It seems like every day a company pops up offering some cool 3-D printed tchotchke. Today’s neat memento is a 3-D printed key chain by Print 3D For Me. The key chains are small —they’re only 1.75 inches wide and 1.25 high–but very interesting.
The key chains’ wow-factor comes from the fact that they are a type of lithophane. Lithophanes are a type of art created by etching or engraving an image into a thin piece of porcelain. The difference between traditional lithophanes and the ones by Print 3D For Me is that the etchings are in plastic and were created by a 3D printer.
Just like regular lithophanes, when you look at one of the keychains, you see a bas relief effect. While the bas relief image is visually interesting, the real magic happens when you hold the key chain up to a light. When done, you can actually see the picture you commissioned in full detail.
One of the men behind Print 3D For Me, Zach Kauble, said he started his company because of the fascination people had with his early 3-D printed creations.
“I had been experimenting with 3-D printed lithophanes on Shapeways for some time before we decided to create Print 3D For Me,” he said. “What most inspired us was the reaction of my coworkers at seeing some of my early prototypes. They were amazed by them, which surprised me. So, based on this enthusiastic response, we decided to create Print 3D For Me and sell the lithophanes as key chains.”
Print 3D For Me’s key chain creation process is simple. An individual will upload a photo of something—perhaps a photo of their child or favorite pet. The company then turns their image into a 3D rendering, and sends the image off to Shapeways. Shapeways then prints the 3D model, and before long the key chain is in the mail, on its way to your doorstep, so that you can give it as a gift or use it as an interesting conversation piece.
Kauble said that more 3D printed products are in the works, since Print 3D For Me’s partnership with Shapeway’s allows him to focus on the bigger picture of running his business. He has integrated the Shapeways API into his website to make the ordering process smooth and easy for both himself, and his clients.
“I can focus all of my time on designing a product while outsourcing the rest of the mundane details including manufacturing, distribution, and fulfillment. My sincere hope is that two things continue to happen as the technology improves: prices continue to drop, and the manufacturing options continue to increase…such as the inclusion of multiple materials and integrated electronics.”
The key chains can be purchased from the Print 3D For Me website for just $32 (plus or minus $3, depending on the material needed for the print). Let us know if you have ordered one of these lithophane key chains in the Print 3D For Me forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below for a quick look at the key chains displayed under light.
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