After exploring a few ways to make 3D-printed diffusers for Glow Flow, I decided to proceed with no surface features and instead relying on raw distance to obtain diffusion. Not putting in surface features is easy, but how would I go about keeping these panels at a distance from LEDs?
If they could have been close to the LEDs and thin, there was a chance I could print one continuous cylinder to put around these lights. But the ambition to hold them 1 cm away, and have two layers 1 cm apart, pushed overall size beyond what my printer volume could handle. I will need to move to a multi-piece system.
Going multi-piece means I have to start thinking about how the pieces would join together. And given the nature of the diffuser, anything I do will be clearly visible and backlit by Glow Flow LEDs. This makes aesthetics of the solution a much larger concern. I didn’t want to have a row of screws or really any fasteners, so I started thinking about minimalist snap-together joints for these diffuser panels.
The first experiment seemed to work well, these pieces They fit together with a satisfying click and held up well to moderate mechanical stress. The resulting seam is visible as a plain shadow without details to distract. No black circular shadows of fasteners. The downside is that these panels are not nearly strong enough to support themselves. I’ll have to add some rigid support ribs to hold them up. And since these panels got my mind going on tool-less construction, I’m going to continue on that theme.