Recreating A UFO Light With A 3D Printer

3D Printing & Imaging Craft & Design Technology
Recreating A UFO Light With A 3D Printer


last year I downloaded SketchUP and just doodled around with it. I didn’t really do anything challenging. I went to MakerFaire in Queens, and was completely inspired. Then, I went to the MakerBot store in New York, and I was blown away.

I immediately knew I wanted to build something cool. I spent about a week determining what I was passionate about. I wanted to learn more about SketchUP and CAD, and I wanted to learn about MakerBot and 3D printing. I spent about 3 weeks reading everything I could find on the internet. I scanned Reddit, watched YouTube videos.. and I was a little disappointed in that nobody made anything ‘cool’ to me. I wanted a robotic car, I wanted things that moved. I wanted stuff that reminded me of Jim Henson’s Skeksis. movement.. oh sweet juicy movement.

In 1993 I stepped into my first nightclub. It had bulbs attached to motors, and the ceiling came aglow with so much motion and sound that it was more like an artistic installation than a dance club. It had pin spots, par cans, moving servo lights, and in it’s center sat a UFO light. (I think it’s the Lytequest UFO although experts say it wasn’t because of the separate control functions. They say it might be the Meteor, an exact duplicate of the Lytequest. Several manufacturers of lights had their own ‘version’ of the UFO that was all nearly identical. This was before the days of Patents).

The UFO light had a central bulb, three motors, and was amazingly organic. I wanted to build one in the 1990’s but my lack of knowledge of slip ring assemblies and no knowledge of parts and motors, meant I was dead in the water.

Luckily because of the internet, you can now teach yourself how to wire things. There are YouTube videos on electronics. You can Google Search almost any part you need. I decided, this was going to be my new project.

I spent three weeks learning SketchUP and trying to design the parts and pieces. I tried to use 3D hubs but it was expensive and hard to use. I found a guy in New York that had a Replicator 2 and was starting a print service. He was inexpensive, and eager to help.

Over the next 4 weeks, I had the parts printed out. I got the motors in, and luckily they had enough torque to handle the weight. I had to reprint everything again, not knowing the tolerances of the MakerBot, and surprisingly how exact it really was. I ordered the lenses, wire, batteries, and everything seemed to ‘just fit’ but with a little sanding and filing.

The most challenging part has been getting the motor speeds and voltages correct. The bulb is from a Maglite and is a mini xenon bulb running at 3V, and the motors are rated between 6-12V, but one motor needs to be slower for effect. Engineers would use an arduino or something to just change the motors, or use steppers. I know absolutely nothing about any of that. I know how to wire DC motors and use resistors.
Since the first build, I have found a motor that has a different gear ratio in it. It runs at 6-12V like the others, but due to the gearing, runs slower which is what I need. I am also sourcing a 6V LED bulb as a test. I will definitely get more light out of it, but I am not sure if there will be issue as LEDs in a wrap around configuration do not produce even 360 degree light, but will have ‘dead spots’ between the bulbs. However, its all in good fun, and the parts are not that expensive.
Cool thing is I can change it on the fly, and reprint the parts.

In the end, it’s definitely cool It’s a miniature desktop version, designed to get people inspired at what they can really do with 3D printing. It’s about prototyping, and above all, imagination.

I am going to build an updated version with a brighter bulb. I have to do some heat testing, to see how hot the bulb can be before I melt the PLA.

7 thoughts on “Recreating A UFO Light With A 3D Printer

  1. David Mc says:

    Design is so much more fun when you have a 3d printer to help you make it a reality.
    Even wood forming tools can open a whole new world for people.
    I love tools, they make my imagination possible!!!!

  2. Woody Eadie says:

    That’s my favorite dance club light of all time! Back in the 90s a now-long-gone club here in Atlanta had two of them. To take them completely over the top, they were mounted on the bottom ends vertical sections of truss along with neon and other lights in about a three-storey-tall space, right in the center of the dance floor. The truss sections were attached to winches to raise and lower them when the DJ really got going.

    Your build is impressive! Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

  3. severianomendoza says:


  4. James1 says:

    Very, very cool. Really inspiring stuff!

  5. MB_2004 says:

    Really shows how far 3d printing has come in such a short period of time. Easily one of my favorite’s, here.

  6. Ryan Hescock says:

    Have you considered ultra bright led’s instead, a strip of lights like these would work pretty well I think.

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thomas beattie

Thomas Beattie is a 42 year old graphic artist living in Jersey City. He builds teleprompters ( as well as continues his passions in graphic art & design ( His recent love has been learning everything about 3D printers and how he can develop new products for fun and/or profit. He is currently seeking employment in New York in either graphic arts or 3D product development.

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