3D Print a Lighted Moon Landing Map


Hello again!

Today, we’re going to 3D print a lighted map of the moon, and every moon landing ever will be marked with LED lights on top.

Recently I discovered an awesome service called NASA Trek, that lets you navigate around 3D models of Mars, the Moon, and tons of other moons of other planets.

But if that’s not good enough, it also lets you 3D print a bounded area of our Moon and Mars. Pretty awesome, right!

Supplies

  1. A 3D printer
  2. A computer with the ability to run Chrome/Chromium 80
  3. Five 5 mm LEDs, each in different colors – you can get them here
  4. A perfboard – here’s a good one
  5. 2 AA batteries/battery pack
  6. A 470 ohm resistor (yellow, violet, brown, gold bands) – a good pack of resistors is here
  7. A soldering iron/solder – one option is here
  8. 5 NO pushbuttons, in colors that match the LEDs – here’s a good variety
  9. Paint, in white or black
  10. A hot glue gun and glue

Software:

Step 1: NASA Trek

NASA Trek

If you don’t want to design your map yourself, download this Tinkercad file and go to Step 6. To take the fun route and put your own twist on your creation, keep reading!

Navigate to NASA Trek and select the moon map. Take the tutorial that pops up. Go to the top left corner and select the Data button. You will then see the moon landings right at the top. Select Apollo 11, then click Add. The map will zoom in, and a path will appear. Go back to the Data tab, and this time, select Layers at the top. Click the X on the layer it shows.

Exit the Data tab, and zoom out as far as you can. You should see an orange dot for Apollo 11. Repeat this process for Apollo 12, 14, 15, and 16. (Apollo 13 had an air tank malfunction and had to return to Earth before landing on the Moon, and Apollo 17 is not available on the service at the time.)

Step 2: Preparing to Print

Preparing to Print

Preparing to Print

Preparing to Print

Now that you see 5 orange dots on the map, zoom in as far as you can without losing any moon landings from view. Go to the top right corner of the map and select the Tools button. Click the option for 3D printing, and draw a rectangle with the tool around the 5 landings.

Try to have the rectangle as small as possible around all 5 landings, without leaving any out. Refer to the pictures for an example.

Right click in your rectangle, and click Export for 3D Printing, STL (Stereolithography) option. When you get to the confirmation box, set the resolution to 299, and the height exaggeration to 3. I’ll be explaining this in the next step.

Step 3: Tinkercad Design, Part 1

Tinkercad Design, Part 1

Import your STL file that was exported from Trek to Tinkercad. Tinkercad only is able to import STL files under 300,000 triangles in the mesh, which is why we needed to set the resolution to 299. It’s also useful, but not necessary, to set the grid to 400 x 400.

Bring out a new “hole” square from the side menu. Set the square to mm from each side of your moon map, so for example, if your moon map was 134 mm long and 130 mm wide, your square would be mm long and mm wide. Set the square to 10 mm from the top of the moon map as well. Duplicate this negative/hole square and make it solid. Set the now-rectangle square to 1 mm high.

Group all objects but the duplicated square together.

Step 4: Tinkercad Design, Part 2

Tinkercad Design, Part 2
Tinkercad Design, Part 2

Now, refer back to the NASA Trek tab and look at the moon landing dots. Take a negative/hole cylinder out of the Tinkercad side menu, and set its dimensions to 5.5 x 5.9 x 20 mm. Duplicate this cylinder 4 times.

Place each cylinder right on where 1 moon landing dot corresponds from the NASA Trek map to the Tinkercad map. You should be able to compare views and have a cylinder where each orange dot is on the map. Windows’ Snap View works well for this.

Take a negative/hole cylinder out of the menu and set the size to 13 x 13. Keep the height at 20 mm, the default. Rotate it 90 degrees on the X axis and set it into the side, like in the picture. Duplicate it 4 times and set them an equal distance apart.

Now, to naming…

Take a text box out of the menu. Put Ap. 11 in it. Shrink it to 6.5 mm high x 1.5 deep x 14.25 wide. Put this over the first button hole on the side. Duplicate it. Change the 11 to 12 and do the same thing. Repeat until each hole has a name of a moon mission over it.

Group all objects except for the other rectangle again.

Step 5: 3D Printing the Moon Map

3D Printing the Moon Map
3D Printing the Moon Map
3D Printing the Moon Map

Make sure you use good filament – I used super cheap filament, and I got really bad strings and horrible looking holes. Some of the pictures are of that prototype…

Export your STL file and load it into your favorite slicer. I use PrusaSlicer.

Print the map with these settings:

  • Infill – 10%
  • Bed Temp – 46 degrees Celsius
  • Nozzle Temp – 120 degrees Celsius
  • First layer height – 0.2 mm
  • Other layer height – 0.12 mm
  • Supports – None

Afterwards, print the rectangle with the same settings, but with an infill of 80%.

Step 6: Electronics

Electronics
Electronics

Electronics

LED time!

Grab your LEDs and a breadboard. Go to this circuit diagram for wiring. Make sure you correspond the color of the pushbutton to each LED’s color. This will help you in the mounting stage greatly.

After wiring, solder your wires to a perfboard.

Now, glue your LEDs into the cylindrical holes in the moon map and let the glue dry. After gluing your LEDs, glue the corresponding pushbutton colors to the front of the map through the holes in the side. Make sure you put Apollo 11 first, then 12, then 14, and so on. The picture’s boxes show you which holes are which landing.

Step 7: The Final Stretch

The Final Stretch

Paint the mission names over the moon landing buttons’ holes either white, or black. Test the LEDs in the map to see if they work.

Now, print that rectangle. Hot glue it into the bottom of the map as a sort of cover.

Set the map on a flat surface to dry.

Step 8: The Eagle Has Landed!

The Eagle Has Landed!

Your project is done! Display it on a table, give some away as gifts, or just admire your handiwork at home!

Until next time, shoot for the Moon!

Thanks for reading,

g3holliday

For more projects and tech tips, click here: Projects, Hacks, and How-to Guides!

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