3D printed baseReddit member bokativeRob came up with a Christmas gift that demonstrated both a thoughtful spirit and some impressive budding 3D printing skills, for a professed novice. Because his girlfriend’s son is seriously into the magical culture of Harry Potter, he went for the wow factor in crafting a surprise gift a number of Hogwarts students might trade their favorite Quidditch brooms for: a multi-colored, lighted Hogwarts sign, personalized with the boy’s name.

Nothing says magic more than flashing lights, but it was up to bokativeRob to employ some electronic and technological wizardry to pull off the job of coming up with a great concept — and then actually making it, and no, not with the simple flick of a wand. With a customized lighted sign in mind, the first task to handle was over in the electronics department, in finding a suitable controller for the lights. There are a variety of different ways to add lights to novelty items and objects such as signs, and controllers come in many different sizes with relatively easy installation.

twoBokativeRob decided on an RGB controller which gave him more options in that he would be able to choose the lights, light patterns, and certainly add to the holiday theme for a fantastic gift that grabs attention from the beginning. His specific RGB controller came with a fairly powerful module that offered a multitude of lights and speed in changing colors, including a remote control.

The sign was underway but presenting it in an aesthetically pleasing manner was a consideration as well. To make his custom design more compact, he removed the RGB controller from the case it arrived in and made some minor modifications.

The next step was in designing a suitable base to encase the electronics. Although he had never tried 3D printing before, he decided to embark on his maiden journey into this popular new technology for designing and making a custom base that could contain all the components for the sign. This proved to be challenging, however, posing a bit of a learning curve as he worked to attain his customized concept.

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Considering this was his first 3D printing project and assessing the superior results, it was obviously worth measuring and re-measuring a number of times for the rewarding end product. Stating that he “learned a lot about dimensional change with PLA,” bokativeRob made many measurements with his caliper, but once the first piece was printed, he discovered his measurements were all off and he had no choice but to go back and enlarge everything. With a simple try and try again mantra, he was able to figure it out and make notes for his next 3D printing endeavor as well.

With customizing, soldering, and modifying, bokativeRob was able to get the base exactly as he needed in order to hold the electronics. Both a MakerBot Replicator 2 and a Weistek Ideawerk 3D printer were used to make the base at TX/RX Labs, a hacker space in Houston, Texas that offers 30,000 square feet of space dedicated to classes, labs, and a complete support system for encouraging fellow makers like bokativeRob, who was able to pull off a very nice first 3D printing project as well as a great gift. The final touches to the sign were made with laser etched acrylic.

Perhaps the inspired and creative gift will be an incentive to the young recipient to take an interest in 3D printing and electronics himself. I’ll raise a Butterbeer to that.

Have you made any 3D printed Harry Potter items? How about a project incorporating 3D printing and LED displays? Tell us about it in the Magic of Harry Potter and 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.

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