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How to make a bell shaped lithophane.

I saw an object, a ceramic candle lamp, which looked a bit like a curvy lithophane and I thought: "I could make a lithophane with PhotoToMesh roughly the same shape and which would be lit by a LED!"

My first attempt was tiny disaster (I was experimenting but wanted to find out the best thicknesses):

Not a good lithophane

My second attempt was bigger, but not better. Maybe the white plastic is too transparent and I should have had a higher "mesh height" in the settings:

Still not a brilliant lithophane

Then I ran out of white ABS but thought I'd try with tangerine (as XYZPrinting calls it) anyway, after thickening the mesh to get more contrast ... voila!

A bell shaped lithophane

So, we are aiming to get to this point:

Lithophane settings

First you need your image. PhotoToMesh requires an image before you can do anything with it. An important part of the process is choosing/creating the right image. Here's the image I used:

Choosing and image for a lithophane

I like clouds, and I've a ton of photos of them. I took one, in color, turned it to black and white and stretched it so that it was twice as long as it was tall. This is because I was going to wrap it around a roughly cylindrical shape. I also copied part of the left hand side onto the right hand side (as you can see) so that the wrap around was seamless. The pixels of the left edge are the same as the pixels of the right edge. Then I added some pure white stars, artistically.

These techniques are beyond this article, but the web has lots of information about this stuff.

Bring the image into PhotoToMesh using the file menu, and set the main dialog as follows:

Lithophane Settings (again)

The settings are...

  • 700 samples around the circumference. Much more than that and my DaVinci V1 choked.
  • 600 sample along the height. Again my DaVinci V1 can get touchy at higher reolutions.
  • 0 smoothing. I let the melting plastic do the smoothing for me.
  • The inverted check box is selected so that dark in the photo gives a thicker surface and white in the photo a thinner surface. That way light (from the LED inside) shines through "white" areas better.
  • The wall thickness 0.9mm, which means that the white stars will be 0.9mm thick.
  • The height of the mesh is 3.5mm, which means where there is total black in the photo there will be 3.5 + 0.9 = 4.4mm of thickness.
(What I'd probably done wrong with the big white version was have a thin white area, but also only a mesh height of 2mm, so there was not much contrast between dark and light areas.)

Now, the form is a solid of revolution (Revolution is selected in the Solid Shape combo box, middle right of the screen shot above). To change the profile of the surface you need to click on the "Other settings..." button:

Surface of revolution settings

Select Arc for the upper and lower parts, and uncheck all three check boxes (Upper End Closed, Lower End Closed, Solid Object). Now set the 5 numerical values to what you see above. (Of course you can put in other values when you get the hang of it.)

Click on OK and see the surface of revolution appear before your very eyes! But wait! There is one more setting to do. That is to potision the image on the surface. Click on the Image placement... button:

Place and position the image on the lithophane

As show above set both width and height to 100% so the image covers the whole surface, and set both position values to 50% so that the image is centered horizontally and vertically.

Click on OK and you'lll get something like this:

Bell Shaped Lithophane Preview

And using my DaVinci V1 wth tangerine plastic the result with no internal lighting is:

Bell shaped lithophane, unlit

And with internal lighting:

Bell shaped lithophane lit with a LED

I've found that finding the correct light source is one of the most important components of creating a good looking lithophane. Luckily I work in the industry so I have all sorts of bits and bobs lying around.



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