This project was inspired by Graypant’s Scraplights. I saw them online and was impressed by their simple but beautiful forms, and their eco-friendliness. I liked the idea of using maligned materials and making them into elegant designs (Graypants gets a majority of their materials by dumpster diving).
However, I was pretty unimpressed with their pricing. $279 for a lamp made from free materials? No way. I experimented a bit using Maya, ReplicatorG, Skeinforge, and Illustrator and found that the process was not altogether that difficult. I tried to use all free software. ReplicatorG and Skeinforge are offered as free and open source software. Admittedly, Maya and Illustrator are not free. However, if you are a student, Autodesk offer a full featured educational suite of Maya for free at http://student.autodesk.com . If not, you can try your hand at Blender, or Google Sketchup. If there is enough demand, I will try to write an instructable for SketchUp. You can use Inkscape instead of illustrator.
Also, parts of this process will eventually be rendered obsolete by the release of Autodesk’s 123D make application, which can cut out some of the tedium.
I am lucky to have access to a laser cutter. My friend operates a hackerspace called The Build Shop in Los Angeles, and has a laser cutter that can be used for a pretty good hourly rate. If you look up local hackerspaces in your city, you will find that a lot of them have laser cutters you can use. You don’t need to use a laser cutter though! If you have the patience, you can print out your files and exacto knife the cardboard yourself.