Introduction: Crystal Glass Beads and LEDs - a Kind of Kaleidoscope

In this article, I propose the construction of a decorative object that is very easy to make and also very spectacular.

Maybe you remember one of our favorite childhood toys, the kaleidoscope, with colored crystals and mirrors, all inserted in a cylinder in which you look and by rotating the cylinder you get an infinity of colored shapes? This object bears little resemblance to that kaleidoscope, only that here, the crystals, the transparent glass beads, stand still instead of moving and changing colors of the LEDs that illuminate the crystals.

If you want to see how simple the construction of this pseudo kaleidoscope is, I invite you to continue reading my article.

Step 1: Materials and Components

Things I needed:

  • Glass beads of different sizes, forms, I had at my disposal some with a 6 and 8 mm diameter with and without AB effect (Aurora Borealis), about 160 pieces;
  • 3D printed parts: body, intermediate ring, support&box for the electronic part, you can find the files on Tinkercad;

Step 2: Construction

First of all, I printed the necessary parts on the 3D printer. I used support material for the intermediate ring. You may be wondering why an intermediate ring was needed, it looks like a redundant piece. The role of this ring is to block direct light coming from LEDs. This light can be very annoying at high brightness.

I cut the necessary piece of led strip, I tried it before if it fits alright. Notice that the body has a channel at the edge into which the LED strip is inserted. The intermediate ring also has a place where the LED strip could be inserted (see also in the figure below).

I then soldered the cable with the plug on the LED strip: the red wire at 5V, the black wire at Ground, the yellow wire at DI (Data In).

I pushed the LED strip at the channel provided in the body, there was no need to glue, the LED strip was quite fixed, after the intermediate ring is pushed in place, the LED strip doesn't move at all.

I pulled the cable for the LED controller through the hole in the support and glued it (the support) to the body. I also soldered the DC Female plug wires to the power pins of the LED controller module.

I filled the body with glass beads, mounted the acrylic disc in the intermediate ring that I pressed into the body.

I then programmed the ESP-01 module exactly as I did in the article "Build a Pocket RGB LED Light for Your Home Photo Studio" because I used WLED again to control the LEDs.

  • I downloaded ESPHome-Flasher, currently version 1.3.0;
  • I downloaded the firmware from the WLED github namely WLED_0.10.0_ESP8266_1M_full.bin;
  • I attached the ESP module to the programmer (for uploading the programs, I used the programmer in the picture below, I also used it in other projects of mine, for example my Desktop Ring Clock);
  • I inserted the programmer (with the ESP module attached and the button pressed) into a USB port (then I released the button, the ESP entered programming mode);
  • I started ESPHome-Flasher, I chose the COM port of the programmer, the previously downloaded firmware and I started writing;
  • When writing was finished I closed ESPHome-Flasher and I removed the programmer from the USB port.

I mounted the programmed ESP module in the LED controller module and after doing several tests and I was satisfied, I fixed the power cable in the support.

You can follow all these operations in the photos above I hope they explains the phases well.

Step 3: How Is Working?

There is not much to say 😊

From the WLED interface you can choose many effects, I chose a few and saved them as favorites. Once saved, they can be played automatically, each after another, when the device is turned on.

I did the same in the video below, you can see also the color palettes and effects I choose (there are many more available!)

Step 4: What’s Next?

What else could be done?

I thought that the back of the body could be transparent (also an acrylic disc) and inside some areas could be printed with partition walls to be illuminated by a specific group of LEDs, something like in the photo below:

Maybe even a Christmas star 😊

If I want something bigger, I could print a circular band. That can even be a watch...

Of course you can try other crystals, beads, decorative stones, maybe even Swarovski beads, of different sizes and shapes. At one point I saw some 6 mm diameter clear glass balls that are used in Airsoft games, even these can be tried ...

You can imagine also some other applications…

Why only glass ? you could ask.. Well, you see, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to participate in the Glass Speed Challenge ... If it weren't for that, I could have even 3D printed my own translucent crystals 😊

I hope I aroused your interest and you liked my article.

As always I am waiting for your reactions 😊

Glass Speed Challenge

First Prize in the
Glass Speed Challenge