Picture of How to make a laser cut lamp
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I've been working with digital manufacturing start up Ponoko and we've been working on a few ideas of showcase products that can be easily made through our service (such as a wine rack and a spinning top).

I thought of creating a simple but stylish lamp that could be personalized with your own patterns and images. Lamps are great objects because they allow you to play with light and potentially project shapes across an entire room. Laser cutting is perfect for creating this type of object because it allows you to get a really high quality finish and fairly precise detail while keeping costs as low as possible.
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Step 1: The stuff you'll need

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an assortment of pens or pencils for the sketching/imagining
a computer with a vector software package
a light bulb
a power cord
a light socket
screw drivers
laser cut parts

Step 2: Sketching the concept

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I had a few ideas in my head on what the lamp could look like so I sketched up a few of them and chose the one I liked best. Remember your sketches can be as detailed or as messy as you see fit. Personally, I like working ideas out on paper first. For added inspiration head to your local homeware design store or search for images online.

While imaging the lamp I tried to keep in mind ways to keep costs down. The less work the laser cutter has to do, the less it will cost me to cut my lamp out. So I tried to minimize how many individual parts were needed for the lamp as well has many individual cuts the laser would need to make and this helps a lot to keep those cost down.

Step 3: CAD modeling

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It is definitely possible to create this lamp without using 3D modeling software. I wanted to be sure everything was going to fit together first time which is why I modeled it in a CAD program first. It allowed me to make sure the proportions were right and and my jointing techniques were going to work.

I also designed a method for connecting all the parts that didn't involve glue and would still work if the material thickness varied, a common problem with acrylic.

Once I had the 3D computer model looking good I created 2D drawing of the individual parts and saved it as a DXF. A DXF file is a really common file format when working with 3D modeling software that can be opened by loads of applications.

Step 4: Transfering into vector software

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I open the DXF file in a vector software package (Freehand and Illustrator are two of the more popular packages out there but there are many others) and check that all the dimensions are correct. I then figure out how many of each part I need and then copy and paste until I have the right amount.

Because the profiles for each of the acrylic panels is the same I aligned them next to each other to reduce the amount of cutting needed and make it easier to overlay the pattern.

Step 5: Finding and tracing a pattern

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I Googled for an image of a flower pattern on the web and, once I found the one I liked, opened it in the vector software. I used the pen tool to trace the individual flowers and then patterned them over the template for the acrylic panels.

You'll notice I changed the lines to blue. A laser cutter reads different color lines for different types of cuts and engraving. Raster engraving needs to be black and a line I want to be cut needs to be blue.

You can download these files from my showroom on Ponoko.

Step 6: Arrange on Ponoko template and exporting

Picture of Arrange on Ponoko template and exporting
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Using Ponoko for laser cutting ideas like this is great because it just makes it easy having a cutting service and materials in one place. They take care of everything and the parts are delivered to my door.

I downloaded the templates from the site and arranged my parts for the lamp on them. I need 2 files as I intend to use 2 different materials. I made sure the line weights and colors are as it specifies in the making guide and then export my files as an EPS.

Step 7: Uploading into Ponoko and Ordering Parts

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Going through the upload process on Ponoko, I choose arctic ice acrylic as the material for the light panels. Being frosted on one side means it will diffuse the light nicely.

To contrast this I choose the much darker hardboard as the material for the top, bottom and wedges.

Once I upload my .eps files and choose the materials I want, I just need to click 'Make', enter in my delivery details and wait for the package to turn up from Ponoko.

Step 8: Receive parts and put together

Yay! The parts arrive and now I can assemble the lamp.

The first part is to attach the wires to the light fitting - then attach all the light fittings to the top panel.

1 by 1 I insert the acrylic light panels into the bottom panel (the one without the hole) and fix it there with a wedge. Once the bottom is assembled, I turn the lamp over and slide the top over the 4 tabs and fix with wedges.

All that is left now is to turn on and enjoy. Brilliant!

Step 9: Enjoy

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This lamp can be placed on its end or its side. You could even hang it from the cord.

If you want to try this out, grab the .eps files from my showroom on Ponoko. You can grab the lamp with the flower design as you see below or you can grab the lamp without anything engraved on it. Do let me know what you think.
injector3 years ago
Love the design and the fact your included the cdr files. I made some slight changes to your design, hope you don't mind:

Instead of the corded lamp i used an LED and 2 AAA batteries, i hot glued the battery holder to the inside of the lamp


I soldered a mercury switch in the ground of the LED


but why you ask? simple so I don't mess with the design on the lids (I also made the lid holes 1/2 mm smaller than the plexy allowing me to get rid of the holding tabs)


ok that's all fine and dandy but how do you turn it off? simple the mercury switch only works when it's oriented in a certain angle, the way i glued it the switch will close the circuit when the lamp is right side up when you turn it upside down the LED turns off



and there you have it a night light.

again thanks for the design
danemery (author)  injector3 years ago
Great modifications! Thanks for sharing!
jassar3 years ago
it is really very good
bufiejnr4 years ago
Im so excited to see this. Im glad..
jaime106 years ago
that looks cool, I would like to know what the sizes are.
zaar7 years ago
hi, i like to know how you specify ponoko the size of the piezes, thanks a lot
danemery (author)  zaar7 years ago
Hi. Ponoko currently has 3 sizes of material you can fit your designs onto. P1 (181x181mm or 7.1x7.1inches), P2 (384mmx384mm or 15.1x15.1inches) and a P3 (790x384mm or 31.1x15.1inches). You select what size material you want when you are uploading an eps file and choosing the material to make the design out of.
Suppafly7 years ago
how much does something like that cost from Ponoko? Most of the things for sale on there look incredibly pricey for what they are.
danemery (author)  Suppafly7 years ago
You can see the price breakdown if you scroll down the comments a bit. Cheers
bap7 years ago
Great design! Perhaps I missed it somewhere but you might consider including specific information about material thickness and sheet size for those who are still on the learning curve. :)
danemery (author)  bap7 years ago
The acrylic is Arctic Ice 4.5mm thick and will fit onto a 384x384mm (a P2 template) size piece of material. The Hardboard is 4.75mm thick and would fit on the same sheet size. Thanks
paron7 years ago
I realize that there are many CAD programs available, but, please, which package are you using?
danemery (author)  paron7 years ago
I have used Solidworks. Someone told us recently that Sketchup can output an eps, but it seems to be only the Pro version.
gamer7 years ago
nice laptop! i wish i had a laser cutter so i could make anything -gamer
flattop gamer7 years ago
The point of the article is that you don't need a laser cutter. Ponoko will do the setup and cutting and send you the end result. All you need is the software to create the EPS files. BTW danemery, that's a slick way to hold the lamp together.
AK 487 years ago
About how much does this cost? I remember reading about this in the NY Times and verified that stuff does indeed ship out of New Zealand.. so while a test file was <$20 to cut, it was over $60 to ship! Is there an easier way to find a friendly laser cutter?
jdlewis AK 487 years ago
Shipping is the biggest issue our users are letting us know about so we're working hard to make this less of a problem. We do have to ship out of NZ and this does make it more expensive - however it does arrive to most destination within 5-7 days. Solving this problem really requires us to have a point of presence close to where you are. We're working to open a North American bureau first and then to expand from there. We hope to get this online as soon as we possibly can because we'd really like to get people making and know the shipping can turn people off. I'm looking forward to that day very much! :)
randofo7 years ago
I have a laser cutter. How do I make a lamp? I'm confused. I think you should re-title this Instructable. It is misleading.
danemery (author)  randofo7 years ago
You can download the files here and then make the lamp on your own laser cutter. Ponoko can allow people to make things if they don't have their own laser cutter.
danemery (author) 7 years ago
Pricing for this lamp (with flowers engraving) works out like this.
Hardboard - Standard
Cutting cost: $6.08
Material cost: $7.14
Acrylic - Arctic Ice
Cutting cost: $14.24
Material cost: $17.83
Joe4267 years ago
How much did Ponoko charge you?
danemery (author) 7 years ago
Thanks for the comments. I'm glad you like it.
cool :-)
trialex7 years ago
Even though you are using a specific commercial entity, nice explanation and discussion of techniques and the design process.