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I am looking to print an enclosure, which will have a PCB inside with some LED indicators. I was wondering if it is possible to 3D print the enclosure such that the following look can be achieved? What material and technique?

When LEDs are off, it looks something like this:

enter image description here

WHen the LED turns on, it looks like this (illuminated symbols):

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ What printer do you plan on using? FDM is often implicitly assumed but it would be good if you could tell us exactly what machine you're going to use. $\endgroup$ – Tom van der Zanden Aug 7 '16 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ I am open to any printer that can help achieve this. I do not have a printer of my own and plan to use 3rd party printing services. $\endgroup$ – O.K. Aug 7 '16 at 22:44
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Achieving this with 3D printing would be quite difficult, and you might be better served by creating this effect some other way (I would personally recommend getting some inkjet transparencies and stacking a few layers together: an entirely black layer, and a few layers with the symbols in negative space).

One way that you might be able to achieve this using just a common FDM printer is to print the part face down, and printing just a single layer or two that covers the entire face, and then printing more layers that cover everything but the symbols. However, those symbols look small and detailed and you might not be able to reproduce such detail.

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So you want a translucent case which can hide the LEDs when they are off, but show then when they are on? I agree this might not be the best fabrication method for this effect. I would print a case with a window and use a tinted laser cut plexi glass. That said, it wouldn't be that hard.

Example of resin and other clear prints

There are a few catches. First you will have 3d printing texture. The lines and ribs. So there will be light distortion. However it can be minimized by either using a resin 3d printer with ultra high quality, or by having the window side printed on the bed, avoiding the ribbing. Albeit it is still not perfect.

Sample of FDM with high diffusion of light

I would look at translucent materials such as Tglass. Using these clear materials you can either ally a window tinting yourself or find a seller that has a very dark, yet still clear material. This will allow the effect where a LED is off and you cannot see it, and when it is on - see it.

http://taulman3d.com/t-glase-features.html

Tglass can be treated to be extra clear. Looks like they treat their material with XTC-3D for very translucent effects.

talman treated with XTC-3d

http://taulman3d.com/t-glase-optics.html

There are other options such as Resins, clear ABS, and PolyCarb (high temp)

All that said. Laser cutting is really what you want.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to elaborate by saying that 3D printing would be best suited for printing the housing for the electronics in this type of project. Ultimately, I agree, laser cutting is the way to go with a bit of acrylic. $\endgroup$ – tbm0115 Aug 8 '16 at 14:18
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You can print the "lid" in translucent (gray) and stick a piece of laser printed transparency film under it with the symbols (print it "negative" so the symbols are transparent and the rest is black). Depending on the quality of the printed black you might want to stack two printouts to minimize light sipping through the black areas. A divider separating the leds underneath ensures that only one symbol lights up.

This will work better the better surface quality the "lid" has.

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