From IKEA Lamp To Robot Arm

We’re used to projects that take everyday household objects and modify or enhance them into new and exciting forms that their original designers never intended. A particular theme in this endeavour comes from the IKEA hacking community, who take the products of the Swedish furniture store and use them for the basis of their work.

A particularly inventive piece of IKEA hacking is a project from [], a low-cost 3D-printed robot arm based on Ikea Tertial lamp. The lamp in question is a relatively inexpensive spring-balanced desk lamp that when looked at in another light has all the metalwork ready-cut for a 5 degrees of freedom robot arm when combined with 3D-printed servo holders for five servos at its joints. The resulting design has all files available on Thingiverse, and judging by the video we’ve posted below the break makes for a rather effective arm.

A quick search reveals IKEA hacks to be a regular feature here, we’ve brought you more than a few. Just a selection are an IKEA desk laser cutter from Craigslist finds, an IKEA table that has been used as the frame for a 3D printer, and a rather pretty IKEA lamp hack. The IKEA hacking community are a resourceful bunch, and we look forward to more of their creations.

19 thoughts on “From IKEA Lamp To Robot Arm

  1. Why does everybody call it an Ikea lamp? These lamps existed long before Ikea did.
    I had one when I was a child, and it was as crappy as the ones they build today.
    It never held the position, unless you moved it so far back, that it was useless.
    And when you fastened the screws, it lasted only for a day or two, until the tin adapted, and everything became loose again.

    1. I have several such lamps. Only one from IKEA (given as a gift).

      Like any product, there are varying degrees of quality. I have a lamp dating back to the 60’s (?) that’s a dream and holds its position wherever I place it. I have newer lamps that just flat out suck. Either they sag and droop or, more usually, straighten out towards vertical. On one of my lamps I kept noticing a strange metallic white powder ruining some of my work. Took several days before I figured out that the magnifying lamp I was using was grinding off the enamel coating at the pivot points. So everytime I repositioned the lamp, the dust would drift down.

      The IKEA lamp I got as a gift is a mixed bag. In particular, the mounting bracket is a pseudo C-clamp style that doesn’t really stay in place. It does, however, have better positioning than my other newer, and presumably more expensive, lamps. It’s mostly metal so I used it as a work lamp in the shop.

    2. Indeed – if there wasn’t an image, I’d have no idea what an “ikea lamp” would be (Ikea sell a wide range of lamps, not just “balanced-arm” lamps or copies of Anglepoise).

      I really liked my single parallelogram/single counter-balance lamp that I got when I was a child (albeit a hand-me-down from grandparents) but it sadly now gathers dust as the only stable point is when it’s folded up. It also seems unable to hold any other position (unless you attack the controls with pliers and really tighten it up), I suspect that it needs a lot of TLC to get it back working – and probably an LED conversion.

      1. Yah. I don’t have any opinion on the quality of these lamps from Ikea as I never had one but why would someone buy something like this new from the store? Anything I am going to hack, throw away significant pieces of and turn into a home-made (and home-made looking) robot comes from the thrift store. I’ll pay for nice looking when it’s going to be an actual lamp sitting in my living room. Old and scratched up is just fine when the goal is to cover it in motors and wires.

        1. On second thought… I just clicked the Ikea link and converted to my local currency…

          Ok, it’s cheap enough to hack like this. I would still give a quick look in the thrift shop hoping to find something about 1/2 that price but you can never guarantee just what will be in stock at any given day in those places. If I didn’t find something when I wanted to start building I would be ok with buying right from Ikea.

    3. This would make for a huge improvement on these spring loaded counter balance lamp mechanisms.
      Electrical feedback to control the servos and hold the frame sturdy whereas the original just fell to pieces if the screws weren’t tightened to frame-tube-crushing levels.

      Had a magnifier at work (that I didn’t need but was given to me anyway) using these arm mechs. The thing had a hysteresis where if it was adjusted one way it’ll slack and the opposite the other way and the center point never held.

      I just eyeball MLPM QFP’s. I dread the day the “wind changes” and my eyes just fail hard.

  2. I’ve been kicking around the idea of motorizing my 1950’s spring-balanced lamp for years. It’s nearly 5′ long, and is the main light source in my tiny workshop. I’d love for it to follow me around, coming in close when I’m at my workbench, reflecting off the wall when I’m at my PC, and reflecting off the ceiling when I’m anywhere else.

    I’m not confident that hobby servos will deliver enough torque, but it’s a start until I scrounge together some stepper motors.

    1. What’s probably not obvious about this project is how well the torque is used. He has chosen (calculated) the best locations for the springs so that the servos aren’t lifting dead weight.

      The little servos he has used probably couldn’t even lift the weight of the arm without the springs.

  3. A variant of that lamp was standard as a bedlamp in the military, and was sold for $1 for 10 lamps wwhen the military sold them as surplus.

    The problem was that they were made for the military beds, so they didnt mount on anything else.

    I still got the 10 that had bulbs still in them, and 9 of the bulbs still worked, so it was still a good deal, too bad I threw the rest away, they were rock solid in the joints and would have made a good robot arm, or use 3 of them to build a 3D printer

    I actually used one in the garage as a lamp, I just welded a tube to the workbench to substitute the bedpost it was supposed to be mounted on.

  4. This is a neat idea. The point of using Ikea parts is that it can be sourced easily, I’m sure the author and the OP are perfectly aware that this type of lamp wasn’t invented by someone in Ikea (such an interesting argument!). Still, you can tell the mechanical design of the lamp is not fit for purpose: it wobbles left and right like hell because it was never meant to transfer torque in the vertical axis. We need more mech engs and e engs working together in projects like this.

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