Back in 1986, when Pixar was still a sleeping giant, a short little computer animated film called "Luxo Jr." created by John Lasseter inspired me into the field of 3D animation. As time passed, Pixar came out with many adorable characters but my favorite was...and still is Luxo Jr. He is cute, playful, and an ever lovable character. I have always wanted one but none were to be found commercially any where at the time.
Fast forward 20+ years, now you can print your own Luxo Jr. with a 3D printer and a model on Thingiverse. As a tribute to Luxo Jr.'s 30th anniversary, I will show you how to make your very own Luxo Jr. in this instructable.
It will be one of a kind, one that has never been done before, at least according to google anyhow:-) Beside being cool it will be functional as well. I have installed an LED ribbon light where the light bulb should be and also included a switch so that you will be able to turn ON/OFF the neon light in case you want to use it as a table lamp. The light given off by the lamp will be plenty for reading.
Let's get to it and hope that you will enjoy the adventure.
Step 1: Things You Will Need
You will need the following items to make this lamp a reality.
- An access to a small CNC router or a manual router.
- 2 pieces of 10mm thick acrylic sheet (400x300mm for the body, 240x240mm for the base).
- 6mm roughing end mill.
- 3mm drill bit.
- Dremel Hand Drill (Optional). I used it to widen the channel of the body section to make the NeonFlex fit.
- A utility knife to trim off some of the NeonFlex.
- A vector based program to print out the design in exact dimension (if using a manual router).
- A CAM software for sending G-code to the CNC machine. I used Delcam ArtCam Express 2015, now it is available for download as Autodesk Artcam 2016 (for evaluation). I am not an expert in CAM software so I will leave it to the expert to comment below.
- NeonFlex, 12V or 24V (can be purchased from EBay, Amazon, or your local hardware store). The lamp uses 50cm for the head, 65cm for the body, 5cm for the leg, and 50cm for the base.
- 15 cm of LED ribbon strip. Find the one with the smallest width, preferably smaller than 10mm since that is the thickness of our acrylic. The voltage of your LED ribbon strip should match the voltage of the NeonFlex otherwise you will need 2 power supplies.
- 2-pin NeonFlex Connector (4 pieces)
- 12V or 24V DC Power Supply (depending on which type of LED NeonFlex you've got).
- Acrylic adhesive.
- Clear speaker wires.
- 3 core wire.
- ON/OFF rocker switch.
- Fine grain sand paper.
- Wire stripper.
- Soldering iron and some solder.
- Electrical tape or shrink tube.
- Clear tape
Step 2: Files You Will Need
I used Adobe Illustrator to make the design as I am not yet an expert in ArtCam or other CAM software where I could have made the designs on there directly.
I am sure that you can use CorelDraw, or any vector based program to adjust this design and import the vector drawing to your favorite CAM software.
I have included a few files for you:
- LuxoJr-Body.eps : editable file of the lamp body.
- Jr-Base.eps : editable file of the lamp base.
- LuxoJr-Body.art : ArtCam file for the body.
- LuxoJr-Base.art : ArtCam file for the base.
For the lamp body
- L-Channels : CNC all of the channels for the NeonFlex, and decorative vents on the lamp's head.
- L-Drill: Drill all of the holes so that you can do all of the wiring in the back of the lamp.
- L-CutOut: Cut the shape of the lamp from the acrylic sheet.
NOTE: You should do it in this order. Don't forget to change from the 6mm end mill to 3mm drill bit for drilling the holes.
For the lamp base
- LB-Channels: CNC the slot for the lamp, and channel for the NeonFlex.
- LB-CutOut: Cut out the base from the acrylic sheet.
The key steps for adjusting the design inside your vector drawing program are pretty simple.
1. Use the pen tool to adjust the design according to your needs.
2. If you are using a 10mm width NeonFlex, you can simply click on the drawing and change STROKE to 11mm NOTE: Give it a 1mm tolerance if your design has a lot of straights lines, and 1.5mm if there are a lot of curves.
3. Once satisfied with the design, use the CREATE OUTLINE function, to create outline of your drawing.
4. Save your drawing to be imported into a CAM software.
I have provided the two EPS files so that you can adjust or change the width of the stroke to match the size of your NeonFlex .
Step 3: Cutting and Drilling
I'm using a 8mm(W) x 17mm(H), 24V NeonFlex with a cutting length of about 50mm.
My G-code files will cut the channels with the width of 9mm. I have used a 6mm roughing cutter in the setup of ArtCam.
NOTE: As mentioned in the previous section, you should cut the acrylic in the suggested order as the first file will cut the channels, second file will drill the holes while the third will cut out the lamp body from the acrylic sheet. If you cut out the lamp from the sheet first, it will be very difficult to line up the channels or the holes. Don't forget to change from the 6mm end mill to 3mm drill bit for drilling the holes on the second file. The same is true for the base.
I've used 2D profiles instead of area clearing to save cutting time. Once finished, there will be some remains of acrylic on the channel of the head piece which can be remove easily with a slot head screw driver.
In the G-Code file, I have provided additional room (4mm width) on the head piece so that you can install the ribbon strip next to the NeonFlex. My LED Ribbon is only 2mm thick, so I needed to use glue to hold it in place.
I manually cut the grove on the underside of the base so that the wires can come out, and the lamp can sit flush on the table.
I used the fine grain sand paper to sand all of the edges, I want the edges to have a frosty finish so that I can catch given off from the NeonFlex.
I polished the section of acrylic in front of the lamp where the LED ribbon will be till it is clear so that we can get maximum brightness from the ribbon strip.
Step 4: Installing the Lights
Installing the LED Ribbon Strip:
Let's install the LED ribbon strip first as it is the easiest.
Once you have soldered the speaker wires to the ribbon strip, insert the wires into the hole at the front of the lamp as in the picture.
Installing the LED NeonFlex:
In the last project it is was very easy to install the 2-pin power connector to the NeonFlex.
In this project, it will be a little bit more challenging as we want the power connector to be as invisible as possible. As you can see from the picture, on the base we want the 2 ends to butt up against each other, so that there will be no gap in the light.
To realize this, we will have to cut out the pins out from the plastic connector. I used a pair wire cutters to clip the plastic to get the pins out.
Once I got the pins, I cut the original wires and replaced them with clear speaker wires. I wanted my lamp to be as transparent as possible. You will have to file or sand the end of the pin otherwise the solder won't stick to it. I had a hard time doing it, as you can see from the picture, there are globs of solder at the end of the NeonFlex. On my next NeonFlex project, I will simply use a hard copper wire instead of the pin, I think it will be easier to solder.
You will need to do this to 4 pieces of the NeonFlex (head, body, leg, and base pieces).
For the head piece, start out from the hole which we have drilled just above the body piece, insert the speaker wires through the hole to the back then push the NeonFlex into the channel in either direction. Once you get to the front of the lamp, push the ribbon stripe up against the leading edge of the acrylic while carefully pushing the NeonFlex into the channel (see picture above).
For the body piece, the light will start from the top just below the head piece. The difficult part will be in the middle where you have the 180 degree u-turn, I needed to use the dremel to grind off the corners to make it more rounded, otherwise no matter how hard I tried the NeonFlex wouldn't fit inside the channel.
The leg and the base are very easy to install.
Step 5: Testing the Lights
Before we go on, we need to make sure that all of the lights work properly.
I simply just touch each pair of wires to the power supply's leads, positive to positive, negative to negative. If you don't remember which is which, it is ok (it is difficult to differentiate when using transparent speaker wires, unless there is a black stripe). If you touch the wires, nothing happens, just reverse them. If there is still no light then check your connections, also check to see if you have the power supply plugged in ;-)
We will tie all of the NeonFlex leads together at the back of the lamp, all positives together, all negatives together. In the back of the lamp, now you will have 2 pairs of wires, first pair for the NeonFlex, and second pair for the LED ribbon strip.
Step 6: Final Wiring
We basically have 2 types of light that needed to be lit. The NeonFlex for show and the LED ribbon strip for illumination. I wanted to be able to switch off the NeonFlex and use it as a regular desk lamp.
So, to keep things simple, I wired the reading light (ribbon strip) directly to the 24V power supply, and wired the NeonFlex through a simple ON/OFF rocker switch, please see wiring diagram above.
I didn't have any 3 core wires around, but I have a microphone cable which has 2 core and a shield, that will do for now. I can use the shield as the ground, and the 2 wires as the positive for NeonFlex and reading light.
In the photo of the back of the switch, the 24V power supply wires are coming in from the right (Brown is +24V, Blue is Ground). On the left, are the wires going to the lamp, Yellow is the +24V wire from the ribbon strip, Black is the +24V wire of the NeonFlex, the grounds (no cover) are bounded together and are connected directly to the ground (Blue wire) of the power supply.
The reading light comes on the instant it is plugged in. You can turn ON/OFF the NeonFlex with the switch.
The drawback of this simplicity is that you have to pull the plug if you want to turn off the reading lamp.
Step 7: It's Time to Shine
That's it! A one of a kind Luxo Jr. neon desk lamp, a tribute to 30th anniversary of Luxo Jr.
I hope that you had fun reading my instructable. If you like it, please vote for me in the LED and the Lamp Contest, I would really appreciate it.
Since I have been spending a lot time with this project, I may have overlooked a step or have made a few typos. If you have a comment, question or suggestion please do not hesitate.
Thank you for reading. More fun and cool project coming soon.
Step 8: Room for Improvement
There are a few more things that I want to improve in the next version.
- Install 4 rubber feet on the base.
- Use a real 3 core wire.
- Cut another channel (2mm x 2mm) under the NeonFlex channel for the wires, so there would be no wires coming out on the back.
- Adjust the CNC file so that each pieces of NeonFlex would fit better inside the channel.
- Rotatable head piece.
- Use a double poles triple throw switch (DPTT), basically a 3 stage rocker switch. In the middle, everything will be off including the power supply. Push the switch forward, both the Neon and the Reading light would come on, backward only the reading light would be on. Anyhow, that's a rough plan.
If you have any suggestion please do not hesitate.