The XWiki Lamp Story

Apr 22 2012

The XWiki Lamp Story

About a month ago, the Luxembourg YaJUG invited Vincent Massol, our CTO, to present XWiki to a crowd of Java specialists. This presentation not only brought us some great leads, but on this occasion Yannick Kirschhoffer created a very cool poster containing a concept design of a lamp representing the "X" in our logo.

Everyone at XWiki SAS loved it and the immediate reaction of the team was to want to build the XWiki Lamp.

As we were in the process of moving to a new Office in Paris (35 Rue Beaubourg in the center of Paris, close to the Pompidou Center), I thought it would be really great to make this little surprise to the team and actually build the lamp.

So I did some research to see what we could build close to this design. I found that the easiest way (we love that way at XWiki) was to use LED lamps and diffusing PMMA plastic, as LED lamps are quite ecological and exist in multiple colors. I initially thought I could find some colored PMMA plastic, but it was complicated to get it cut to the right size. I found two great web sites for that. One is Ampoule LEDs and the other one is Plastiques sur Mesure.

From the first website, I bought a set of colored and white LEDs, a transformer, a dimmer and from the second one I ordered the plastic cut for the profile of our logo. The minimum cut being 10cm, this led to the logo being 1 meter per 1,1 meters and the lines of the X being 1,5 meters each. This was slightly bigger than what I thought initially but I did not really have a choice, as cutting the plastic myself was not really a solution.

The result was already nice. The colored LEDs would need about 5cm to properly light the PMMA and the white lighting would look very nice once attached to the lines of the grey X. 

Then we had to decide how these elements would be attached and how the electricity cables would go from the LEDs under the X to the LEDs under the small elements on each side. The setup from the concept design was neither easy to do being a metal construction, neither realistic as no cables were visible. In the end, after having thought of a mini X in wood under the X in PVC and some connections to each side, I decided for a big 1,4 meters on 1,25 meters wooden 15mm thick plate. It was quite a challenge to actually bring this plate to the office. The shops would not deliver it and the plate was too wide to fit in my or my friends' cars. Luckily, we have a Leroy Merlin shop just down the office and they can cut inside a 2m on 1,25m plate. I went there with the help of my dad, who also helped me on this setup, and we got a plate and brought it back to the office. We also bought some film to make the side look white.

The next step was the most difficult one. We needed to decide what was the best the way to hold the elements 5cm over the plate without having too much impact on the light system. I ruled out wood, which tented to be too visible through the white plastic, especially with the lights on, and decided for a plastic tube from the same online shop that could also cut the plastic elements to the desired sizes (50 and 53 millimeters). The 53 millimeters tubes were meant to hold the line of the X that would be slightly higher than the other since they overlapped. At the same time I reordered white LEDs, as the tests were conclusive.

Finally we needed to decide how to connect the wooden plate with the plastic tube and the plastic plates. Initially I thought glue would be good, but soon ruled it out as I did not really know if it would be solid enough and also what the effect would be on the light. I finally decided for holes and screws to bring all this together.

After starting the work, we realized we needed some more screws as we struggled a bit to decide what the right sizes for them were. We even broke a screw in one of the plastic tubes. We also needed some more electrical cables to connect the LED systems together through the back of the wooden plate.

The work started with holes a bit everywhere on the wooden plate and then holes on both sides of each plastic tube, small 2 millimeter holes on the big and small plastic plates. We had to glue the LEDs to the white plate and let the electrical cables through the big wooden plate.

You can see the result for one of the elements on each side of the X:

Then we needed to glue the white LEDs to the back of the grey lines of the X and attach the lines to 3 tubes (2 at each end and one in the middle). There was one complexity though, as the lines of the X cross and the white LEDs of one of the lines needed to be connected over the other line. 

On the back of the wooden plate there is a network of electrical cables to connect all the LEDs together and then connect the whole system to the transformer at the bottom of the lamp.

It took quite some time to connect all the LEDs together. Finally we were done and once the lamp was lit up it looked really nice:

The lamp needed to be attached to the wall and more holes were necessary to attach a support on the wooden plate and one on the wall to be able to suspend the lamp:

We connected the lamp to a 12V transformer with 36W power, which was sufficient for the set of LEDs used. There should also have been a dimmer with a remote control to turn the lamp on/off and choose the light power, but unfortunately the dimmer I bought did not seem to work.

The LAMP was ready and we only needed to light it in place and close a bit the curtains to make it look even better:

Yeah! We'll be able to enjoy this lamp in our next staff meetings this week!
It was quite a bit of effort. I'd like to thank my dad who helped me prepare this surprise for the team, as well as Benjamin from the XWiki team who also helped out, and finally Yannick Kirschhoffer from the YaJUG, who gave us this idea in the first place with his concept design on the YaJUG poster. 

The full photo album of the lamp building is available here here.

The elements used to build the lamp were:

The approximate price of the lamp was 200 Euros.

PS: We have most pieces necessary to build a second lamp for the XWiki SAS Iasi office, but while we can probably ship the big X, the LEDs and the other small pieces, we'll need a volunteer to go buy the big wooden plate and to build the lamp.