Monday, May 22, 2017

Glowing Pendant - First Enamel Experiment

Trying to create a pendant necklace that glows during the day as well as at night. Finally found some basic techniques that work with my 3d printer and regular filament. It's far from perfect, but the first, quickly printed piece looks good enough that I will continue to experiment and refine the idea.

This is what the pendant looks like during the day. The NeoPixels light up the thinner areas quite well and show up even in bright, outdoor light. The "stringing" doesn't show up as much in real life, but it is present. I printed this at high speed with a thick layer height. If I print a more hi-rez version the stripes should be a lot less noticeable.

This first piece has a lot of experiments built in: How does thickness affect the amount of light transmitted, how does thinning the front, back or both affect the look, can I "trap" the light in the thinned areas, and how do two lights show up within one thinned recess?

I learned a lot on this first iteration. I won't bore you with the details, but I will note that the difference between a nice glow, a stringy mess and nearly opaque can be a matter of 0.01 mm. That's a pretty tight tolerance.

As you can see below, even at night, the thicker areas block the light quickly.

I will need to try out other filaments to see if they give me more latitude in thicknesses while maintaining the diffuse look.

Glowing pendant with Adafruit Circuit Playground inside a E-sun PLA cover
And here is what the pendant looks like at night with the LEDs at full strength. I think it's pretty, but you can also dim the lights easily. And since these LEDs are on board the Circuit Playground board, you could also get the lights to react to sound, movement, heat or just randomly.

You might have noticed the curving incised lines. They are very deeply cut, so they transmit more of the light. I wanted to see what they looked like. I had hoped they would create a gradient as they carried the colored light from multiple LEDs. It kind of works.

But there was also a second reason for them. I wanted to try embedding wire in them, then pour enamel paint (okay, cheap nail polish - same thing) in between the wires like a cheap, faux cloisonné.

I did a first, tentative experiment with the nail polish. I selected different colors, styles and brands to see how they affected the light. I did not select the colors for a pleasing composition - and boy, did it turn out ugly in the daylight.

But the nail polish does affect the quality of the transmitted light. Once again, the results didn't adhere to my predictions. Chalky does not block more light and sparkly daylight posihs does not sparkle at night, even when lit.

This shows the pendant at night after I added some enamel paint (aka nail polish). It does affect the colors and somewhat smooth's out the stripes. Some colors and thickness kills a lot of the light, so I will have to learn which brands of nail polish work for this project. Even though it's the dimmest area, the red dot at the lower left is closest to the affect I wanted to achieve.

The thickness of the nail polish does affect how much light gets through. But I was happy to see that almost all the paint can be applied thickly with no significant negative affects. That's great, because I really want to just pour the paint into the recesses and not have to struggle to get an even coat with a brush.

All in all, I'm very happy with this first try. Expect to see more about this technique in the near future.

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