Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Parametric Lamp

I've always loved CNC 3D puzzles, cut from 3mm plywood, they are easy to make and fun to put together. Over the past few weeks, I've made a lion, a bubble fish and a few others. They turned out really good. See for yourself :-)

The cut files for these models came from makecnc.com and I was astounded by the accuracy and detail of the plans in general - they even give you assembly instructions for each project.

Super awesome, very high quality plans and easy to work with. I can only +++ these because they will give you both imperial and metric plans you can choose from in three different sizes EACH, depending on the thickness of your material and the size of the cutting bits you have available to you.
The bit I used for this was a Freud 1/16th double flute straight (04-096). Assembly was always fun, no problems at all, no errors in the files. I can only highly recommend makecnc.com for that.
But why stop there?? How about making something more interesting for a broader audience, using the same material, principles and technique?

About two years ago, I came across a video on YouTube of somebody in Italy that uses a desktop CNC machine to make high-end-designer lamps. Which happen to be: And you guessed it already! :-) Made from the same 3mm plywood, just like our 3D puzzles are made from above.  I have to say, that video was one of several key drivers for me to perfect the processes and the machine to the day it currently stands, because I kept thinking: One of these days, I want to be able to make a lamp like that, using the Momus CNC.

With everything that has been going on during the build, I forgot about that over time but then recently my girlfriend pointed out an article in a recent edition of HGTV magazine. Guess, what, there it was again! THAT same LAMP! Well almost, same approach but different dimensions. In the article it only said that it came from https://www.ruelala.com, a flash shopping site. It's no longer listed, so where they got it from is currently a mystery...

Anyways, so how do we start? The first thing we need is a 3D model of the lamp, which I built up in Sketchup and Excel. You might be wondering about that a little bit, the problem with this design is that depending on how long and wide the lamp ends up being, the distribution of the wings and the angles of the wings change. The shape of the wings change also, as for the inner width, outer width and length. Once I had that worked out in Excel, 12 divisions, 6 round on each level and the angles distributed from the top down, I modeled the lamp in Sketchup and did a few renderings using LightUp, starting with a lamp kit I got from Amazon and a light bulb model I got from GrabCad.com.

The geometries and cuts in this thing are mind boggling to say the least, but I kept on modeling to complete the task at hand, sometimes a hair close to call it quits because of the complexity. Once I had the model complete, I wanted to see how it would look like with the bulb on and did a pretty complicated rendering of the whole scene in Lightup - with the light-bulb included, as a point light source. This should pretty much be what it looks like for real when finally done.

Having that look pretty good, I set out to make the CAM/gcode files for the Momus. Turns out that there were a total of 72 wing parts, 12 ribs and 4 more for the upper and lower support rings to cut, making this a total number of parts to this lamp: 88 different parts

Using 12x30 sheets of 3mm Birch plywood, it took a total of 8 sheets to make all the parts.
The tool was all the same during this project, the good old trusty Freud 1/16th double flute straight (04-096) at 20,000 RPM on the spindle. That bit just doesn't want to give up or get dull, I think I'm still using the first one I ever bought (2 in reserve), no problems with it, just awesome.

I gave the sheets a good top and bottom sanding as they came out of the machine, they were pretty clean to start with, but needed a little more detail cleanup. Here are all the parts to complete the lamp (88 parts in total):

The assembly went smoothly, I used a toothpick and white wood glue to lock all the piece in place, which took a while (there are so many ;-), starting off with a few ribs and the rings.

What is kind of interesting too (not meaning to brag) is an idea to hold the lamp up and at the same time be able to change the bulb out at any time. There is no way to reach into the lamp from the outside, so the way to solve this was to give the user a way to rotate the light bulb socket out-and-into the lamp base plate. It locks itself in.

The solution was a pattern that lends itself for that, with only using one additional part on the underside of the lamps base ring. Very simple, but effective..

On the assembly side of things, I had many problems at first, also had to redo a few parts. Which was somewhat expected. One major thing I learned from this endeavor was this.
It's hard to see on the pic on the side, but all the slotting cuts had these fillets in them in every corner, they are tiny but I doubt the whole thing would have come/fitted together without them. The model suggested it wouldn't, go figure.

I couldn't wait, plugging it in, in the shop - just to see what it would look like - please see for yourself:

Right now, it's still hanging in my shop, looking for a buyer - do you want one ;-) ?


  1. Dear Mac
    It is designed by a famous Danish designer Poul Henningsen.
    You can see and read more about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH_Artichoke
    Nice to see your version of this lamp. Keep up the good Work.
    Best regards Mogens Hartmann, Denmark

    1. Hello Morgens,
      thank you for your reply and insight. I had no idea that the roots of this design go all the way back to 1958.
      The mystery is finally solved, thanks to you :-)))
      Perhaps I'll make a few edits to this post according to what you've found and call it's rightful name, honoring the original designer.
      Thanks again, that was very helpful :-)

    2. Hi, Do you also have the sketchup models from this Lamp. It is a great lamp!
      I would like to make one myself

  2. Hello,
    thank you for your interest in this product, however: I'm really, really sorry, but because many, many hours of research and development went into this thing and since this is a commercial item now, I can't share the plans in public. Hope you'll understand...
    Sorry again,

    1. I see, no problem. whish you good luck with selling this product, but that shouldn`t be a problem i think while it is a great product!

  3. Hallo Mac!

    Still making these lamps? Want to
    Make one on my own for my new House.. Can i buy plans?

    Kind regards

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