Design and production of a parametric lamp in Grasshopper

Last Sunday, reinvigorated from extensive relaxation over the holidays, I wanted to create something. I decided upon creating a lamp as they are manageable in size and there are few constraints on their shape.

I have toyed with the idea of creating a lamp using a laser cutter before, but have never really gotten further than the design stage. This time would be different.

I decided upon using Rhino and Grasshopper and designing the lamp parametrically, so that its dimensions could be easily adjusted, depending on the dimensions of the laser cutter and materials available for production. I also wanted the design to be simple as this would be my first time using a laser cutter, but I still wanted something delicate that would be difficult to create by hand.


I started playing with a revolved shape and then cutting that shape with radials from the center to create slices of that shape that could be laser cut. The number of radials would be adjustable depending on the final shape and material thickness.

Overall shape
These radials need something to hold them together so added two central discs and I added slits to both the radial slices and discs.

Zero thickness geometry
At this stage the geometry can be arranged for laser cutting. However, the geometry has no thickness and, depending on the material thickness for production, it could prove to be impossible to assemble. A visualization is required to ensure that there are no internal clashes in the geometry. The planar surfaces can be extruded to give them thickness.

Geometry with thickness
No clashes in risk area


In order to produce the lamp with a laser cutter, the geometry needs to be laid out in 2D so that material is effectively utilized. This process of laying out the geometry is called nesting. In order to do effective nesting, the dimensions of the laser cutter are needed.

There are several options available for people that want to experiment with laser cutting in Denmark. There are commercial services like, where you can upload your design and they produce it for you, for a price (can be quite hefty, this lamp (before optimization) was around 700DKK). Students at DTU can take advantage of the facilities there. For others, non-students like me, there are two fablabs in Copenhagen. One in Nordvest and one in Valby.

Fablabs in Copenhagen, free usage
I chose the one in Valby. They have an Epilog laser cutter with an effective cutting area a bit over 600 x 400mm. It is possible to buy material on site. I bought two plates of 4mm thick MDF for 60DKK.

Once I knew the dimensions of the material I started the nesting process. I used a free nesting algorithm plugin for Grasshopper, Generation. It did not provide perfect results, but good enough so that I could improve them myself. During this process I realized that it could be beneficial to change the geometry of the slices so that the sides would be identical. That way the laser cutter would not have to do a double pass and the cutting time would be halved.

Michael Hviid, the fablab manager was super helpful in helping me picking the right format to use as input to the lamp and giving me instructions on how to use the printer.

Cutting the first batch
The printing process took about 45 minutes. I had not realized how much the process smells.

Assembly of pieces
Once the cutting was completed I assembled the pieces. As can be seen from the images, the edges are completely black and in some places there is a darkening of the sides. This gives the material a nuanced texture, indicative of that it has been laser cut.

I bought a light fixture and a vintage style light bulb to put into the lamp.

The final product

Those interested in understanding how the geometry is derived, or wanting to improve on where I left off can download the files below. I have included the Rhino file, Grasshopper script and the pdf output required for producing the lamp in a cutter that can handle at least 600x400mm.


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