Introduction: Lasercut Cardboard Lampshade

About: Het Laser Lokaal provides an affordable laser cutting service in Amsterdam

This awesome lampshade is made out nothing but cardboard! Our company designs and produces lampshades like this one, and I want to share how we make them.

These types of lampshades are wonderful for many reasons. The main one being of course that it doesn't cost much to produce, and that it can be made entirely out of recycled cardboard. Another great aspect of these lampshades is the fact that the design is highly adaptable.

Warning: this Instrucable includes the use of a laser cutter, this type machinery can be very dangerous if not used properly. Always follow the operating instructions and safety precautions that are provided with the machine.

Step 1: Step 1: Materials & Tools

Gathering the materials can be quite easy if you choose to use recycled cardboard, if you choose to use new/unused cardboard you will have to find a store (or shipping company) that sells cardboard sheets in large enough sizes. If you want to use old shipping boxes make sure they are clean and unprinted.

- Cardboard sheet

There are plenty of different types of cardboard out there to make things very confusing! whether using recycled or new cardboard it is important that the cardboard is clean, undamaged (including folds!) and preferably around 5mm or 0.2 inches thick. This thickness is ideal because the laser can cut through it but it saves time because you need to cut less layers. We used two 3mm cardboard pallet divider sheets glued together with wood glue to make a 6mm layer. If you sheet doesn't fit on the machine, cut it in half with a box knife.

- Wood glue (or cardboard glue)

- Lamp socket E27 (with a screw ring to secure the lampshade)
We used a socket from Ikea. They are cheap, good quality and readily available. Note: if you choose white, it might get smudged by the soot stains on the cardboard after cutting.

- Optional: Fire retardant spray for cardboard
Not necessary but recommended. We treat all of our lamps with fire retardant spray.

- Box knife
To separate cardboard that didn't get cut all the way.

- Laser cutter
If you don't have your own you can get a laser cutting service to do it for you. Feel free to contact us about using our laser cutting service.

- 3D design software
We used 3D builder, a free windows app

- Adobe Illustrator

- Autodesk Fusion 360 with (free!) slicer plugin

Step 2: Step 2: Design the Lampshade

Depending on your 3D designing skills, the lampshade's complexity can vary. The design we made for this Instructable is one of the most basic designs there is, so feel free to make your own additions and modifications.

We used the Windows app 3D builder because it's easy and quick. If you are designing you own lampshade, keep the walls to a minimal thickness (around half inch). If the walls are thicker the light will not pass through very well, but if the walls are thinner you will not have enough surface to glue the cardboard to each other.

How to design the lampshade:

1. Create a 40cm sphere and "squish" it down to 30cm (but leave it 40mm wide on both sides)

2. Copy this shape and make it smaller by 2cm on each side (so 26mm high and 36mm wide). Place this shape in the center of the larger one.

3. "Subtract" one shape from the other, this hollows out the larger shape.

4. Cut the bottom off of the hollow shape (exact position does not matter, as long at the hollow core is exposed enough to put the lamp in later). Personally I like to cut it around one quarter of the design.

5. Finally, cut a hole in the top of the lampshade for the bulb socket. You can do this by drawing a cylinder with the diameter of the socket, through the top of the lampshade and then subtracting it.

6. Save the design as .STL file

Step 3: Step 3: Preparing the Design for Lasercutting

Slicer for Fusion
Once you are satisfied with your design you can import the design into Slicer. Don't worry about the orientation of the lampshade, if it imports sideways that fine.

First of all you need to create a new material. This materials contains the properties of your cardboard, mainly the thickness and size. Click on the gear next to manufacturing settings, click any material and enter the following values:

Units: mm

Length: 1000

Width: 1000

Thickness: whatever the thickness of your cardboard is (for me 6mm)

all other settings are fine as they are.

Of course you can change the units to imperial, make sure that at the end of the slicing process most or all objects are on one sheet, it does not matter if the sheet doesn't fit on the laser cutter. We will be solving that later.

Make sure that the object size is in mm, and that the boxes original size and uniform scale are ticked. Select the "stacked slices" slicing technique, you will start to see your lampshade take shape! Depending on how the design was imported, you might need to change the slicing direction. Click the "slice direction" button and move the blue pointer along the axis to the correct direction.

Before you export the design, check the assembly steps. Here you can see the lampshade built up from start to finish. Finally, click the "get plans" button and export as .EPS to your computer. You can find our exported file below.


After the slicing process, the design needs to be cleaned up. Import the .EPS in illustrator and if there are multiple files, copy and paste to form one large temporary file. Having all of the objects in one file makes it easier to fit objects inside of each other to save space, but we will get to that in a moment.

You will notice each ring has a outside and inside which are blue. All rings also have a number in red and small dots in blue and red at the top, bottom and sides. Some rings also have a red circle between the blue lines, sometimes solid, sometimes broken.

I don't know why this get's generated in Slicer but we want to get rid of anything we don't want on the lampshade, so the dots and the solid/broken red circles need to be removed. The easiest way to do this is to select all, ungroup and release compound paths. Then, select all blue rings with select > same > appearance, and then while holding shift, select all numbers individually and move everything (blue circles and numbers) away from everything we don't want. If this it too hard you can also just move object by object. After doing this you will have only blue circles and red numbers. Select all other items and delete those.

Now it's time to efficiently fit objects inside of each other, this saves time and material. If you have many shapes consider using a software, but because there are only a few shapes in this design I do it by hand. Make sure that you select both de circles and numbers when moving objects and also make sure that the circles don't overlap.

After making the objects more space-efficient you can start making the cut files. Open a new window in Illustrator and enter the exact sizes of your cardboard. Place objects in the cut file and when there is no more space in the file open a new file and do the same for the remaining objects. Repeat until there are no more objects.

Laser cutting

We use self-built laser cutters so it would be pointless for us to walk you through the steps for our machine. However below are some basic pointers for laser cutting:

- Depending on the thickness of your material, place the vocal point on or a bit below the surface of the cardboard.

- Turn on air assist

- Cardboard may no lay flat on the bed, in that case cut it in smaller pieces with a box knife.

- On our 100w machine we used 100% power at 60mm/s for the cutting, and 10% at 40mm/s for engraving. While it may not be perfect for you, it's a starting point.

- Set the numbers to line engraving, not raster engraving.

Step 4: Step 4: Gluing the Lampshade

Start with laying all of the cut objects in the correct order, make sure to always hide the number out of sight. Starting at one end, skip the first object and glue the second to the third. Make sure that they are perfectly aligned with each other. wait a few seconds for the glue to settle and then repeat this process for the fourth, fifth etc. up until the middle of the lamp. Repeat for the other side of the lamp

Now you have two, almost complete, lampshade halves and the outer cardboard slice or each side. These can now be glued on. The reason why you will want to skip these in the beginning is that the soot from the cardboard gets on your hands and it leaves fingerprints on the ends because you are constantly applying pressure there.

Tip: Keep a damp rag nearby to wipe you fingers on occasionally. You can also use this rag to clean up spilled glue.

Finally, glue the two lampshade halves together and marvel at your creation! Be very careful with the sides of the lamp, cardboard it quite fragile.

Step 5: Step 5: Finishing Touches

If you are planning on making your lampshade flame retardant (which we highly recommend!). Apply the spray before you screw in the socket. Follow the instructions provided with the spray.

All there is left to do is to place the lamp socket in the lampshade! Use the screw on the socket to attach it firmly to the lampshade, but be careful not to damage the cardboard. It would be a shame to put a regular e27 bulb in this beautiful creation, so I bough a "vintage look" led bulb. These give a very nice finishing touch to the lampshade, and I would recommend using a "fancy" light bulb.

Step 6: Step 6: Final Thoughs

There is a ton that can be customized with this lampshade: the design, size, material, socket and bulb are all aspects that can easily be tailored to your own wishes. We are constantly expanding our website with new designs. If you want more inspiration or would like to see your design on our website, please let us know! We love to collaborate with other makers.

If anything is unclear please let us know. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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