If you have a Silhouette Alta or are considering getting one but aren’t sure if it will pay for itself, let me promise you, it will as long as you have a little imagination and patience. I say patience because while you can do amazing things with a 3D printer, they do take time to complete the prints, and by time, I mean hours depending on your print. The good news is that while you will want to check in on the printing process to be sure there are no issues, you do not need to babysit this little miracle machine.
This Lithophane night light is no exception. It takes mere minutes to get from merging your picture into the Silhouette 3D software that is included with the Silhouette Alta to pushing the print button, it will take a few hours for the actual print to finish.
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Supplies for the Silhouette Alta Lithophane Night Light
Very few supplies are needed for this project, and while in the video I suggested a Dollar Tree night light, it was blue and did not show up well through the lithophane. I ended up using an inexpensive night light we had already in the bathroom, and it worked perfectly. I will include the link for these below.
If you notice my base plate is not covered with the adhesive sheets that came with the Silhouette Alta. They work fine, but they are a little bit expensive if you print very much. I use 6″ wide blue painter’s tape. It works perfectly and a roll lasts me for months even as much as I use my printer. I also use glue sticks to help the PLA to stick to the base. This can make all the difference between a great and a failed print.
Starting the Lithophane for the Alta
Starting a lithophane on the Silhouette Alta is incredibly easy. the hardest part is picking out a picture to use. I decided on a picture of our dog, Puck. I went into my photo editing software and sharpened it and increased the contrast.
Once you have your photo ready open the Silhouette 3D software that came with your Silhouette Alta. In the upper left corner click file, merge. You will then select the file of the picture you want to make your lithophane from.
Once you open the picture file, the “Import As” options screen will pop up. You will have six choices of how you want your picture to print. I chose the “third tube” option. I felt it would make the best night light. this is, of course, a personal choice. I will tell you that I did experiment with the flat panel and it came out a hot mess. That is not to say that option will fail in the future, but it did not work out for me on my initial run.
As soon as you pick your option your project will populate on the screen. Now you can set the width and height of your project. For the depth you want to be careful you do not go too thin or it will not print correctly and you will have spots that will not fill in correctly. You also do not want to go too thick or the light will not shine through as well. I let the program pick the correct thickness for me and did not mess with it too much.
The options for adjusting your height, width, and depth are at the top center of the white bar. Once you have these set to your liking it is time to hit the “#3D Print” tab in the top right section of your program. It will then take you to your printing options.
Getting Ready to Print Your 3D Lithophane
You will see the program slicing your model, which is simply it computing how it is going to perform the 3D build. You do want to be sure you have change your print quality option to “Lithophane (PLA)”. You are now ready to load your filament into your Silhouette Alta.
This screen also shows the approximate print time as well as the approximate amount of filament needed for the project. These are both great pieces of information to have when printing a project.
Loading PLA Filament into your Silhouette Alta
Loading your filament could not be easier, you simply follow the directions on the screen as it walks you through the process. This will take a couple of minutes for the Alta to complete its part of the process as it has to heat up to the temperature needed to correctly load.
While you may be tempted to keep your filament on the printer for ease of use and to save time and PLA you will lose during the loading process, this is not recommended. You could cause your 3D printer to clog due to the PLA filament hardening while the printer is not in use. Another issue is that the filament does not react to humidity very well and could become brittle if it is allowed to set out in the air. You want to store your filament sealed in the bag it came in and be sure the silica gel packs that came in the bag remain in it. These will further protect your filament from humidity. On the upside to this is the fact that PLA filament is made from plant-based fibers and is biodegradable.
Putting the 3D Printed Night Light Together
Once your print has finished you will most likely to clean up your print a bit, but a craft knife and sandpaper or an emery board will do the trick. You just need to carefully cut off any rough edges and sand smooth.
Lastly, you just need to add some super glue to the clear shade on the night light and carefully lay it on the bottom center of your print. You can use other clear glue for this so you have more work time to get it how you want it, but I am impatient, so I used super glue. Now you just need to plug it in and enjoy your Silhouette Alta 3d Printed Lithophane Night Light.