Project : Atomic Sun

Progress and innovation let us build a world that departs increasingly from the environment for which we evolved. To resolve the mismatch between our genetic disposition and the world we build, we must either adapt our environment or adapt ourselves. Winters are pretty dark up here, some days I'm not sure the sun even rises. So, I built this lamp. Its on a timer, and functions to keep the circadian rhythm intact.
These are instructions for building a very bright lamp with 20 bulbs and a truncated icosahedral core. Development set me back about $120 total ( bulbs included ), but you should be able to build this for as little as $40 not including the light-bulbs or cost of plastic.

Parts :
  • electrical tape
  • super-glue ( I used Gorilla brand )
  • Pliers
  • 3D printer
  • razor knife
  • wire cutters
  • wire strippers
  • Phillip's head screwdriver

First print out the indicated quantity of all printed parts.

More detailed assembly instructions for the lamp socket brackets can be found on the thingiverse page. Trim the bracket until the black socket rests flush inside. This is important, since we need the hexagonal cover plate to bond to both the bracket and the socket for a good fit.
The orientation of the socket within the bracket will matter later. The socket has a wide ridge. Align this ridge with a side of the bracket for 10 pieces. Align the ridge with a corner of the bracket for the other 10. Aligning randomly also works, as long as you don't align all sockets so that the wide parts face a side.

Print out 12 pentagonal pieces. All pieces have extra plastic to stabilize the hinge while printing. This can be removed easily with a razor knife.

Perform a test assembly with just the hexagonal pieces. Leave out the pentagons for now since they are hard to remove once assembled. Ensure that all light sockets fit properly and don't collide. You may have to experiment, rotating and swapping between pieces, to get everything to fit well. If all else fails you can tap apart one of the brackets and re-orient it.

Carefully unfold your test assembly into an as-linear-as-possible planar arrangement like below. The exact arrangement doesn't really matter, just so long as there isn't too much branching.

The lamp sockets clip onto 12 to 14 gauge electrical wire. The only 12 gauge wire I could find had too thick of insulation to work with these sockets. I used 16 gauge wire instead, which just barely works. Using scissors or a knife, separate one end of the lamp cord. Protect the ends with electrical tape. Starting at the far end, clamp the sockets to the cable in turn. The sockets are difficult to close, so I had to use pliers to get enough force.

Before you get excited and attach the plug to test everything, slide on the pentagonal hook piece over the cable. The top of the printed piece should be facing away from the assembly, toward the plug. I neglected to do this, and had to dis-assemble my plug to add this piece.

To assemble the plug, use needle-nose pliers to remove the orange stopper from the front of the plug. Remove the prongs. Thread the lamp cord through. Split and strip about 13mm from the end of each wire. Wrap the exposed wire around the bolts attached to the prongs, and tighten the bolts well. Replace the prongs and stopper.

Test each of your sockets. Turn everything over and plug in some lightbulbs. I did it the dangerous way by adding and removing bulbs ( I only had 2 at the time ) while the thing was plugged in. People that don't want to die should un-plug the setup while moving the bulbs. Better yet, order the bulbs with the rest of your parts and put them all in at once to test.

The next step is tricky. Unplug the setup and remove the bulbs. Turn over the setup. You are going to need to fold the pieces back into the polyhedral shape. The lamp cord is inflexible and resists folding, but bending each joint beforehand helps. Adding in the pentagons while folding provides more stability. As the polyhedron becomes more complete, it becomes more difficult to add pieces. If you're having trouble getting a hinge to mate, pry up slightly the side that is already in the polyhedron. The hinges come together more easily if pushed together from the side, rather than if pushed down from above.

When it was all done, the compressed cable overpowered the super-glue on a couple brackets, thankfully this mistake is easily fixed with more super-glue and some patience. You should end up with an object that looks more than a little bit like the detonation mechanism for an atomic bomb. The final assembly is very strong and the hinges will hold together without additional glue.

The last piece you'll insert is the one that contains the power cord and the rope or chain for hanging the lamp. I would attach rope or chain before you add this piece. Don't use polypropylene rope like I did, it doesn't hold knots. A chain would look nicer anyway.
Thats it. You're done. Hang the lamp somewhere, insert bulbs, and power up your own miniature sun.


  1. Twenty bucks says the fire inspector totally flips out on you.

    Sir, we strongly advise a preemptive nuclear strike against the fire department / housing office.

  2. Sir, you do not even know. This device is actually hanging from the sprinkler system.

    The good news is I actually ran the numbers for the electrical work and its all well within tolerance. The lamp should be able to handle four times the current its currently drawing. Those CFLs don't draw very much.

  3. Cyrus6.2.11

    damn thats cool

  4. A solution for your delayed sleep phase, perhaps ?

    If you for some reason find yourself having a life you could buy a MakerBot.

  5. Anonymous10.2.11

    I want one. The Seattle winters are a huge bummer.

  6. minimum lux for light response : 10,000

    how close you need to stare:

    sphere radius at 10K lux for 13 watt CFL: 76 cm
    sphere radius at 10K lux for 28 watt CFL: 98 cm
    sphere radius at 10K lux for 32-50 watt CFL : 128 cm

  7. Was searching for daylight bulbs for myself, found these cheap ones: http://shop.ebay.com/corvette123123123/m.html

    I can't use those (Finland) but I though you or anyone else in 110V areas might like this link.

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