Jun 14, 2015 | By Simon

Although 3D printing all by itself is capable of producing some very stunning objects, it is when the technology is used to aid in producing other objects through other methods of manufacturing where the power and flexibilities of using 3D printing in a design process really starts to show.  Among others, casting is one of the most common methods of producing objects that are made from alternative material types including those that are softer or harder than what is possible on a 3D printer.  

While casting is a relatively straightforward process for those who have done it once or twice before, it still takes some general know-how to ensure that what the molds are being casted from is both moldable as well as prepared for the molding process with surface finishing.  Of course, one of the best ways to learn any new method of doing something is to apply those skills to a fun and easy-to-follow project that results in something that you’ll want to use again and again.  Fortunately for us, Matthew Borgatti over at Adafruit has prepared the perfect project that combines both 3D printing and casting as well as some basic electronics to create the ultimate LED glow ring.  

The project, which Borgatti calls “Crystal Glow Knuckles” is not only a great way to create a wearable LED glow ring, but it is also a great way to get started with the Pro Trinket, which is similar to an Arduino Pro Mini.

The final ring features a LiPo power source, 3 NeoPixel LEDs and a power backpack to charge passively via a USB.  To keep things as easy as possible, Borgatti has generated all of the print components into a single build which can be created without the use of support material.  

Although the project is relatively straightforward, it is recommended by Borgatti that those who are starting from scratch should read the Adafruit guides that cover the various technologies used in the project including ‘Introducing Pro Trinket’, ‘Adafruit Pro Trinket LiPoly/LiIon Backpack’ and ‘Adafruit NeoPixel Überguide’ - all of which are provided with convenient links.  

The project begins by 3D printing the parts, which are conveniently provided within the tutorial.  Since the 3D models are already designed to fit together near-seamlessly, there is no additional design work needed to ensure that the pieces work properly.  Depending on your 3D printer and other factors, slight modifications including the need to file off or sand imperfections is to be expected anyways for preparing the objects to be molded.    

According to Bogatti, the ring is designed to be assembled like a sandwich, with all of the components stacked on top of each other and housed within the 3D printed housing.  With this in mind, envisioning the assembly process becomes much easier.  

While the parts are printing, Bogatti covers the basics of electronics and how to test your wiring before installing it into the 3D printed housing.  Thankfully, he has provided a very easy to read diagram for project participants to use a visual guide.  Once the electronics have been assembled and better-understood, the prints should be done.  At this stage, it’s recommended that the prints are cleaned up with an Xacto knife, a file and sandpaper.  

From here, the remainder of the project is relatively focused on making the silicone mold of the crystals using the cleaned up 3D print before finally assembling all of the pieces into the final ring assembly.  It’s noted by Bogatti that the silicone should be cured overnight so there is a slight degree of patience required for this project.    

Finally, once the silicone has cured overnight, a simple trim of excess material is all that’s needed to prepare it to be added to the assembly.  

As for assembling the final molded crystal, the various circuitry and electronic components including the LEDs and of course, the 3D printed housing, the easy-to-read guide provided by Bogatti makes it a very easy process.

Because this project incorporates multiple skillsets seen in the DIY and Maker community, it is among one of the better projects we’ve seen for getting started creating your own 3D printed products that rely on multiple hardware systems.  

To read the instructions in-full, head over to the Crystal Glow Knuckles project page on Adafruit.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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