Introduction: DIY LED Lamp

This is a step by step guide on how to build your own modern LED lamp from a 3D model,  using a laser cutter and some simple electrical components . I actually used this as an architectural model but the end result  creates a pretty sweet lamp. The design that is attached it slightly different from what is in the pictures. What is pictured is actually my design for a highrise apartment building in chicago.  This guide takes you through all the steps necessary, feel free try out your own shapes. What is attached is only a sample of a possible shape.

Step 1: Get All the Materials

you will need a few things for this build. start by getting all these items.

4 sheets of 1/8" thick 18" x 24" acrylic - (not 1/8 but close enough)

super glue or acrylic adhesive (if using super glue watch for finger prints)

Laser Cutter

4 "AA" battery holder (this one includes a switch which is nice)

2 ( or how every many you want) LED's

resistors ( i used 270 ohm, may change on your set up)

preprinted circuit board,i used this one because it cut down on some soldering

one can of spray glass frost

Step 2: Background Info

what we are building is a a vertical contour model, building a 3 dimensional shape from 2 dimensional slices and stacking those at a set interval. With that in mind the fundamentals of this project rely on a light shaft in the center of the lamp, and rough edges of each contour to allow a terminating point for the light. when passing light through glass or acrylic you need a termination point. so to achive this you can frost the glass or sand the edges. this will let the light pass through each contour and then make the edges glow, while the middle shaft acts as a diffuser. 

ok so lets get started. 

Step 3: Build the 3d Model

i used Rhino 3d because it is what i am comfortable with, but many 3d modeling programs will achieve the same effect

i wont go too in depth in the design development stage because this is a step that is different for each modeling program. 

These are the basic steps i used when modeling in Rhino

       start with determining the size of the lamp- ours is basically 6"x6" by 18" tall

       next determine the size of the battery pack and estimate room for the LED's on top of the - ours is 3" x3" x 1.5"
       ( you have to include room for this at the base)

       determine and height and size of the light shaft - ours is about 3" x 1.25" by 18"tall ( dont make too small or the lamp may become too unsteady )

       now develop a general form for the lamp. The attached laser files are for a "twisting" cube form

       now use the "contour"command and contour your model at every 1". the spacing can be adjusted to fit your needs

 this gives you the lines needed to create the laser cutting file. export these to your favorite CAD program and prep them for the laser cutter

for those of you using Rhino i have attached the working file for you to refrence as well as a 3ds file if you prefer 3ds MAX

Step 4: Prepping the Laser Cutter Files

now you take those lines generated from your 3d program and turn them into a 2d CAD format. 

this will vary depending on your laser cutter as well how your generated the shapes.

*if you don't use a 3d modeling program you can start in a cad program and work in flat 2d shapes, all you need is rectangle that remains in the same spot as this is what acts as a light well. 

also at this step you need to draw the pieces that will glued together to make the spacers and creates the light well in the center. 

The attached cad file is set up for a laser cutter that has a 18" x 32" tray. The CAD file also has each of the 4 sheets (18"x24"  w/ .25" margins) layed out and ready to be printed. 

Step 5: Laser Cut the Pieces

Laser cut your pieces 


i found it was beneficial to place each type of piece into its own baggie to make sure they dont get mixed up

now you just have to assemble pieces and build your light source!

Step 6: Spray Frost the Spacer Pieces

 it is time to spray frost the riser pieces that make up the light well.

Now is the  time to remove the blue film for those pieces. This might be the most time consuming part as there are lots of little pieces and each has two sides of the blue film. 

Once all the film is removed spray each side about 2 or 3 times. The more coats you put one the more opec the pieces will get, meaning the part will glow more but allow less light to transmit through it. So if you want it to glow alot spray many of coats, if you want it to be brighter stick to 2 or 3 coats.  each coat only takes about 15 minutes to dry. 

Step 7: Assemble

Once all the pieces are frosted you can start to assemble your lamp. you simply work your way up from the bottom and stack them together using the super glue to hold everything together.  

Starting from the bottom build the rectangular risers and glue them one on top of the other with the large contours between. repeat till finished. 

also at this time sand the edges of the contours, this will rough them up and allow the edges to glow bright. 

Step 8: Light Source

all that is left is to wire up your light source.

this is about as simple of a circuit as you can make. you will be soldering two LED's in parallel each with there own resistor. 

you can see that the circuit board i bought and linked, has some of the holes connected. this allows current to flow through those rails and this reduces amount of wires and soldering. if your board doesnt have this you will have to make sure that you wire it correctly.

this doesnt require any advanced soldering and is pretty easy. if you are worried you can practice on other parts of the circuit board as you wont need the whole thing. infact i cut mine in half to conserve space. 

once the board is all soldered splice the positive and negative wires to the wires that are attached to your battery pack.

to attache the circuit board to the battery pack i simply used electrical tape to hold it. 

put batteries in and enjoy your LED's. don't look straight at them they are bright! lol

Step 9: ENJOY!

Thats it! you are now done. Put the LED's in the base of your lamp and enjoy! hope you had fun.

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    Hello, I really want to make this, but I do not have any experience in 3d software, or a laser cutter. I found some website online that will do laser cutting service,, but this site required the file format to be STL, DAE or VRML 97. I am completely new at 3D software and laser cutting, is there anyway you can send me those file type?

    Very nice looking lamp. I might have to build on at some point.

    Instead of frosting the plastic with a spray, you could also just sand them lightly with a scotch-bright pad. This would save the work of spraying and allowing each coat to dry. It also couldn't scratch or chip off.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    thank you very much! I was very happy with how it turned out