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How to build an ambient lamp out of bulk packaging foam

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Picture of How to build an ambient lamp out of bulk packaging foam
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This lamp is basically a stack of packaging foam that seems to glow from the inside and contrary to what one would expect gives off a warm, cosy light. It consists of a loose stack of rough cut packaging foam (dozens of motherboards were packaged in it) but can be built out of anything that is only vaguely transparent.

The basic principle is this: Take a stack of packaging foam sheets, cut a hole into it, stick a light bulb in and you're done. However, one important thing is VENTILATION, which is the focus of the last step of this instructable.

I will not give precise dimensions but explain my considerations that led me to the result shown below and will enable you to built your lamp to your liking.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.
 
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Step 1: Materials and Tools

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For this Project you will need:

Materials:
Packaging foam or anything you think might work:
 - not too sensitive to heat.
 - try to do a test whether you like the tint the light has after it has passed through it
 - amount: enough to create a stack of your liking that is able to house the fixture, the bulb, some free space above the bulb and a couple of top layers.

Light Fixture:
 - I got one with already a plug and a switch attached.
 - It also had some screw-on ring that helped fix it to one of the foam sheets.

Light Bulb:
- a CFL light bulb works fine.
 - it is imperative, that it has LOW wattage (mine has something like 15 Watts)

Tools:
A cutter
Some cardboard to use as a mat for cutting
ruler and pen
and an assortment of round things like cups, pans, etc to use as stencils.



Step 2: Some considerations before going ahead

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To find out how big i wanted the hole for the lamp, I held the lamp against some sheets of foam and was happy with a thickness about the width of my hand.
Luckily this happened to work with the amount of space needed for the lamp itself, since the foam must not touch it.
Luckily the height of the stack was just enough to house the fixture, the fixing and still need enough space on top for a couple of uncut layers. My goal was to make it look like that the lamp is lit exactly from the center.
At this step don't worry about ventilation. The ventilation holes will be added in the last step.

Step 3: Hollowing out

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After this, I started cutting the hole to hold the fixture snuggly and used the ring which is normally used to hold the lampshade to fix it to the base (image 1 and 2).

Then I used a cup to cut the holes in the center of the remaining sheets (image 3), except for about ten which would be the top. I actually made a stencil out of cardboard first to help me mark the position of the cup, then batch marked the sheets and then cut them one after the other.

The result can be seen in image 4 and schematically in the sectional drawing (don't worry about the vents just yet). It is important that there is some space above the lamp (in the picture it is not enough).

Step 4: Ventilation

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In principle this lamp is now done, and back when i built it I switched it on for the first time and let it on for a couple of minutes, excited about the look.

Big mistake! The heat of the 22 Watts bulb started melting the foam almost immediately. That's when I switched it off and started thinking about ventilation.

Since the foam is such a good insulator the heat can't dissipate. Just cutting one hole will not help, either, because the air can't circulate to cool the bulb.

So I switched the lamp for a weaker one and created two vents to the hollow inner, carefully watching that it wouldn't create a direct path for the light (I am somehow obsessed with that).

You can check out the solution I came up with in the drawings. On the sectional drawing one can clearly see how the air enters at the back side through the lower vent, is heated by the lamp and then exits through the upper vent. The lower one starts at the bottom of the backside of the lamp and rises towards the bottom of the fixture (pictures 1 & 2). The outlet starts at the top of the center hole and slightly rises to the backside of the lamp (picture 3). Note how it is slightly skewed so that the light can't exit the lamp directly.

In picture 4 (sorry it's rotated) you can see the two vents at the backside, as well as in the second drawing.

Once you have visualized how the air should flow and how the vents run you can start cutting the sheets in the right order.

The ventilation now works very well. I can now leave the lamp on for however long I want.

Another suggestion: Try to keep it in a place where it doesn't get touched (since the sheets aren't attached to each other) and take care that the bulb doesn't touch the foam!

I hope you'll enjoy your lamp and will intrigue many people with it!

tweedledoo4 years ago
Looks Great! Could you put some more photos of the ventilation step? It's kinda unclear.
NerdoMcDorkus (author)  tweedledoo4 years ago
I added two drawings to make it more clear. I hope this helps!
Great idea here, specially for a baby's room which requires soft light. Great idea too for corner lighting at home, adds a relaxing mood.
stevet475 years ago
Maybe an LED setup would be better. It may require less ventilation and create less of a chance of melting.
Looks great though! If I come across come of this foam I just may have to steal your idea.
NerdoMcDorkus (author)  stevet475 years ago
Great idea! I would be a bit concerned though, that it won't be bright enough. If you go for it, let me know how it turns out! I recently saw a little thinner form of this foam being used by masons as floor protection.
 It is also used as a pad for the snap-together engineered hardwood floors.
ChrysN5 years ago
Nice, that's such a unique looking lamp.
zascecs ChrysN5 years ago
Agreed. 
 I am so going to make one of these.