I’m in the midst of doing a side project and I thought it would be a good example to show the process from idea to finished product. This particular prototype is perfect. I will be using several different materials as well as possibly a little wiring and basic circuits. No matter what the prototype is, the process is almost always the same.
I started out brainstorming what kind of sign I wanted to build. I knew that I wanted something multi-layer. I also had to take into consideration the raw materials I have available. I could have printed the majority of this prototype on plastic but, I wanted something that didn’t look like it came fresh off of the 3D printer. In order to do that I would need a combination of carful design and the use of a few different materials.
As of now I’ve decided to use Birch 6mm plywood, ABS, PLA and possibly some acrylic. The main structure of the sign will be made from wood as it will add to the overall rigidity of the structure. A combination of PLA and ABS will be used for all of the signs 3-dimensional lettering.
The Design Process
I decided to use Sketchup for the design of not only the lettering but, for the entire sign. It will give me a master set of plans that I can refer to throughout the build. Another nice feature in Sketchup is the ability to change the colors and textures of the prototype I’m building.
For this specific design I needed to come up with a simple logo as well as some stylized font for the lettering. To find a font that I liked, I uses a photo editing program on my phone. It offered up a font that was perfect for this build. I typed out exactly what I wanted to say. After that I saved it in black and white as a GIF file that could be imported into Sketchup.
Once I had it imported into Sketchup I used the available tools to make a water tight outline of all the lettering I imported. I made sure to take notes of what parts I wanted to be more “3D” than others. Once all the lettering was outlined I could use Sketchups push/pull tool to determine each parts thickness. Making some parts stick out further than others gave it a great depth of feel. I completed this process over again to create the logo.
Since I’m using wood for the base structure I needed to make a 2D pattern of the back plate of the sign as well as the front inset. I did this by looking at my design files that determined the overall size of the sign. I then transferred that using paper and pencil. This gave me a great guideline to use when cutting the wood on our scroll saw. After that it’s just a matter of taping the pattern to the wood and cutting it all out.
Now that I have a great idea of how everything will be laid out, I can start working with my materials. The first material used was the 6mm birch. I cut out both my front inset and my back pieces.
I then took the designs created on Sketchup and printed them all off. After printing they are all cleaned up and prepped for paint. I’ve found that acrylic paint works great on printed plastic. If you want the painted pieces to hold their color – I recommend using a clear coat spray paint on top of the acrylic paint. It works great, especially on items that will be outside, exposed to the elements.
Once everything is painted, it’s time for assembly. I used gorilla glue to adhere all of the pieces together as it works well to bond almost any materials together. Due to time constraints I decided to not add the flashing LEDs. I will save those for the next project.