Material Illumination

Material Illumination
Posted in: Topic Resources

Key Stage 3 lighting projects concentrate on the design and manufacture of lighting using simple electronics but with complex and functional part modelling.

Students will spend time considering the function and their target audience, before designing a unique solution. The concept of lighting can be used for students to learn about different designers and design eras, designing a lamp that is inspired by a chosen designers or design era.

TSL has a range of simple light kits available for class project work. There are lots of materials available to experiment with, so to inspire students to create something unique, we’ve put together a selection of some of our more popular materials, including some new ones and highlighted why they’re great to use with these kits.

Such a versatile material, commonly used in the manufacture of drinks bottle tops to storage boxes. We love it for its flexibility, it means it’s easy to mould. But its special power, the integral hinge takes this material to dizzying heights of designability.

Product designer Marco Sousa Santos produced these lights just using flat polypropylene sheet, the design restrictions brought about new and inexpensive light products.


Use translucent polypropylene sheet with our super-simple USB lamp kit for a hands-on KS3 project which pushes the imagination to the limit. Requires 3 x AA batteries per light.

Isn’t it satisfying to design, cut, and then assemble? Designing in 2D to create 3D assemblies is great for students to learn tolerances, and types of fit early on. So as they advance, they’ll have a toolkit of options to try out when they face a new challenge.

Our birch ply for laser cutting has been selected for its low resin content, that’s in essence what laser ply is. We regularly laser cut ply, so we know what to look for. It’s great for making lamps like the one below as it’s solid, great to machine cut and can be finished with suitable paints & stains.
An alternative to ply is MDF, equally a great product, just a little cheaper. MDF is manufactured from fine wood particles which are compressed and glued together, it’s this process which means it is more uniform than most other woods giving a consistent finish.

Focusing on the calming and subtle qualities required for lighting designed specifically for young children can lead to some interesting and aesthetically pleasing outcomes.

Browse Low Resin Ply

Made from corn starch, PLA is a biodegradable plastic which has become extremely popular with 3D printer users in recent years. What’s great about PLA is it has a low melting point (180-210°C), so it doesn’t suffer the same warping problems that affect ABS, while still producing a strong, durable model, plus it smells great too.

The glossy finish you get with PLA and the various colour types such as fluorescent, translucent and neon can look great when exposed to light. So why not explore these variations and create a fantastic looking light project.

PLA 3D printer filament.

Our 1W LED lamp kit would be an excellent option to light up your lamp, use with use with a power supply unless you are any of the following superheroes: Ironman, Storm, Shellectro and Nikola Tesla.


TSL stock a huge range of 3D printer filaments...


High Impact Polystyrene; our favourite styrene (Yes, we have a favourite styrene!). Why? Because it’s commonly reprocessed, which is great! We do love a bit of recycling at TSL.

You could even make your own coloured sheet using the Schred granulator. You can learn more about the Sched system within our Resource Hub blogs and useful downloads.

We also love HIPS because it’s easy to process. Take the light below. It’s simple in form, but involves a great use of mixed materials in a project, and does its function well. We think Dieter would like this.


View TSL's range of HIPS for vacuum forming...


Providing lighting accounts for around 15% of the energy bill in most homes, and around 25% in commercial buildings. It is supplied by electrical power plants using fossil fuels, and is responsible for a significant percentage of carbon dioxide emissions, a leading cause of global climate change. Because of this, the building industry has targeted lighting as a key element in sustainable design, and there is now a global movement to develop and implement lighting solutions that meet people’s needs and concerns, and address environmental regulations.

The most sustainable lighting is natural daylight and is a free renewable resource. Architects should maximise natural light while maintaining indoor temperature regulation and reducing direct light glare. The placement of windows, skylights, light shafts, atriums and translucent panels all contributes to effective daylighting design.

An emerging new technology is that of sunlight transportation. Natural sunlight is collected on roof panels and transported into a building via fibre optic cables for distances up to 15 metres. These sunlight-piping systems can be used in combination with solar panels to integrate natural and artificial light systems, so that there is always light available.

UK start-up Plumen pushed the boundaries of sustainable design to bring a range of 3D printed lamp shades to the market. The shades are made by using recycled plastic filaments from water bottles, fridges and other sources of plastic pollution.The collection was inspired by everything from the Bauhaus movement to geometric forms of the Art Deco era.

Closing the life cycle of the design, when you’re finished with them, they can be recycled with the rest of your domestic plastics, ready to be reinvented once more.


‘Hive’ by Luke Deering is an interesting biomorphic design drawing on the natural grace of the honeycomb structure.

Along with technological solutions like energy efficient light bulbs, and using renewable energies for their electricity source, simple practices such as turning lights off, using dimmers and timing switches can all help to make lighting more environmentally friendly.

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