Math Monday: Light Dimmer Knobs

3D Printing & Imaging Education Science
Math Monday: Light Dimmer Knobs

By George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics


I believe that in the future, 3D printing machines will commonly be used to make household parts, e.g., when you need to fix a broken appliance knob or handle. I put this into practice recently when I needed a replacement light dimmer knob and decided to make my own. So, I created this knob based on a lovely polyhedron, the rhombic enneacontahedron. It works well and looks like a little geodesic igloo on the wall.

This is a great opportunity to incorporate some mathiness around the house, so I made a second design, based on the (7,6,6) uniform tiling in the hyperbolic plane. Notice there are both 6-sided and 7-sided craters. At each corner, one 7-sided and two 6-sided craters meet.

If you have access to a 3D printer, you can make your own copies of these mathematical dimmer switches using the stl files available here. They fit right on the shafts of standard US dimmer switches.

See all of George Hart’s Math Monday columns

2 thoughts on “Math Monday: Light Dimmer Knobs

  1. Greg Hora says:

    I’ve always been curious about how these complex shapes are modeled in CAD. Are there scripts or “plug-ins” out there that allow you to make these shapes?

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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