Build an Arduino-powered, Laser-cut Xbox 360 Laptop




About: Home of the popular Darkmatter Xbox laptop, the OrdBot 3D Printer & the Mobileduino RC kit.

Darkmatter is the world's first Open Source Xbox 360* Laptop - its a hardware kit designed to make your Xbox console portable, so that you can play your favorite games any time, any place! 1080p HD screen, capacitive touch controls and all. We successfully crowdfunded Darkmatter via Kickstarter in June 2013, and in this instructable we're going to show you how to make your own.

(* The design provided here is currently compatible with the Xbox 360 S Slim and Xbox 360 E consoles)

First, the supplies. Note that procuring each part & supply can be costly in time, money and energy. If you wish to skip the trouble and just want a ready-to-play Darkmatter then you can order one online on our estore. We also sell a kit version that contains all the major supplies & parts for you to get started with this instructable right away.

The major supplies are:

    • an Xbox 360 Slim console, of course
    • 1080p HD display panel with driver board - available from ebay, or from us!
    • Adjustable-friction hinges - available from Mcmaster Carr
    • all 28 3D-Printed parts for the Darkmatter casing. Source files available on Thingiverse.
    • all 12 Laser-cut parts of the Darkmatter casing. Design files up on our Thingiverse.
    • an assembled Xduino360 board (Arduino-compatible). Board design + programming files are also up on Thingiverse
    • MPR121 breakout board - available on Sparkfun
    • RTV Silicone sealant
    • custom USB/Audio breakout PCB - you can make this yourself or source one from us
    • custom HDMI cable - you can make this yourself or source one from us

    Remaining supplies are below.

    • Wire strippers/cutters
    • a screwdriver set
    • a set of files
    • Soldering station + soldering wire
    • Wire strippers/cutters
    • M3 x 6 and M3 x 8 Countersunk screws - 30 each, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • M3 x 10 Countersunk screws - 10, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • M3 x 12, M3 x 20 and M4 x 6 Countersunk screws - 4 each, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • Pan Head screws - M4 x 16, M4 x 20 - 4 each, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • 16mm M3, 22mm M3, and 6mm M4 Hex standoffs - 4 each, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • 6mm M3 Hex standoffs - 10, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • 66 M3 Hex nut, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • 16 M4 Hex nuts, available from Mcmaster Carr
    • SATA cable - available at a local Fry's store
    • Three RGB LED strips - Radioshack
    • Two 2W 8ohm Laptop speakers - available on ebay and from us
    • Two 17CFM Laptop blower fans - available from us and ebay
    • One 5V (7805) regulator - Radioshack, Fry's...
    • Allen key set - available from Lowe's or Home depot
    • Plastic film
    • Four common pins
    • Heatshrink tubing - 1mm, 2mm - from Radioshack
    • 16mm inner diameter cooling ducts/tubing & cable ties - from Lowe's/Home depot
    • Tapes - Fabric, Masking, Dual tape
    • Glues - epoxy, super glue
    • Braided core wires - from Radioshack
    • Shielded core wires - from Radioshack

    We won't be showing you how to disassemble your Xbox 360 console since that's been covered many times already on the web. Here are some resources to guide you, just follow them along right now and your console will be fully disassembled, ready to transform into Darkmatter:

    This instructable is 95% complete and we will be fine-tuning it over time, but for all intents & purposes this instructable is ready to be utilized to make your own Darkmatter laptop. The text in each step provide a quick summary of the instructions, while the tagged photos will give the finer details of the process. Now let's start with the assembly!

    Step 1: Bottom Casing Assembly

    Let's start by assembling the front of the casing. Grab the casing front panel, insert hex nuts into one end, followed by a lower side support 3D-printed part. Then tighten with a M3 x 6 countersunk screw. In the same manner insert & tighten in a lower middle support part into the panel's middle, then a lower side support part into the remaining end of the panel.
    Next attach the casing right panel to the front panel, utilizing the already-in-place lower side support part. Attach a lower middle support part to the middle of the right panel. Next attach the casing left panel to the assembly in the same manner.

    Grab the casing rear panel and fix in the two lower hinge support parts near the panel ends, then attach this rear panel to the rest of the casing assembly.

    Align the casing bottom panel to the assembly, then fix it with M3 x 8 countersunk screws to the feet of the 3D-printed parts.

    Locate the four M4 borings in the bottom panel and fix in 6mm standoffs with M4 x 6 countersunk screws. Repeat for the four M3 borings, with M3 standoffs/screws this time. Step complete!

    Step 2: Motherboard Soldering

    Time to solder! Grab the USB/Audio breakout board and make USB connections to the motherboard with braided wires. Next solder thirteen 10-inch braided wires to the Ring of Lights pads on the motherboard; slip them out from underneath the heatsink and through the hole near the middle of the board and to the other side.

    Now its time for power connections. Locate the power port's solder pads and solder three pairs of braided wires such that each pair has one 12V signal and one GND signal in it - we'll be using these pairs to power the display driver board, the Xduino360 board and the fans in later steps. Pass these wires through the motherboard hole as well.

    Now locate the WiFi port's pads. Solder seven 12-inch braided wires - six to the small pads and seventh to either of the two larger ground pads.

    Next up locate the video port's pads. Solder 20-inch shielded wires to pads #15 and #16 - audio left & right signals - then solder their shielding-sheaths to either of the two large ground pads. Pass these wires through the motherboard hole. On to Step 3!

    Step 3: Audio/USB Board, DVD Drive, Ring of Lights Board Installation

    Grab the motherboard, with all its myriad of wires and fit it over the 5 standoffs in the casing bottom, using M4 & M3 hex nuts to tighten it to position.

    Next grab three 15-inch shield wires and solder them to the RSL pads on the USB/Audio board - their shields however should solder to the '-' pad nearby. Grab some 16mm M3 standoffs and slip them into the holes in the USB/Audio board. Use M3 hex nuts and screws to fix the board into position right behind the front panel.

    The DVD Drive is next - detach its front bezel and flatten the visible tabs & protrusions. Flatten the two cylindrical tabs underneath it as well. Now apply epoxy to the now-smooth front cover and press on the acrylic DVD cover panel. Let dry for 15 minutes.

    Fit hex nuts into the DVD support parts and fix them into position on the bottom panel - but don't tighten the screws so much that the parts can't slide around. Place in the DVD Drive and using the support parts fix its position on the bottom panel, tightening the support parts' screws so that they can no longer slide. Take out the drive and pass through the three shielded wires from the USB/Audio board. Cut 4-inch pieces of dual tape, paste them in between the DVD support parts, and place back in the DVD drive.

    The DVD drive's cable is too short to use as is. Use 7-inch pieces of braided wire to elongate each wire on the cable, utilizing heatshrink tubing to cover up any exposed solder/metal. Plug the lengthened cable into the DVD drive and the other other into its motherboard connector.

    There's still the remaining SATA cable - its length is OK enough for Darkmatter, so plug it into the drive and its other end into the 'ODD'-labelled connector in the motherboard.

    Next grab the Ring of Lights board (with flex circuit) and its 3D-printed support part. Latch the support part to the RoL board using a hex nut and a screw, then slide/attach this module to the video ports on the motherboard.

    With the 13 RoL pads now visible, solder the corresponding wires from the motherboard. Remove the flex circuit from the board, then use an inch-long piece of dual tape on the video ports to fix this module in position.

    Step 4: Display Board, Wifi Board & Fans Installation

    Time to install the display driver board. First grab the custom HDMI cable and pass its exposed end through the hole in the casing rear panel, near the motherboard. Now locate the DVI ports on the display board and spot its soldering pads, then solder the 14 wires from the HDMI cable to those pads. Solder the bare copper conductor to the metal body of the ports.

    Next grab on the of three motherboard 12V-GND wire-pairs and solder it to the display board's power pads. Fix the display board to the bottom panel using the the standoffs present and utilizing hex nuts.

    Now we install the WiFi board. Grab the seven wires we soldered to the motherboard's WiFi port and solder their remaining ends to the WiFi board's pads. Sand & flatten the plastic, hollow tab on the WiFi board and fix it in position right behind the front panel using pieces of duct tape.

    Now grab the laptop blower fans, fans support panel, fan nozzle parts, fan duct parts and cooling duct pipes. Fit the nozzle parts into the blower fans, then screw them to the fan support panel using hex nuts and M3 x 20 countersunk screws. Next fit cooling pipers over the two fan duct parts, then fit the remaining ends of the pipers over the fan nozzle parts. Use cable ties to tighten the pipes.

    There will be two remaining cavities in the fan support panel. Insert M3 x 10 countersunk screws into them and bolt the entire fan assembly to the heatsink on the motherboard.

    The fan duct parts still need to be fixed to the vents in the casing side panel, though. Apply glue to their flat sides then press them to the side panel, on the vents. Let dry for fifteen minutes.

    Now the fans' power connections - snip off the fans' power connectors and prepare a 7805 regulator for soldering. Solder one of the remaining two 12V/GND wire-pairs and solder it to the regulator's input terminals. Solder the fan's red wires to the regulator's output pin and the black wires to the middle/ground pin, then cover all exposed metal/solder with heatshrink. Take off the hex nut tightening the lower-left motherboard standoff and insert the regulator there, then re-fastening the hex nut.

    Cut two pieces of plastic film in sizes enough to cover the vents in the right side-panel - apply glue to the pieces and press on the remaining two vents, sealing them. Step complete!

    Step 5: HDD & Display Screen Installation

    We're going to install the hard disk and display screen in this Step now. Grab the hard disk and screw two 22mm M3 standoffs into it, then slide it into the casing behind the DVD drive and over the display driver board. Fix the standoffs with countersunk screws from below, then insert countersunk screws from behind the hard disk (through the casing rear panel) to lock the hard disk in position.

    Now grab the hard disk's cable - the yellow wire-bundle is too short for our needs, so extend it with 4-inch braided wire. Then plug in the cable and all its connectors.

    Next grab the display lid top panel and affix the white logo piece into it with the help of epoxy glue. Fit in hex nuts into the upper hinge support 3D-printed parts and insert the parts into their cutouts in the lid middle panel, sanding if necessary. Apply a thin layer of glue to the lid middle panel and press it onto the lid top panel, fixing to it with all edges aligned & flush and the upper hinge support parts gripping the lid top panel. Let the glue dry.

    Display screen time! Turn it over and measure 108mm from its top edge and 182mm from its right edge and mark the intersection spot. Grab an RGB LED strip, solder 20-inch braided wires to its pins. Then peel off its covering and paste it on the spot marked on the display screen's back. Grab the screen's cable, connect it to the screen then bundle its wires with the RGB LED strip's.

    Back to the lid top/middle assembly. Place 4-5 stacks of dual tape parallel strips on the insides, above and below the logo, then pop in the display screen (routing the cables through the notch in the lid middle panel).

    The lid is almost ready! Now grab the four upper side support 3D-printed parts, slip hex nuts into their cavities and latch them to the corners of the display assembly. Repeat with the four upper middle support parts, with the middles of the panel sides this time around. Grab the final (lid bottom) panel, align & place it over the assembly and tighten it with M3 x 10 countersunk screws. Done! On to the next step.

    Step 6: Top Plate, Xduino360, Capactive Touch Board Installations

    In this step we're going to close shut the casing. Grab the casing top panel, ensure that the sync, volume up/down and mute engravings have ~.5mm holes drilled in them. Now grab the two 8ohm laptop speakers and apply a thin layer of glue to their front edges; then press the speakers onto the grilled cutouts in the top panel near the corners.
    Next grab the flex circuit and flatten to ~1mm the plastic protrusion in its back. Apply epoxy to its front edges as well and press it against the hole in the middle of the top panel to fix to it. Grab the tail of the circuit and tape it to the panel right under the 'eject' engraving.

    Now let's hook up the Xduino360 board - it's a custom-made Arduino-compatible board assigned to handle the capacitive touch features and power the speakers & headphones. A whole bunch of connections to be soldered: grab a piezzo buzzer and solder it to the the pins on the Xduino360 marked 'buzzer'. Next solder six 20-inch braided wires to the pins marked 'MPR121'. Then grab the last pair of 12V/GND wires and solder them to the pins marked '+12V' & '-'. Next solder a 15-inch braided wire to the pin marked 'Sync' and then solder its other end to a certain leg of the Ring of Light board's push-button. Then grab the three shielded wires coming from the USB/Audio PCB and solder them to the Xduino360's RSL pins accordingly, with the shields connecting to the pin marked '-'. Now solder the two shielded audio left/right wires from the motherboard to the pins marked 'Audio In', with the shield soldering to the middle pin. Next grab a pair of shielded wires and solder them to the pins near 'Audion In' marked 'L' and 'R' (the wire cores will solder to the '+' pin and the shields to the '-'), then solder their other ends to the speakers accordingly. The last act of soldering on the Xduino360 is to solder 10-inch braided wires to the 'RGB+' pins.

    Now, the buzzer - apply glue to its face and press/fix it onto the left side-panel, near the display driver board.

    Cut out a piece of plastic film the size of the Xduino360 board and place it under the board. Then insert four 6mm M3 standoffs into the board's holes, tearing through the plastic film. Tilt the whole thing sideways and screw to the left panel with M3 x 6 countersunk screws. Then tighten the board to the standoffs with hex nuts.

    Next is the MPR121 breakout board. Solder the six MPR121 wires from the Xduino360 board to its six, marked pads, then fix the MPR121 to the lid top panel (near the right panel) with dual tape.

    Grab four common pins, snip off a third of their lengths from the bottom and insert them into the four engravings with .5mm holes. Apply epoxy to them from underneath the lid top panel, fixing them into position, then use shielded wires to solder connections to the MPR121's pins 0-3. Cover each exposed metal with fabric tape. On to the final step!

    Step 7: Final Assembly

    Last step! Insert hex nuts into the recesses of the lower hinge support parts then screw the lower halves of adjustable-friction hinges into the parts, using M4 x 16 pan head screws. Place the laptop lid assembly on top of the casing and screw in the upper halves of the adjustable hinges, with M4 x 20 pan head screws. Tighten/loosen the screws in the middle of the adjustable hinges until the laptop lid is able to stay upright on its own.
    The display screen wires are still protruding from the lid - bundle them, wrap 'em up in fabric tape, then lodge the bundle into the notch in the rear panel. Plug in the display screen connectors into the display driver board. Connect the custom HDMI cable to the HDMI port in the back.

    Cut out a piece of plastic film the size of the left grille cutouts in the top panel. Place the film under the aforementioned cutouts with glue. Next grab two RGB LED strips, peel off their covers and paste them under both the grille cutouts. Use four shielded wires to solder both the strips together. Grab another set of such wires, solder to either of the two strips and solder the other ends to the R,G,B & 12V wires from the Xduino360 board. Tape down to the panel all these wires, and finally, connect back to the Ring of Lights board the flex circuit.

    Close the casing top lid. Grab M3 x 8 countersunk screws and screw-shut the lid to the support parts.

    For proper performance we need the best air & heat transfer possible. For that we have to seal shut the laptop of any unnecessary gaps. Grab masking tape and start taping up the edges in between the casing panels, then apply silicone to the gaps in between the casing panels. Peel off the tape and let the silicone settle for a few hours. Locate the ports in the back - repeat the tape-silicone process to seal up the gaps there as well.

    And we're done! Plug in the power brick to your laptop and fire it on! It should be good to go. Darkmatter is a proud labor of love by the Techjango team, we hope you enjoy building yours. Comment below to ask questions and give feedback. And once again, we have a kit version replete with tools & supplies & panels to ease up the building process.

    Before we part, here are videos of some Darkmatter builds. Enjoy!

    Arduino Contest

    First Prize in the
    Arduino Contest

    Full Spectrum Laser Contest

    Participated in the
    Full Spectrum Laser Contest

    Gadget Hacking and Accessories Contest

    Participated in the
    Gadget Hacking and Accessories Contest



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        Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest
      • Sensors Contest

        Sensors Contest
      • Paint Challenge

        Paint Challenge

      23 Discussions


      1 year ago

      inspired by Ben Heck?


      3 years ago

      Is there anyway to just buy the case and the screen or do I have to buy the xbox as well ?


      Wow, this is really awesome. I may have to find a slim on craigslist and make one of these. Don't really wanna take apart my MW3 console. One question though, Is there space for a hard drive in there? Or because of the space constraints did you have to leave that out?


      5 years ago on Introduction

      great project it came out really clean i repair a lot of consoles and do some case mods a couple times a month mostly cutting out designs dropping plexi behind it then back lighting but ive been wanting to make one of these for a while i think i just got my inspiration to put one of these together youll definitely get my vote for the gadget hacking contest best of luck


      5 years ago on Introduction

      THIS IS AMAZING I WANT TO MAKE ONE....Time To Go To The Store...


      5 years ago

      Where could i get these parts? I dont have access to a laser cutter...

      2 replies

      Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

      And oh, almost forgot! You could also just contact us ( and we could arrange the parts for you.


      Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

      Check out Ponoko and Shapeways, they could help you with the acrylic panels and the 3D-printed parts. Or find a hackerspace near your area, they have lots of tools available!


      5 years ago

      perfect instructable, thank you so much! will be giving that a go soon. one question though, is there a way of powering the device without a plug? for example a battery or something?

      4 replies

      Reply 5 years ago

      also, is it possible to use a ps3 instead of an Xbox?


      Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

      For the current design, we're afraid not! But this is a feature we've been pondering over for future designs.

      This design is only compatible with Xbox 360 (Slim or E). PS3 will require altered acrylic designs + revamped connection diagrams, which we're not concentrating on for the moment. Though we are in the initial processes of churning out a Darkmatter laptop for the PS4!


      Reply 5 years ago

      jack bot

      5 years ago

      That's really cool


      5 years ago

      Does this work with an original xbox 360

      1 reply