Introduction: Geodesic Dome From Laser-Cut Cardboard

Picture of Geodesic Dome From Laser-Cut Cardboard

In this brief tutorial, we will show you how to build geodesic domes using cardboard or foamcore board panels. We manufactured our panels using a laser cutter with a 2'x3' area. If you are highly motivated, you could also create these panels by hand, using the same design template.

We assembled our domes using Makedo screws (https://www.make.do), an amazing and re-usable tool for cardboard prototyping. If you're impatient to get building, you could also assemble your dome using zip-ties or binder clips.

NOTE that this Instructable is a draft! Help us make it better by putting your suggestions in the comments!

Step 1: Design the Dome Panels

Picture of Design the Dome Panels

We have designed panels for what's called a 2v-dome with 40 panels, and a 3v-dome with 75 panels. Cut from 2'x3' cardboard stock, the 2v-dome is 36 inches tall, and the 3v-dome is 54 inches tall. You can create an even larger 3v-dome with an additional bottom strip of 30 panels that will be almost six feet tall, but it isn't as stable as the other two domes.

Attached are the dome panels as a CorelDraw file. This is the format that works best with the printer driver for our Epilog Legend 36EXT laser cutter. Please request other file formats in the comments!

Step 2: Notes on the Dome Design

Picture of Notes on the Dome Design

Our goal was to make the biggest possible geodesic dome using panels cut from 24"x36" cardboard using our 60W Epilog laser cutter.

We first considered a 2V 3/8th dome design, which has just 40 panels. Note that most dome calculators provide parameters in terms of struts and hubs.

See the attached Excel spreadsheet for all of our calculations.

Step 3: Inspirations

Picture of Inspirations

Step 4: References

Picture of References

1. Desert Domes reverse dome calcs

2. Geo Dome UK

HOWTO GENERATE PANEL DIMENSIONS:

  • estimate maximum strut length using example triangles in CorelDraw. Goal is to fit two triangles on each 24"x36" cardboard sheet, including 1/2" wide assembly tabs on each triangle face. this looks like 22.5 inches.
  • in 2V dome, using Desert Domes calculator, this max length is the input for the A strut in 3V dome, using Desert Domes calculator, this max length is the input for the C strut

HOWTO CALCULATE THE NUMBER MAKEDO FASTENERS

  • assume three fasteners per intersection/strut
  • subtract three fasteners for every "base" strut

Comments

KathrynG27 (author)2017-04-03

Is it possible to get the plans for the 3V dome as a pdf or an Adobe Illustrator or any other MAC-based file? I am a school teacher and I want to build this with my students. Thank you

We've just posted Adobe Illustrator (.ai) versions of the 2V and 3V dome files, along with an assembly instruction sheet we designed for a recent event (PDF). Note that the panels are scaled for 24" x 36" cardboard sheets--you may need to scale them to fit your laser cutter, or your printer if you're planning to cut the panels by hand.

don57 (author)2016-08-12

I see it as more of a play structure than a shelter so I'm less concerned with keeping occupants dry but if you can waterproof the cardboard you can keep a usable dome rather than a sodden heap of paper

What we're currently working on are panels cut from 3/16" thick sheets of coroplast. Found here at ULine for $5.60/sheet in 100-unit quantities.

http://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-13338W/Corrugated-Pads/24-x-36-Plastic-Corrugated-Pads-White?model=S-13338W&RootChecked=yes

Compared to our favorite cardboard stock, 200lb corrugated cardboard pads at $0.99/ea in 100-unit quantities:

http://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-2483/Corrugated-Pads/24-x-36-200-lb-Corrugated-Pads

The trick is to minimizee the amount of hand-work necessary to "finish" each panel after cutting and etching with the laser. This Google group discussion claims that polypropylene is safe to cut with a laser, but they point out that the "flutes" inside the coroplast panels make the material harder to score for bending.

Hello,
I'm looking into building a dome for a school project would you happen to have the layout for Mac computer.. PDF or illustrator any Adobe programs

Best regards,
David

newillmeister (author)2016-10-10

Could we get the files as EPS or Illustrator files? I don't have anything on my Mac that will open the Corel Draw files. Thanks! :-)

don57 (author)2016-07-07

Very cool. If you spray paint the cardboard panels you will gain a modest amount of waterproofing. Should last through a few heavy summer storms especially since the shape itself sheds water.

That'd be a fun experiment! Given all the holes and seams, I bet the dome leaks like a sieve.

dhaykus0418 (author)2016-08-05

Very cool idea. I only have access to a 24" x 18" Epilog laser, would it still be doable?

You laser-cutter can absolutely cut the cardboard and foamcore board. The trick will be scaling the panels to fit in your machine. We've posted the CorelDraw files. Just make sure you proportionally scale the part (ie x and y axis scaled by the same amount) so that the geometry still works.

For extra credit, you could use the Excel spreadsheet to calculate custom panel dimensions that are a better exact fit for your machine.

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