Where it all started

I wanted something a bit geeky for the house, and I found fibre optics! Using them is very simple, but the results can be great - so once I'd completed my star floor in the bathroom I got hooked, and you'll see at the end of this Instructable some of the other things I've made using fibre.

It is all based on this project by a nice bloke call Andy: https://starscape.co.uk/cp41.html

Fibre optics sound fancy, but what I've used here is just a rod of plastic (PMMA) that looks a little like fishing line. If you shine light in one end, it comes out of the other. The useful bit is that you can bend the fibre, and the light still comes out of the end - creating a point of light - or use several and you have stars!

In just a few simple steps I'm going to show you how I built the star floor. Before starting on the actual 2.5 x 4m bathroom floor I decided to do a trial, and would highly recommend this step, as it gives a good idea of what you are going to have to do (and why) in terms of grouting and fibre management. I used an offcut of MDF as my sample floor, and the smallest cheapest adhesive and grout I could find, along with some fibre, and a makeshift light source. The demo took a few hours to build, with all the fiddling, as well as time in between for the grout and adhesive to set.

You'll also see a capacitive switch I tested, with a view to hiding it behind a wall tile to control the floor by waving your hand in front of the switch.

Step 1: Gather your equipment

To complete this project you will need:

  • A floor
  • Fibre
  • A light source
  • A gland
  • Scissors
  • Hot knife
  • Sparky tape/cable ties
  • Everything you need to tile a floor - Tiles, tile adhesive, grout, a float, a squeegee, etc

And lots of time.

<p>Wow! This is so cool, I have to try this!</p>
Hey, do you have a tutorial for the table? I'd love to try to something easier than the tile for my first attempt.
<p>i would also love to read an instructable for the table!!</p>
That's great. Did you do anything differently? It looks really good.
<p>Everything made as you describe, but modified light source and changed the place of the light source.</p><p>Light source consisting of a flashlight for 2,7 $ (http://www.ebay.com/itm/161784865082) and LED driver $ 2</p><p>And light source is placed in the wall, covering with chrome decorative plate (http://www.ebay.com/itm/360141440925)</p>
<p>For applications like the guitar strings, if you're okay with an interrupted light, you could just bend the fiber in tight loops before &quot;stringing&quot; them on the guitar. The bending action should break the internal glass core within the fiber, and emit light at each of the breaks. </p>
Unfortunately the fibre used here is not glass.
<p>Can you share what kind of fiber optic you used? I'm learning that not all fibers are the same--width, flexibility, etc. Thanks</p>
Hi, what have you been using it for? I used 0.75mm pmma. For smaller projects, any old fibre should be optically fine. If you buy it from UFO or Starscape then you'll get good fibre, but I think all of the 0.75mm comes from China. The bigger stuff is made here. If you want to get more technical, the mitsubishi datasheets are good, and often their fibre is specified because of them. I think all of the good manufacturers make to similar specifications, but Mitsubishi write a good datasheet! What was the problem with the fibre you used?
<p>holy smokes this is way cool. As an architect I will want to try this for a client. It is very popular now to light the toe kick with led strips but this is far more sexy. Kudo and great instructable</p>
<p>I'm tempted to rip up my floor that I just put down. :-)</p>
<p>If you have the joint-width sufficient already you could do it by just cutting the grout out and re-doing it after the fiber is placed.</p>
<p>I have heard of people running it (straight) through the grout channels of existing floors, though I didn't see a nice instructable on it, much less the final product. But if you have wide enough grout, and used flexible grout...you could possible remove the grout, leave the tile, and not have to do it all over...not sure how to handle the bends at the wall. Guess that depends on much space there is under the baseboard.</p>
This is so cool. I just installed a star ceiling and posted a reference to this instructable as inspiration. https://m.instructables.com/id/NEW-DAD-TAKES-A-STAR-CEILING-TO-A-NEW-LEVEL/
so cool
Loved the coffee table and thanks for chatting about it to me today at Maker Faire. You said you might consider an offer but I can't put more contact details on here. Reply and I'll send you an offer. I would love the table! Hope tomorrow is good, your designs are fantastic.
<p>Thanks. Glad you enjoyed Maker Faire. I've messaged you!</p>
<p>Hello, where did you get the fiber?</p>
<p>Starscape, there is a link in the instruction.</p>
<p>I paint and detail like miniatures..This is awesome ..Can the optics work for making my mobility scooter like light on bottom or underneath ..like pimp out my scooter .??</p><p> anyone ever do something or know someone who could ,would let me know ...This is so nice ..YOU did a wonderful job :D </p>
<p>Love your project, can you give some details on the coffe table? Didi you drill holes to pass the fiber optic through? I'd love to try something similar but the bathroom seems too much to cope with right away :)</p>
<p>Also love to see a tutorial for the table!</p>
<p>I also want to know about the desk! Awesome projects!!!</p>
<p>Anyone ever tried working fibers (all-glass obviously) into low-fire ceramics? I wonder if it would work? Of course, you could use Marblex.</p>
<p>How about if you used something in the clay that melted away in the firing, leaving you an empty &quot;tubeway&quot; that you could then push the fiber into when it's cooled. I seem to remember my dad talking about &quot;lost wax casting&quot; where a detail for a model (train) was made in wax and then a mold was made around it then the molten metal was poured in and the wax melted away...</p>
Done lost wax casting, in silver and bronze, and yep, you got the idea. Don't know how it would work with firing clay, but it's certainly a reasonable notion. I do remember seeing a sculpture that was badly cracked in the kiln because some armature sticks had been left in the clay and the swelling as they heated cracked the clay, so you'd have to be careful about your material. Also, the clay shrinks while drying, so your material would have to shrink with it. I expect that there are specific techniques for that established, actually. Good thinking :)
So, optical fiber engineer here. This should be possible. Silica fiber is heated to ~1950C during drawing, so the temperature ranges for firing should be fine for the glass.The issue is the polymer outer jacket. This starts to damage at ~120C.You can strip this off, either mechanically (knife) or chemically (acetone), but in doing so the fiber becomes very fragile, and won't bend easily.The other problem will be the type of fiber, telecoms fiber uses an all glass structure to guide light in ~10um central core, whilst illumination fiber utilises the polymer as a guiding structure, hence if you remove it it won't guide light. If you were to use telecoms style fiber and stripped the polymer you could get it to work, but you would need to use a brighter light source to compensate for only guiding a smaller fraction of light launched from a bulb type source.
I should probably state, you can get hold of larger core fibers that have an all glass guiding structure. Usually formed with a flourine doped glass layer around the outside. With larger cores and all glass guidance of the light, these would be the best way to go, but they are much more expensive than polymer guiding fiber, or telecoms fiber.
<p>Thanks! Good answer :) The one I did look at was rated to ~350C, but I <br>don't recall its rated purpose. I suppose the polymer would simply burn <br> off in firing, letting protect the glass fiber while working it into <br>the clay, though this would probably leave the core running through a <br>channel of sooty black, highly absorptive instead of reflective. Perhaps <br> a bundle of fibers without cladding could fuse and since they'd take in <br> more light, maybe they'd transmit more? Anyways. I don't have access to <br> a kiln anymore :( so I thought I'd share the notion for someone who <br>does to try :)</p>
<p>I looked up a few fibers' stats, And it looks like their melt range is well below even low-fire kiln temperatures, so I guess probably not, though it could still be worth an experiment if there's any potters out there.</p>
Excellent instructable... (y)<br>I donno' where I can get loads of optic fibre (in India), but want to try this...<br>I am planning to put a couple of grouping onto fibre bundles and use neopixels to light them, so that would give a chroma effect on those stars... <br>
<p>I would try to find a contractor who installs it. There's always scrap from a job. I understand India's fiber network is rapidly growing.</p>
<p>Brilliant and beautiful. My family wants to try the bathrm floor this spring. Thanks!</p>
Would love to see pictures if you do!
Using a small round piece of defusion plastic from an old florescent lamp and a small reduction motor to rotate it slowly you can create a twinkle effect which looks awesome. I did something similar on a ceiling a few yrs back.
<p>A small jar or bottle of cast glass (thicker with more ripples) works well too, though it probably takes more space.</p>
I do have plans for a twinkle effect, using a stepper motor and an arduino.
<p>These are some good examples of creative applications of fiber optics. I wanted to note in supplement to your introduction that there is actually an important difference between ordinary acrylic (PMMA) rods and fiber and optical fiber. The latter is made with an invisible outer sheath layer made of slightly different plastic, and the difference in the refractive index between the outer layer and the core is critical to keeping the light bouncing back and forth inside of the fiber instead of just leaking out in the first few inches. </p><p>It's also worth noting for others seeking to do this that if you bend plastic optical fiber too sharply (or scratch it) at some point it probably won't break but it will leak a lot of the light out at that point, so arranging the fiber where it bends up between the tiles to maximize the bending radius and taking care not to damage the sheath during installation will help bring as much of the light as possible to the end point.</p><p>A final thought about using modified torches/flashlights as a cheap light source: the LED inside these devices is frequently overdriven and thus rated for a MUCH shorter useful lifetime (perhaps 1000 hours instead of 20 or 30 thousand) than the same LEDs used at lower power or with a better heatsink arrangement (such as LED lightbulbs). The designers can do this because their expectation is that it will not be used for long periods of time, being just a portable emergency light. It will probably just gradually dim rather than die suddenly - slowly enough that it won't usually be noticed. At such a low price, you could just replace the light when it dims. But for people desiring a starfield that will be left on all the time or mounting the light source in a hard-to-reach place it may be a good idea to use something that was designed to be on continuously.</p>
Hi Starphire,<br>Just to address anyone's fears - the PMMA fibres I used do have cladding - as do any optical fibres - creating the lower refractive index required for total internal reflection. It isn&rsquo;t until the fibre contacts with a surface with a higher refractive index (like fingers, sheath, tile adhesive etc.) that you need cladding. The 0.75mm stuff I used might have in the region of 0.015mm of its diameter as cladding. I believe graded index fibres have an even cleverer way of achieving this, by slowly increasing the refractive index from the core to the cladding boundary, creating a curved light path.<br><br>The sheath is simply a protective sleeve, to stop the delicate fibre being damaged. The fibre I used has no sheath. Sheathed fibre would have been a lot more robust and easy to put down, but I wouldn&rsquo;t have got many under a tile before I created a crazy golf course!<br><br>The sudden upturn between two tiles does create a bend radius too tight to get all the light out of the end. There is also inevitable damage to fibres when laying the tiles. Some ended up looking much like the guitar speaker, where I have intentionally damaged the fibre. Fortunately, as you can see, despite this light loss, plenty of light makes it to the end to become a star.<br><br>The LED lifetime is an issue, as it is with most LED products. Very roughly: the torch is using less than 2.5Watts. Assuming the 2.5degreesC per Watt is badly packaged to give a 20degreesC per Watt junction to ambient, and kept in a 30degreesC cupboard, the lifetime of a CREE XM-L (which is time to 70% brightness) might be about 4 years (no failures reported). I have one year of constantly lit star floor already with no noticeable change!<br>
<p>could make a neat wall decoration too</p>
<p>^_^ water proof right? interesting!! ^_^ ty!!</p>
<p>Fiberoptics are made of glass and/or plastic. Impervious to water. You might have heard of rain or flooding messing up your internet fiber optic cables, but that's from condensation in connections or damage to electronic parts, and not relevant to this application.</p>
<p>This is something unique i have seen. Firstly, sticker like tiles i have, this is first time i have ever seen. Secondly i have question wont the weight which tiles have to bear crush the fiber optic and then dim it later on after few months of use ?<br></p>
<p>The adhesive to put down tiles is essentially cement. There would be zero movement in the tiles grout etc. If it did move (at all) you'd have a horrible floor and your grout would break loose. A properly installed tile floor should not move and is definitely not compressible. </p>
Wingloader is right, any movement in the tiles and the fibres are the least of your worries!
<p>Hi Baldr, I think samalert is asking about using the &quot;peel and stick&quot; tiles as opposed to the ones you need to grout in place.</p>
<p>Yes correct this is the first time i saw stickable tiles. I have seen grout one. The thing which creeped my mind is when two surface are to be sticked then one of the surface must be cushiony and when they are soft means movement, means fibre might be crushed.<br><br>Hope my point or thought going in my head is clear.</p>
<p>I don't think the self-sticks will work for this. The adhesive is very thin, and they definitely do move over time, so some of your fibers will probably get broken, especially if there is a power wheelchair in the house. I would avoid using any synthetic tiles for this. Stick to stone or ceramic I think.</p>
<p>on top of what Wingloader said, the fibre optic cables shouldn't be thicker than the grout, otherwise the grout wouldn't adhere to the tiles.</p>

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Bio: Tinker: verb /ˈtɪŋ.kər/ us /-kɚ/ › to make ​small pointless ​changes to something to ​repair or ​improve it, knowing that one day, someone will break ... More »
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