; For those who haven’t kept up with newer Pokemon, Lotad is a Gen 3 water/grass type which has a lily pad on its head. It pretty much looks like what I modeled ;P The dish was made using both the more traditional CAD model workspace to create the lily hat and the sculpt workspace to create the main body in Fusion 360. I created this model with the idea of trying multi-colored prints in mind. The lily pad is to be green and the body is to be blue. I started the prototyping off with a single color print at first to validate the model. After it turned out well, I went ahead and tried changing the filament partway though. The only color I had at the time though was the same bluish-green color I used for my Oddish prints, which was less than ideal. I bought a light blue filament from a new company, 3D Solutech on Amazon. The filament was a great color, and is cheaper than my normal filament, but unfortunately, this material requires a lot more tuning of my print settings (which I have not done yet) to get the same quality of print I can get with my usual filaments. Completing the filament swap during the print was surprisingly easy to do, and the prints turned out quite well. However, the geometry of this model simply requires a huge amount of support for the large overhangs, which seemed wasteful. In my initial design, Lotad’s belly was suspended in the air, so the print required some hard-to-remove supports. To eliminate the need for support material, I made two important decisions. First, I split the print into two parts—the lily pad, and the body. Second, I altered the design of the body so Lotad’s belly would sit more flush on the tabletop. The belly change is hardly even noticeable from a visual standpoint since the entire part is so squat to begin with. Although I need to manually glue the two parts together, the result is much cleaner looking and takes less effort than cleaning the support material.

Shiba Cookie Stamp

TL;DR: I made a shiba cookie cutter/face stamp combo for a friend. As a bonus, I made a bone-shaped stamp with her dog’s name on it as well :D.

First up, here’s a photo of the completed cookie cutter, stamp, and name stamp. The overall dimensions of the stamp are approximately 3in in width and 2.75in in height. 

I received a request from a friend to design and print some stuff for her Shiba’s birthday coming up. I used a photo of her dog’s vest to use as a template I could trace with splines in Fusion 360. In my first version, I made a combined cutter and stamp by extruding various parts of the face to different heights.

While the first prototype worked on polymer clay, it was pretty clear that a few simple tweaks could make it easier to use. First and foremost, it was pretty difficult to press the stamp down since I didn’t include any holes for air to escape. Second, it was a bit difficult to remove everything from the press. Third, since I had fixed heights, the cookies the stamp made would likewise have no flexibility.

Changing to an outline cutter and a stamp for the face addressed all of the issues above and was very simple to do in CAD. The trickiest part was my desire to have a detachable handle to cut down printing time. I created mounting points for the handle by cutting holes beneath the eyes. On the stamp, I made sure to add a larger draft angle on the extruded areas to make it easier to detach from the dough.

I also made a simple name stamp. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to create extruded text in Fusion. The rest of the bone shape and handle were essentially just decorative. I think the name stamp has a potential issue with the letters being too close together, but that should be something easily addressed in a future revision.



Bellossom Print

TL;DR: I created Bellossom model and have sliced it in a few different ways to print. There are two planter versions (one with and one without flowers) and one which is a figurine (no holes). I really like the light green material I have… let me know if you’re interested in buying one ;).

In my Oddish planter post last month (sorry I’ve been busy), I gave a sneak peak of my next project and am finally delivering on it. Bellossom has a much more complex shape than Oddish, and it was fun to use the Sculpting menu along with the Body Boolean Combine menu (cut, join, intersect), move/copy, and patterning tools in Fusion 360.

Seriously, using multiple bodies and the Boolean tools was a real light bulb moment for me. For instance, I needed to create a shell in the head of the model in order to use it as a planter. With the multiple body design paradigm in mind, I used full cylindrical-ish shapes for the centers of Bellossom’s head flowers. Initially, part of the flowers were visible through the wall of the shell, but I used the main head as the cutting tool to slice the flower body into separate pieces—one outside the head and one inside, allowing me to easily remove the undesired inner portion.

Although I created a full model including flower dress, I’ve focused on printing bust versions for now… Honestly, I am dreading the support removal process for the full figure. Practically though, I have the excuse that the shape of the full figure body is not ideal to use as a planter.

Enough boring you guys, here’s the good stuff… the gallery:

Next up, I’m going to be making a Lotad spill tray sized such that Oddishes can sit on them :D. I promise it will take me less than a month to get that line up and running ;).

Oddish Planter!

TL;DR: I created a custom Oddish planter model and printed it. I messed up a few times, but learned from it, which was pretty cool. I’m going to make some other planters too, lemme know if you want one 😉

Here’s a bunch of completed prints outfitted with airplants… I finished some of them with an epoxy sealant to make them super shiny.

Here are the details if you’re interested 😛

The biggest category of goods I’ve always wanted to make on my 3D printer involves Pokemon. I’ve seen a bunch of planters for sale on Etsy and the like, but wanted to try my hand at completing my own designs, so I did. I chose to tackle Oddish first cause it’s a popular with ‘mon with a very simple shape. This ended up being a good learning project because for the very first time on my printer, I needed to troubleshoot print settings and tweak the model to prevent failed prints.

The initial design only took about a half hour to complete, and most of the time was spent trying to finalize the face, feet, and drainage hole designs and positions. I printed the first design with supports thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal, unfortunately, it ended up being a huge pain to remove. For my next iteration, I added a plane cut to the bottom, so the model could sit flat on the table and print without support. While this worked pretty well, I wanted to see if I could improve on the overhang quality.

Then I tried printing the Oddish upside-down. Despite requiring more support material, I liked the fact that all of the areas with overhang would not be visible (except for the tips of the feet). As an additional benefit, I removed the plane cut and give Oddish a nice rounded booty. The first time I tried this though, the support broke resulting in misprinted feet. I tried re-leveling my print bed and adding extra surface adhesive—to no avail.

The breakthrough came when I modified the design, enlarging the feet and changing the angle they sat at such that the support towers started with a larger, more stable base. While I had a successful upside-down print, the support towers left a more visible mark than I envisioned. Additionally, the rounded tush was actually worse than a flat-bottomed one, since Oddish would roll around -_-. The final iteration added the plane cut back in so Oddish would be able to sit flush on the ground.

I’ll be honest–the blue/green filament I bought from Amaz3D on Amazon left me a bit wanting. I’ve had success using their plain black and plain white material before with great success. On initial inspection, the color is spot on what I need for Oddish, so I was pretty excited at the lack of post-print-painting I would need to do. However, after the prints started coming out, there are definitely some noticeable inconsistencies in the filament color, which is a bit disappointing.

The last thing I tried out with these prints was the application of XTC-3D coating to smooth out layer lines and give the parts a shiny finish. The coating is essentially just a 2-part epoxy, which you mix in a 2:1 ratio. The coating ended up being a bit thicker than I anticipated, so I’m glad I decided to wear disposable gloves. The paintbrush I used to apply the epoxy sacrificed its life to give four models a new clear coat. I let the models dry overnight on top of wine bottles, and the result is actually very impressively shiny—you can actually see your reflection in their faces :o.

I posted a little preview photo of the first print (the one with too much support) before my numerous iterations on the model, and managed to get enough interest from a few friends for commissions–yay social media! I’m super happy to say that I made the first sales of my own custom designed planters :D!! I’m excited to take the numerous lessons I learned from this project to continue making new models (Bellossom is up next) for custom planters.