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Learn How to Make a Cool 3D Printed Lithophane for Mother’s Day

by • May 1, 2016 • No Comments

HNwnddgA lithophane is an old art form that involves a 3D image etched or molded onto porcelain. This image can just be seen when the background is lit up; when the light alters behind the image, the image seems to alter as well. In Europe, the initially lithophanes appeared in England, France, Prussia, and Germany in the 1820’s. But, this one-of-a-kind art form can be traced back to China’s Tang Dynasty of the 7th century. The 16th century’s Ming Dynasty generated bowls with “paper thin” images — a thing akin to little screens with landscapes underneath — on them. China’s Song Dynasty is in addition said to have generated wares showcasing elaborate, transparent carved and molded creations.

Currently, the lithophane art form is resurrected with a new twist. 3D printing technologies have replaced the traditional system of hand-carving images in warm wax on a glass plate. In a project documented on Reddit, a 3D printing device does the carving, but the overall effect remains the same.

dud1Reddit user “Yoter” has posted an account of his own experimentation with 3D printed lithophanes. He states that he got the thought of an instructor who provided a YouTube video — “Make a Lithophane Image for 3D Printing” — that demonstrates how to manufacture 3D printed lithophanes via the website 3DP Rocks. He printed his initially lithophane via the site’s “Image to Lithophane” tool, that printed the photo he utilized as a negative.

Intending to manufacture a gift for Mother’s Day, Yoter describes the printing system here:

“The initially tool printed the lithophane so it appeared as a negative. I didn’t actually realize that until I printed it, but kept playing at it until I got outcomes I liked. Whilst printing on the Ultimanufacturer, I was printing on my PrintrBot and slicing in Cura and discovered a lithophane tool in there I didn’t understand existed! I played with it until I got (what I think) was a great outcome! With a lot of time for Mother’s Day.”

Yoter in addition reports that he liked an unplanned aspect of his initially print: the lithophane’s negative image of a little boy gives off a demonic effect when put against the light. (In fact, one commenter posted that they in addition 3D printed the image for the reason of this demonic effect.)


The final lithophane, 3D printed via the Cura function, utilized the next 3D printing guidelines:

“The default 10mm thickness was way too thick for anything I had in hand, so I created it 1.8mm thick after a few playing. 10 can work for translucent filament. Printed flat, they appeared comical but on edge they appeared real quite great. Even the comical appearing ones backlit okay, that seemed to be the point of the exercise, but they just quite appear like a man when printed slow and on-edge.”

You can tell by appearing at the photos here that the lithophane can manufacture a satisfactory Mother’s Day present, as it captures the child via a timeless innovation than spans the centuries of the Chinese Dynasty era to today’s new 3D printed tech era — while maintaining the same interesting lithophane impacts all the while. Discuss in the 3D Printed Mother’s Day Lithophane forum over at 3DPB.com.