LED Sculpture Lamp

By Adafruit Industries

Courtesy of Adafruit

Guide by Jeff Epler


Inspired by the idea of a curved lamp using LED strips, I created this ‎‎3D printable design. Thanks to the adjustable power supply, it is ‎dimmable. To build the full lamp, 3 meters of LEDs are required.‎


Don't connect a CircuitPlayground to the round perma-proto board ‎in this project. The lamp runs on 12V, which is a high enough voltage ‎to damage a sensitive microcontroller!‎



I used these tools & consumables when putting the project together. ‎If you've already got something that works for you, use it. If you're ‎just getting started, use this as your shopping list.‎

Not an essential tool for this project, but seen in some guide photos:‎

‎3D Printed Parts‎

The 3D printed parts were designed in a combination of FreeCAD ‎‎(for the transparent curved parts) and OpenSCAD (for the base & cap ‎parts), because I find OpenSCAD to be a better tool for doing ‎repeated hole patterns, but FreeCAD was better for creating the ‎spline shape of the LED holders. OpenSCAD and FreeCAD are both ‎free and open-source programs that run on Windows, Mac, and ‎Linux.‎

‎3D Printable files: lamp-stls.zip

You'll need to print a total of 12 of the LED guides in transparent ‎plastic. I chose PETG, but because as LEDs do not give off much heat, ‎PLA or other types of plastic should be fine. It's important that the ‎LED guides be printed in a transparent or translucent plastic.‎

I used my slicer's "fuzzy skin" setting to increase the diffusion effect. ‎The LED guides do not need support.‎



If you have a 210mm or larger bed, the STL file mult.stl has 4 copies ‎of the LED guide, so you would need to print it 3 times. ‎Otherwise, splinelamp-v4-Body.stl contains one copy and needs to ‎be printed 12 times.‎

The remaining 3 parts need one copy each: There's a top, a bottom, ‎and a middle part. The top and middle parts do need support on ‎build plate only. Flip the side with the hexagonal 'holes' down on the ‎build plate. Make sure to turn off the "fuzzy skin" mode if you used it ‎earlier. I printed these in white, but you could use other colors or ‎even make these out of transparent filament too.


The file plated.stl has these three parts in their correct orientation.‎

You can print these files with whatever color & material suits you.‎

To modify the parts, download the design (.FCstd and .scad) files ‎using the button below:‎

Design files: lamp-design.zip

Also seen in the cover photo: 5 Tetrahedrons in a Dodecahedron by ‎Kristian_Laholm

LED Strip Preparation

First, remove the silicone tube from around the LED strip. Insert ‎diagonal cutters in the end and cut away the end cap and at least an ‎inch of tubing. Then, carefully remove the whole end cap and ‎separate the LED strip from the tubing. Repeat at the other end. ‎With the 1-meter length, it is now possible to carefully pull the strip ‎out of the tubing. With the 5-meter length, it is probably necessary to ‎slit the whole length of the tubing.‎


Separate the strip into 250mm sections by counting off 10 of the ‎divisions. Make a clean cut exactly along the dividing lines using ‎diagonal cutters.‎


Next, for each section, cut a generous length of red and black wire (4 ‎inches is good, but I probably did about 6 inches. This leads to some ‎waste but it's preferable to ending up without enough wire). Slightly ‎strip one end of each wire (even though I keep my fingernails short, ‎they were a good tool for this task; the traditional wire strippers I ‎own were not "up to" dealing with this small and thin wire).‎


Desolder any original wire (it is way too chonky to be good for this ‎project) and then solder your new wire on: Red on the "12V+" side, ‎and black on the "12V-" side.‎

It's best to leave the other end of each wire unstripped until ‎soldering it to the Perma Proto board.‎

Now it's time for the part that needs a lot of care: inserting the LED ‎strip into the 3D-printed LED guides. Identify which side to insert the ‎strip from, and which direction the LED strip needs to face. You'll ‎need 6 strips inserted from each direction; the strips should all face ‎‎"out".‎


The first part of the strip will insert easily, but after that there is ‎increased friction. Hold the strip between your index finger and ‎thumb, with your thumb on the plain side of the strip. Push it ‎forward by short distances (a few mm / ¼ inch at a time), being ‎careful not to kink the thin PCB material, until it's all the way ‎through the guide.‎

While this picture shows some of the original wires, I discovered ‎that these were not flexible enough, and replaced them with fresh ‎wires.‎

Assembly and Soldering

Count out 24 hex nuts from the box of fasteners. The top and middle ‎pieces each have 6 spots for horizontal nuts and 6 spots for vertical ‎nuts.‎

If the "horizontal" nuts are a bit loose, you can put a small piece of ‎masking tape over them, so they don't fall out for now. Remove the ‎tape when assembly is complete.‎

For the "vertical" nuts, it's important that they be well-centered with ‎respect to the holes in the 3D prints. You can press them in by taking ‎advantage of a hard surface like a table, and then use one an M2.5 ‎screws to make sure that they are centered before continuing to the ‎next step.‎



Next, solder the barrel jack onto the perma-proto board. You must ‎place it exactly in the position shown, with the front pin in the top ‎row, the rear pin in the 4th row, and the middle/side pin in the third ‎row.‎

Bend the top pin down, the bottom pin up and the side pin right.‎

Using a small piece of wire, create a connection from the top pin to ‎the topmost pad with the blue line to its right.‎

This will connect the power supply's positive side to the red (positive) ‎rail and the negative side to the blue (GND) rail.‎

The Perma Proto is shown here on top of the bottom 3d printed ‎piece, but at this point you should not screw them together. It's good ‎to check the base part for correct fit, though, it could save you a ‎tricky unsoldering operation later.‎

Instead, set the bottom piece aside and bolt the middle piece to the ‎perma-proto in the orientation shown. You won't have enough ‎screws to fill all 8 positions, but 2 or 3 provide an adequate ‎mechanical connection.‎



The photos below show all the LED segments bolted on at the start ‎of the soldering process. However, the recommended procedure is to ‎start with just two segments bolted on.‎

Grab some of the middle length (M2.5x6mm) screws from the ‎fastener pack.‎

Pick two LED strips of the correct orientation to go in the north and ‎south positions and screw them into the base piece and then into ‎the top piece.‎

Take the red wire of the south piece and "thread" it through ‎the bottom hole just to the right of the red line. Take the black wire ‎and thread it through the bottom hole just to the left of the blue line.‎


Flip the board over, pull the wires completely through, and trim ‎them to about ¾" length with side cutters.‎

Then, grip the bottom part of the black wire with pliers and use your ‎fingernails to strip the insulation at least 1/4" from the end. Push the ‎remaining insulation back through the hole and solder the exposed ‎wire to the pad. Repeat with the other (red) wire. Trim any excess ‎wire with side cutters. At this point, it's good to test the LEDs by ‎plugging in the power supply and turning it to 10V or more; the LED ‎strip should light clearly along its entire length. Always unplug the ‎power supply before soldering the next strip.‎



Repeat this process with the rest of the strips, working inward from ‎the north and south ends to the center. When the remaining gap is ‎too small for a hand, use the pliers to guide the ends of the wires into ‎the holes. Be patient, always pay attention to polarity, and test ‎frequently to ensure each strip works when it's added. If a strip ‎doesn't light, the most likely cause is bad soldering; simply de-solder ‎it and start again with fresh wires. In one case the author ‎experienced, the pads at one end of a section didn't work but the ‎pads at the opposite did. The LED strip may have been damaged by ‎careless handling.‎

Once soldering is complete, the remaining step is to bolt the bottom ‎‎3D printed piece to the perma-proto. Like the middle piece, there ‎won't be enough screws to bolt all the positions, but 2 or 3 positions ‎are enough to give adequate mechanical strength.‎

Use the variable power supply to adjust the brightness and add an ‎in-line switch if you want to turn the lamp on or off with a decisive ‎click.‎

Take it Further

Want to hone your own 3D design skills? The author ran out of time ‎to design a snap-in cap piece that would hide the wires. Maybe ‎you'd like to try your hand at it. A version that is designed for ‎hanging from the ceiling would also be excellent.

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