While it may not be talked about as much as something like The Irishman, Netflix’s The Dragon Prince has a large, dedicated following, with one of them going the extra mile to design and 3D print the Key of Aaravos.
That person is Andrew Lindsey, a product designer by trade who plied his professional skills to this impressive project. Aside from making a great prop, he was also kind enough to tell us how it came to be.
First off, as always, is modelling, which was done in SolidWorks with Cura used later for slicing. This process took around two months from start to completion the results were satisfactory.
In those two months it is estimated that around 60 hours of design work went into the key, which includes the electrical and software design that was needed to light the print up.
“I decided to make it because I wanted to gain experience with illuminating props from the inside using LEDs, and to gain experience with NeoPixel LEDs,” Lindsey says, “I also wanted to try out programming in CircuitPython. I have extensive experience with programming in Python, and have done embedded programming with assembly and C, but had never tried embedded Python.”
For reference frames from the show were used together with images of the runes available on the show’s website.
When it came time to print, many parts of the key were done multiple times in an iteration process to come to the final model. Total printing time for the key, including these tests, come to around 150 hours. To print a new cube using the final design would only take around 70 hours, however.
Once off the printer the outside faces of the key were sanded down which not only smoothed the piece out, but also gave it more of a matte finish to better replicate what’s seen in the show. No painting was required for the outside as the filament used was thankfully a rather close shade of tan, but the inside was sprayed black to try and help with light leakage.
Once assembled the key is around four inches (10.16 centimetres) cubed. The illuminated symbols on each side stick out a bit more (around 0.16 inches / 0.4 centimetres) however. Those looking to make their own may want to go a bit smaller, however, as Lindsey predicts that he went a bit too large when compared to the show. A three inch (7.62 centimetre) cube is recommended to be more screen accurate, though that will introduce problems with the electronics inside.
This also includes a wiring diagram of the electronics inside, which includes the aforementioned NeoPixel Ring and NeoPixel Jewel inside of each face. A Trinket M0 controls which side to light up based on an accelerometer, and a battery is included to power everything.