Lithophanes are artistic creations which rely on the varying thickness of a material that is then backlit to reveal an image. While these were often made in porcelain in the past, these days we have the benefit of 3D printing on our side. The principle can be deftly applied to everything from flat planes to spheres, with [Tiffany Lo] demonstrating a great application of the latter with her 3D printed moon lamp.
The basic concept is to take a 2D image of the lunar surface, and then use it to generate a height mapped sphere for 3D printing. When lit from within, the sphere will appear as per the surface of the moon. The sphere geometry was generated with the Lithophane Sphere Maker online tool combined with NASA data of the moon intended for computer graphics purposes. The sphere was then printed on a typical FDM printer before being assembled upon a base with LEDs inside for backlighting.
The result is an attractive moon lamp that both recalls the heavy rock that follows us in a tidally-locked orbit, and yet can be switched off at night to make it easier to sleep. Unfortunately, it’s impractical to turn off the shine from the real moon, and we suspect nobody is working on the problem.
We’ve seen other moon lamps before; they’re a great starting point because the moon’s greyscale tones work well as a lithograph. More advanced techniques are likely necessary for those eager to create lamps of the gas giants; if you’ve done so, be sure to drop us a line.