Hyphae Lamps – an infinite series of lighting designs


The Hyphae Lamp is a new series of algorithmically generated lighting designs by Nervous System. Each lamp is individually grown through a process based on leaf vein formation. No two lamps are alike. Each casts a unique pattern of branching shadows on the wall and ceiling, creating an ethereal and organic atmosphere. The lamps are 3D-printed to order in nylon and illuminated with eco-friendly LED lights. The first 10 lamps in the series are now available for purchase.


video not showing up? watch it on Vimeo.com here: Hyphae Lamps. Special thanks to Graham Woolley / scion eidolon for creating the music.


The veins of leaves are intricate structures that function both to distribute resources and reinforce strength. Though it appears all vein patterns have the same overall organization and hierarchy, no two leaves have the same vein structure. Rather each leaf has its own peculiarities emerging from its unique circumstances. Across species the patterns differ drastically; they can be radial like a lilypad, parallel like a blade of grass or reticulate like a tomatillo husk. How can one mechanism explain such variety?


Our Hyphae collection was inspired by scientific research into this question; how do leaf veins form? Why do they differ from leaf to leaf, plant to plant? A theory called ‘Auxin Flux Canalization’ explains venation as the result of the movement of the growth hormone auxin. A feedback mechanism makes it easier for auxin to flow where it has flowed before and cells with high levels of auxin differentiate into vein cells. Our simulation is based on the work by Adam Runions of the Algorithmic Botany group at the University of Calgary, who devised a process based on the auxin flux canalization theory.

video not showing up? watch it on Vimeo.com here: Hyphae – growth process diagram in 2D

We translated this system to 3D to generate physical objects. A technical explanation of some aspects of the system can be found here.



The lamps are grown in custom design software we created in C++ using CGAL and Cinder. The branching network evokes leaves, coral, and roots without precisely replicating any natural form. Each lamp starts from a base volume and a set of root points; the lamp’s structure emerges through an iterative process as the roots grow into an auxin filled environment. The system is optimized to produce designs for manufacturing by Selective Laser Sintering. They capitalize both on 3d-printing’s ability to create complex organic forms but also to create all unique products as there are no costs for tooling and no need for molds. The pieces are 3d-printed by the NYC-based service Shapeways. The 3D-printing process minimizes waste, using only the material in the final form. Each lamp is fabricated on demand.


The lamps are the latest designs to join our Hyphae collection which also includes 3d-printed jewelry designs launched earlier in the year.



The lamps are lit by a set of 3 Cree LEDs, using a total of only 3.6W of electricity. The estimated lifetime of the light is over 50,000 hours or almost 6 years of continuous use.


10 responses on “Hyphae Lamps – an infinite series of lighting designs

  1. Absolutely love it! I love the look of those old eaten away/broken down leaves outside…now you’ve made it into a lamp I can enjoy indoors year round. Genius!

  2. Hi there, I would like to purchase the ripple effect wooden plate that the Hyphae lamp is photographed on, please let me know if I can purchase it and how much it will be.

    Thank you very much.


  3. Pingback: Nervous System – explorations in generative design and natural phenomena » Blog Archive » “Out of Hand” — Museum of Arts and Design·

    • hello, I’m sure there are many typos on my website. Although I could not locate this particular one. 3D printing is still rather expensive, although we were recently able to lower the price of most Hyphae Lamps to $300, I realize our lamps are still quite expensive. I’ve made a serious effort to have my company focus almost exclusively on products under $100 but sometimes I make things which can’t currently be manufactured in that budget.

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