Lava Lamp

Project info:

Name: Lava lamp
Materials: 300gms colored paper, LED light, battery, and acrylic sheet
Artwork: Printed and foil transfer (Xerox)
Techniques: A-symmetric V-fold raisers and a stationary platform

While I’ve been experimenting with copper tape and micro LEDs, I was thinking about a usage for a light in a pop-up card and a lava lamp seemed like a nice project to do. I started with a first (rough) concept in white to use as a study for the final version. The first model leaked a lot of light on the sides and the light also wasn’t bright enough. There was a lot I wanted to improve but the concept helped me on my way to figure out how to make it work and also to get the proportions right.

Concept adjustments: At this stage, I’m tweaking stuff to the concept build to make the final lava lamp perfect. Making the light much brighter and replacing the top layer with black and chrome. The shape of the lamp is also more symmetrical and has better proportions in the final version. I’ve double-layered the top part so it’s less wobbly. Starting to look much better already. The final version will be a complete new build on a black base so the lamp stands out and it also should prevent the light from leaking because it’s less reflective.

By using this mini pop-up reflector, I’ve reduced light leakage to almost zero.  Now it’s time to rebuild every part. I make reference photos of the concept card mechanisms, that I’ll use to trace shapes and proportions. I've loaded a photo of the concept into Illustrator. That way I can start to work on the templates for the pieces and mechanisms. The top layer is rebuilt very carefully by using the template I prepared in Illustrator to cut out the black and chrome pieces.

Before I glue everything into place, I first stack everything on top to see if it looks good and how the light reflects between all the layers. The assembly of the final card takes a lot of planning because I have to build up from the base and I can’t mess this up because the black paper will be torn once it’s glued. During building ( and testing) I've placed a piece of paper between the contacts to prevent the battery from draining during the build.

What I’ve learned from the lava lamp is that copper tape on top of copper tape makes a weak connection. That’s what makes the light flicker. I can still use the copper tape for future projects but I’m going to make the on/off mechanism connections out of metal next time.

Used mechanisms

For the lava blobs, I've used two opposite a-symmetric V-fold raisers that provide the up and down movement. For the lamp contour, I've used a stationary platform. This is a nice technique to keep a platform in its place while the layers underneath move. More about this technique and how to do it in this tutorial video on my Youtube channel.

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