LED-Lit Brain

by djholt, published

LED-Lit Brain by djholt Jan 4, 2015
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A full-scale replica of a human brain (modeled from an anatomical MRI scan) mounted on a printable stand, featuring LED lights installed within each of the three supports.

We want to see one printed using glow-in-the-dark filament. If you print one, send pictures.

If you happen to have an MRI scanner handy, or want to participate in a study at your local university, then it might be easier than you think to print a replica of your own brain instead.


The print is very straightforward. Here's what we did:


Print using standard settings, with a raft, using a dark-colored filament. Print the stand's base upside-down to avoid the need for supports. Print the stand's three supports (the tubes) vertically.


Print using standard settings, with supports and a raft, using natural (clear) filament. Position each hemisphere of the brain with the flat side downward, parallel to the print surface. We printed the brain hemispheres approximately 5mm above the print surface, to make the supports easier to remove.


The brain itself requires a decent amount of filament (and time) to print. Each side requires about 24 hours and 1/2 pound of filament. That's 48+ hours and a pound of filament total.


Here is what you'll need to install the three LED lights. You can buy most of this at RadioShack.

  • Three 5mm LED lights of any color (we used white)
  • Some solid-conductor wire (22 to 26 gauge)
  • 2xAAA battery holder and 2 AAA batteries
  • Basic on/off switch
  • Heat-shrink tubing
  • Solder and soldering iron
  • Super glue
  • Wire cutters and wire strippers


The brain hemispheres are connected using two pairs of neodymium magnets, glued into recesses that were melted into the plastic.

The battery holder and on/off switch are glued into the compartment on the bottom side of the stand's base. Wires are soldered to form a circuit between the LEDs and the battery holder, with the switch installed to terminate the circuit.

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This is probably a -really- dumb question, but is there any way possible to reduce the printing time on this? I'm curious if you, or anyone here, has tried to print this and found a way to optimize the print? I started doing 12 hour prints this week, and those feel like the max for me. Overnight scares me a little. Thoughts?

I’ve not printed this but I have just recently started doing longer overnight prints! I was very hesitant at first but like a lot of fun things once its started it’s hard to stop! I do set a security cam up to keep a eye on it though!! The only things I’ve found to reduce print times are lower resolution, make smaller or reduce infill! But take it from me treat yourself to a overnighter, I love waking up and seeing what my printer has done!

Even if it’s a hot pile of spider webs and clogged hot-end?

What we need is a Google-based AI (Nest cam?) that watches your print camera and automatically turns the printer off if it detects a print fail.

I’ve ordered a Wi-fi plug so I can watch my prints and turn off remotely! I make sure the prints a few hours in and all looking good then I feel better leaving it!

I am about to print this but I worry about lining up the magnets, is there a method you used? can you alter the stl to have some sort of spot or marking to help? if I just glued the two halves together would that effect assembly? sorry for all the questions, and thank you so much for uploading your brain! lol

could you let me know your detail settings..? i would haven't printed because it takes 72hours! in just one side.... besides infill is 1%... plz...help..ASAP

I completed the output with infill 0% and it was very good

Challenging and fun. Made some mods and did mine with a bit of glow action.

I was printing the left brain, and I got as far into about 2 hours, then it stopped printing.

Comments deleted.

Where did you buy the leds/cables for the lighting? Also did you sketch the brain using a CAD software like tinkercad or autodesk or did you turn a picture into a 3D image using sculpt? Sorry for all the questions - I'm a pretty novice maker still but trying to learn!

The wire, LEDs, and battery holder can be found online (Amazon, Adafruit, Sparkfun). A good soldering iron would be a good investment as well (look at the Hakko brand).

The brain model was captured from a real brain using an MRI scanner. The high-resolution data files were converted to STL files using several pieces of software in stages.

Good luck!

Could you please post a link to the led system? when I searched in Amazon for (Adafruit, Sparkfun) it brings up something that looks like it might be led system.... But when I read the comments they say it is a charger for electronic devices like iPod

ps. Printed half of the brain so far and it looks great!

A little help with the led system and you definitely have a tip coming.

Thanks in advance

This has the whole Gamesters of Triskelion (ST:TOS) thing going for me. Now to find the quatloos...

Comments deleted.

Hi all ... having trouble getting the right brain to slice with Slic3r 1.2.9 ... I tried to adding a raft ... I tried adding a brim ... the slicer just hangs or crashes. I did manage to get the left brain to slice and print. Without a raft or brim some of the support material on the right brain pulls loose of the heated bed.

Anyone else having issues? Any suggestions?


The irony of this question...."The left brain is also referred to as the digital brain. It controls reading and writing, calculation, and logical thinking. The right brain is referred to as the analog brain. It controls three-dimensional sense, creativity, and artistic senses."

What is the print size requirement for this print? Also how many feet of filament do you think it takes? I just got a M3D printer in my classroom today and I would love this for my biology classes I teach.

This is the new most-exciting 3D-print job in the world to me! Thanks!!

Some simples ideias make the changes... awesome man!

Do you think translucent blue PLA filament would be just as good? Im currently printing my brain and I'm hoping translucent blue would allow enough light to come through and emphasize all my gyri & sulci and its also just an all around cool color. Thanks!

I would like to make this, but the support and base files are uploaded as .thing files. Can you upload them as a .stl as well? or is there a way to convert a .thing to stl? I opened the .thing files using winRAR to extract the .stl file, but the scale is way off. the base looks smaller than a quarter.

I uploaded STL files with the correct scale for the base and supports. Let me know if it doesn't work for you.

Great! That should help out others. I was able to get them by installing the makerbot software and then exporting to STL. I am printing the last brain half now and using pink led lights. I also modified the base to mount the switch on the exterior. Will post pics soon!

Looks pretty sweet! I'm going to make one with glow i the dark filament and UV LED's. How much infill should I use to make the brain? I want to make it thin, as the glow in the dark filament isn't that transparent, but the UV LED's should charge it up nicely

I had the exact same idea. I plan to do it once I get some glow-in-the-dark filament and UV LEDs. As for infill, I printed the brain with standard infill settings (10% infill). You might try experimenting with less infill (maybe 5%), but I haven't experimented. Let me know if you do it!

Thanks djholt. I've printed the brain now in glow in the dark and it came out great! I'm in the process of installing UV led's in it - 8 in total - and will be controlling the led's individually with and arduino. I'll post a video of it when I'm done :)
I have to say, this is the best thing i've printed so far! UV led's were made for this thing :)

Nice job ! Could you post the print settings (Infill for example) ?
Really great, congratulation !

This was printed with 10% infill, I believe, but I am sure you could get away with 5%.

Thanks! I added some details to the instructions page.

Thank you so much I will probably try when I will get some natural filament. I didn't have this color right now.