According to Thomas Brooks, who has developed a free lithophane generation tool, Google Analytics show that the searches for lithophane-related subjects have doubled over the past three years. These searches increase even more in December, as people all around the world think that lithophanes are great Christmas gifts. They’re also an ever-expanding use case for 3D printing.
For those who are unaware, lithophanes, 3D printed or not, are thin (or not), transparent sheets of material, such as plastic, that reveal an image once a light is placed behind it. It’s fairly easy to create an STL file for a 3D printable lithophane these days, but LithophaneMaker, the new generation tool that Brooks created, takes it to the next level.
This free tool can automatically give lithophanes features that users would otherwise have to manually add later on, such as an interface adapter to a nightlight, a frame, or holes to hang the lithophane up by a string.
“So far, 116 unique users have used the tool and I estimate that it has saved people 170 hours of time. I have shared the tools on the Facebook groups “3D Printing”, “Lithophanes”, and “3D Printing Lithophanes”, and I have gotten a very good reception. These groups have helped me debug and improve the tool, and I think it’s ready for a larger audience,” Brooks told us.
Brooks is hoping to gain a larger audience for his LithophaneMaker, as “people genuinely appreciate the time this tool saves them.” He says that anyone can join the Facebook groups to search for the tools and put them to good use.
Some of the most common sources of backlighting for lithophanes are night lights, sunlight, and LED strips, and LithophaneMaker can help you create lithophanes that are perfect for each and every one. While Thingiverse has models for several night light adapters, they might not fit your particular nightlight, and unless you manually combine the lithophane with the adapter using another software tool, you won’t achieve a one-piece lithophane. In addition, while you can use sunlight to backlight your lithophane by hanging it in the window, most generation tools for lithophanes don’t add the necessary hole.
“Either of these backlight options take time and effort to implement, but fortunately those steps are no longer necessary! Thanks to the free lithophane generating tools that you can find at www.LithophaneMaker.com, it is easy to create a lithophane that can use those light sources in one or two minutes,” Brooks explained.
The free tool includes three ways to generate lithophanes: a night light lithophane generator, a framed, hangable lithophane generator, and a framed, curved lithophane generator. For the first option, the generation tool will automatically create a lithophane with an attached night light adapter in one solid piece. The dimensions can be changed easily to fit most night lights, and the surface of the lithophane can include a curvature, while also “staying the proper distance from the night light.”
The framed option for hanging your lithophane creates one surrounded by a customizable frame, which prevents the lithophane from wobbling on a small base during 3D printing and also makes it stronger. The frame includes two holes, which allow you to hang the lithophane in a window with string and a suction cup hook.
The last option can generate a curved lithophane with a customizable frame, so you can “elevate a votive lithophane to the height” of a candle. This also makes it possible to produce a stronger curved lithophane than one without a frame. While this type of frame is highly rated on Thingiverse, Brooks explains that it takes “time and effort” to generate a lithophane that’s compatible with those models…which is why he recommends his new, free LithophaneMaker.
Brooks is always adding new tools and features to LithophaneMaker – send your ideas to [email protected], and he just might incorporate them in the future.
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