I was excited when I got the nod to make one of my lamps for the lobby of M.A.D.E in STL. The M.A.D.E. logo is impressive and was designed by Anna Sher (aksher.com). Honestly, when you first see that logo, it just draws you in. The uniqueness of each letter visually honors the meaning behind the letter:

  • M – Maker
  • A – Artist
  • D – Designer
  • E – Entrepreneur

When I first starting thinking about the logo, I also thought that the uniqueness of each letter should reflect in its material. I chose

  • M – 3/16″ steel cut on the Water Jet
  • A – 1/4″ acrylic cut on the laser cutter
  • D – 3D printed
  • E – 1/4″ cherry plywood cut on the laser cutter

I spent over 10 hours just thinking about how to best light this lamp. If all the letters were like “M” I could have wrapped each letter with the LEDs, but every option I looked at for the D and E made it just not possible. My next thought was to make each letter its own square with the letter in the middle and lights shooting into the box and out of the box.

In the end, I settled on using strips of LEDs at the bottom shooting up. Even though this would emit less overall light, I thought it would give the best design to showcase the logo.

I also wanted a design behind the letters and decided that an electronic circuit board would be a cool backdrop for the letters. I searched through several pages of photos on Adobe Stock before I found the one I liked and purchased the license. PLEASE: Always buy the graphics you get off the Internet, designers need to be paid for their work!

The circuit pattern
Two panels with circuit pattern etched.

I do all my design work in Adobe Illustrator. The laser cutter uses Corel Draw, but Draw imports the .ai files relatively well.

I ordered my acrylic from Dave Rapp at Laird Plastics and picked it up a few days later on my way to M.A.D.E.

Because I wanted to make sure the sign worked from both directions, I decided to add an extra pane of acrylic painted white in the middle. The back of the lamp was going to have a gold glitter painted logo that would catch the light nicely…but after working with it I found that the glitter came off too easily and sifted down between the stacked layers of acrylic. So I switched to inlaid cherry plywood for the back.

The back side of the lamp with inlaid cherry plywood.
Cutting the “M” out of 3/16″ steel using the Water Jet. Thanks to Nick for helping me, it had been over a year since I’d used the Water Jet.

The Water Jet is such a cool piece of equipment. The nozzle shoots out water at 60,000 PSI with garnet dust injected in so that it can cut just about any solid material. I’ve seen a 3″ block of steel cut. Simply amazing.

3D Printing the D

I printed the “D” on the MakerBot 3D printer. I had to import my Corel Draw image into 123Design and make the the right size and extrude it. Then save as an STL file and import into Makerbot’s software.

The final print was slightly off, but I was able to use the laser cutter to “cut” the outer edges of print for a perfect fit.

The front of the lamp with the circuit pattern. I ended up adding a layer of white paint behind the circuitry pattern in order to reduce the amount of confusion in the background.

After the upright portion of the lamp was completed, I started cutting and constructing the base. The base has to have holes to hold it together, holes for 2 switches, the channel for the LEDs, and a wiring track to run wires from the Arduino to the LEDs and to the switches.

I’d never made a base that had the LEDs installed in the channel, but it was simple enough to design and cut. I ended up using 8 layers for the base in order to make it sturdy enough to support the 7-layer vertical portion.

I took everything home to do the solder there. I cut 4 strips of LEDs to fit in the channel. The back of the LEDs have a tape so I was able to overlay one on top of the next.

Once I installed the LEDs into the channel and ran the wiring, it was time to start programming. Sadly, 83 LEDs was how many would fit per row, but that’s a PRIME NUMBER! So it did cause me some issues in programming.

The LEDs installed along with the Arduino MEGA 2650 processor.

Here’s the final project!

MADE Lamp’s Inaugural Lighting.

“DRMG (Don’t Ruin My Groove)” written and recorded by Ben Becker.

So What’s Next?

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