“If you want something to stand out, the best way to do so is to light it up like a Christmas tree.”

Creators Ollie Hanton, Michael Wessely, Stefanie Mueller, Mike Fraser, and Anne Roudaut have taken this idea to heart and crafted a method to add light on any surface using a unique electroluminescent coating.

ProtoSpray combines multi-material 3D printing and the application of electroluminescent materials to create interactive touch-sensitive light displays on any shape.

protospray

The process starts very similarly to how you would normally 3D print an object. During the design process, the base electrode area is printed with a conductive PLA (e.g. Proto-Pasta Conductive PLA), each having a thin channel where an electrode connects while the unlit substrate material is printed in an insulating PLA (e.g. Hatchbox Filament).

protospray

Once you’ve printed your multi-material model, you begin spraying the area that will be lit with three layers of electro-activating materials.

  • Dielectric material layer
  • Electroluminescent material layer
  • Transparent conductive electrode material layer

According to Ollie Hanton’s tutorial, spray two thin coats each of PEDOT:PSS (a transparent conductive polymer), electroluminescent phosphor-based paint, and clear lacquer; making sure to give each layer ample time to dry before moving on to the next.

protospray

With the parts printed and sprayed, attach the electrodes and set up the control panel. Each luminous part needs to be connected to an EL inverter and the top electrode (which you sprayed earlier). In the case of Ollie Hanton and his team, they ran the bottom electrodes through a set of relays so they could be controlled remotely with an Arduino Nano.

protospray

The process is slightly different for each object depending on its geometry, size, and which areas you want to light up. If you want an in-depth tutorial on how to make your 3D printed objects light up, be sure to check out Ollie Hanton’s Instructables tutorial.

You can also check out the group’s entire paper on the ProtoSpray here.

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Author

Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.