Introduction: Laser Cut Lite Brite

Take yourself back and unleash your inner child!

I made this project during Mrs. Berbawy's PLTW Principles of Engineering class, where I had the amazing opportunity to use equipment such as a laser cutter to cut acrylic. After learning some basic skills the previous year's PLTW class, Introduction to Engineering and Design, I wanted to work on a project that showcased those skills. Since my younger cousin really likes toys that light up, I decided to make a Lite Brite. A Light Brite consists of a box that is lit up from within and has a grid of uniform holes on the top. When pegs are placed in the holes, the player can create colorful glowing pictures! Not only is it a fun way to pass the time, it is a great way to teach shapes, colors and letters to younger kids. Since the Lite Brite is a nostalgic toy, adults like it too! To make this project, you need to have some basic knowledge of Autodesk Inventor and Adobe Illustrator, as well as have access to a laser cutter. I hope you make this Lite Brite!


The materials you will need:

  • 1 sheet of ¼ inch acrylic in any opaque color
  • 1 scrap of any thin acrylic at least 6 by 7 inches
  • Scraps of colorful acrylic 0.25 inches thick
  • Acrylic cement ( I used this one)
  • Battery operated Led string lights with at least 200 Leds (I used this one)
  • Small colorful translucent pieces (beads, pegs, glass pieces) bigger than 0.25 inches in diameter ( I used these )

The tools/software I used:

  • Universal Laser ULS3.50 cutter
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Autodesk Inventor

Step 1: ​Bottom

  1. Start by opening Autodesk Inventor and creating a new file.
  2. Draw a square in the xy plane with a side length of 8.5 inches.
  3. Extrude the square by 0.25 inches.
  4. Start a new drawing on one square face of the prism.
  5. Draw 4 small rectangles with the long sides flush with one side of the square face. Each small rectangle should have a dimension of 1 inch by 0.25 inches. There should be a space of 0.9 inches between each rectangle and between the rectangle and the left or right side of the square face.
  6. Draw these rectangles on each side of the square.
  7. Extrude the rectangles out.
  8. Name this file bottom face.

Step 2: Top

  1. Make a copy of the bottom face file and name it top face.
  2. On the top face file, begin a drawing.
  3. Start by drawing a circle with a diameter of 0.25 inches in one corner of the square. The circle should not overlap any extruded rectangles.
  4. The circle should be 0.25 inches away from the edge of the small rectangles adjacent to it.
  5. Extrude the circle away.
  6. Use the rectangular pattern tool to repeat the circle horizontally 16 times and vertically 12 times. Use 0.5 inches for spacing.
  7. You can use the bottom fourth of the top face to raster or cut a design. Or you can vertically repeat the circle 16 times instead of 12. If you choose to do this, make sure you find a string of lights that have enough LEDs to cover all of the holes on your top face.

Step 3: Side

  1. Now make a new file called side.
  2. Begin a new drawing in the xy plane. Draw a rectangle with dimensions of 8.5 inches by 2.25 inches. Draw 5 small rectangles along one side. Draw the long side of the rectangle flush with the side of the face. The rectangle should have dimensions of 0.9 inches by 0.25 inches.
  3. Use the mirror tool to mirror the small rectangles onto the other side. Extrude the rectangles away.
  4. On the shorter side of the face draw one rectangle with dimensions of 0.9 inches by 0.25 inches and mirror it on the other side. Extrude both rectangles away.
  5. Make a copy of this file. On the copy, draw a circle on the left. The circle should be as big as the opening of the battery pack for the LED lights. I had to draw a circle with a diameter of 1.66 inches.

Step 4: Cut and Assemble

1. Now it is time to export all the files to Adobe Illustrator. Right click on the face that is going to be cut out of acrylic. Then choose .dwg. Go to options, choose Autocad 2010 drawing, click next, and save. Open the file in Illustrator by choosing new and then file. Move the drawing around to place it in a space saving way on the acrylic. Make sure all the lines are ready to cut.

2. Cut three regular side panels and 1 side panel with the hole. Also cut 1 copy of each top and face files. I chose to cut the bottom face of the box out of clear acrylic, and the rest of the faces out of opaque glossy black acrylic. However, you can choose any opaque color for the top and sides of the box and it will have the same effect.

2. Now that all of the parts of the box are cut, it is time to cement all of the sides together. Cement two adjacent sides and the bottom face together to start. Follow the directions on the can of acrylic cement. Do not glue the top face down since that is how you can access the lights to switch them out if they stop working.

3. Create a new file on illustrator and name it elevated sheet. Draw a rectangle with dimensions of 6 inches by 7.9inches. Make the stroke width 0.1 and red. Open a new file name it pillars. Draw a rectangle with dimensions of 1.25 inches by 0.25 inches. Make the stroke width 0.1 and red.

4. Cut 8 pillars out of 0.25 inch thick acrylic. Cut 1 elevated sheet out of any thin acrylic.

5. Glue the pillars in the box with acrylic cement. Place the elevated sheet on the pillars.

6. Arrange the string of lights in the box in a roughly zig zag pattern on top of the elevated sheet. Place the battery box through the hole and and put the top on the box.

Step 5: Play!

1. Obtain some small colorful translucent pieces such as beads, plastic vase filler, plastic pegs, water beads, or something similar. I used some plastic ceramic Christmas tree ornaments.

2. Turn on the LED lights and start designing!