Madonna's Disco Ball




About: I love science, lights and robotics! My dad is a builder so i've always grown up building things, pulling stuff apart and experimenting!

A few years ago I discovered Madonna (I know, I know, she's been kicking it since the 80's) and really enjoyed her music. Even today I am still discovering her talent and only a few months ago discovered the Confessions Tour. Well lets just say my mind was blown that day. Fantastic performances, excellent songs, fierce attitude but something grabbed my attention. Something special. A giant disco ball slowly descends from the ceiling and unites with the stage. After a few moments the panels of this disco ball blossom like a flower and Madonna steps out to begin her show.

I was so intrigued by this contraption. I began googling how it was made and how it worked but unfortunately found nothing. So I set out to make it from scratch! My instructable shows you how I made it and gives suggestions as to how to source particular parts and to be able to 3D print some parts for it at home. Luckily, most components can be found on eBay very cheaply.

So I invite you to come with me, forget your problems and let's get making!


Opening and Closing

Short Video with Concert:

Step 1: Tools and Materials

This project will use a large variety of tools and materials... so be prepared :P. Also many of the part I bought were online, so I will give suggestions of what to purchase on eBay. The ones pictured are of the more obscure items so you get an idea of what I used.


  • 2x 34cm diameter stainless steel bowls (Ikea)

  • 1x 15cm diameter stainless steel bowl (Kmart)

  • PVC pipe (Bunnings)

  • Aluminium Strip (Bunnings)

  • Mini cabinet hinges (eBay)

  • Various M3 screws, nuts and washers (eBay)

  • Various wires, heat shrink tubing (Laying around)

  • 6x 5mm LED's white (eBay)

  • 3x disco lamp bulbs (eBay)

  • LED strip 5050 type (eBay - make sure to get 5050; it's brighter!)

  • Sound activated LED strip driver (eBay)

  • 2x Micro switch

  • 2x Four-channel Wireless Relays

  • 2x Motor + Gearbox 12V 34RPM 12kg/cm torque (Jaycar)

  • 2x 5mm brass motor shaft couplers (eBay)

  • 2x Pack of 2000 10mm silver sequins (eBay)

  • Cable (I used a plastic string / cord)

  • Steel cable

  • Adjustable LED lamp head (found in uni bin but I believe you can get them off those bendy desk lamps)


  • UP mini 3D printer
  • White ABS plastic
  • Various screw drivers
  • Drill + drill bits
  • Tin snips
  • Angle grinder
  • Drop saw
  • Disk sander
  • Bench grinder
  • Solder + soldering Iron
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Hammer
  • Vice
  • Super glue
  • Hot glue gun + glue sticks
  • File / rasp
  • Digital calipers
  • Dremel + bits


This project took me almost 6 months to complete. This was amongst work, uni, many prototypes of mechanisms and many drastic changes.

Step 2: Metal Leaf Preparation

The only way to make these steel leaves was to buy something pre-made rather than have them manufactured which would cost a lot of money. I found these extremely cheap, perfectly shaped bowls at ikea... lets cut them up!

  1. Turn the bowl upside down and mark the centre with a spot
  2. Use a ruler to draw a straight line along the top
  3. Use a protractor against the line and mark 60 and 120 degrees on both sides
  4. Join these lines to essentially make a 6 sided star
  5. Use a measuring tape to extend the lines down the side of the bowl so they are perpendicular with the rim of the bowl
  6. Using the measuring tape, make sure the length of lip at the base of each leaf is the same
  7. Repeat for the second bowl

Step 3: Leaf Cutting

This is where we cut the leaves out of the bowls. The edges will be extremely rough so you must file them down.

Leaf Cutting:

  1. Take a bowl outside and use an angle grinder to follow the lines you just made (make sure to mark a number on each one so you know their order).
  2. Use files, rasps and a bench grinder to smooth the edges and take off all the burs

Step 4: Hinge Support Ring

This step involves making the central PVC tube which holds all electronics and keeps the two hemispheres together via two metal hexagon rings at either end.

Hinge Support Ring:

  1. Take the height of 1 bowl and multiple that by two (two bowl heights). Mark this measurement on a length of PVC pipe but add an extra 10mm (which can be fixed later)
  2. Use a drop saw to cut this line so it is perpendicular
  3. Take a piece of aluminium strip and mark 6 sections, each 50mm in length with a little bit extra on the ends
  4. Bend at each of the markings until the whole strip is a hexagon shape and cut extra off the sides
  5. Slide this hexagon over the PVC pipe until the lip of the PVC pipe is in the middle of the strip all the way around
  6. Mark the centre of each face and drill holes all the way through
  7. Install a screw into each of these holes
  8. Repeat for the other end making sure the each corresponding pairs of faces are in line with each other

Step 5: Hinge Installation

These hinges control the opening and closing of the leaves. The hinges used are small but adequately take the weight of the individual leaves perfectly. Just ensure they are securely tightened.

Hinge Installation:

  1. Line up a hinge in the centre on one of the faces of the hexagon hinge ring from last step and ensure lip of hinge sits against the edge of the aluminium ring
  2. Mark these two holes
  3. Remove the hinge and drill holes
  4. Insert two 10mm M3 screws and then attach hinge with M3 nuts from behind
  5. Repeat for all other hinges at both ends

Step 6: Attaching Leaves to Hinges

This step will finalise the main structure of the ball and the two hemispheres should open and close with ease.

Attaching Leaves to Hinges:

  1. Create a jig as in (picture 1) to hold the bowl shape together (I used a wooden circle attached to a wooden base which I could slide the pieces underneath)
  2. Insert the leaves, propping them up with door wedges or anything you can find
  3. Lay the hinges that are on the PVC tube, from the previous step, out on the bottom of the "assembled" bowl and centre hinges with the centres of the leaves (picture 4)
  4. Mark where the holes of the hinges are on the leaves
  5. Remove a leaf and use a Dremel to mark two notches on the marks you just made
  6. Use a drill to drill out the notches
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 for each of the other leaves
  8. Put two 10mm M3 screws through the outside of a leaf and put these through the corresponding hinges on the ring
  9. Finally, trim excess bowl from behind the hinges that over hang across the ends of the PVC tube (picture 11 & 12)

Step 7: Motor Mounts

This step shows you how to make the motor mount and spool which are involved with pulling and releasing cable that pulls the leaves open or closed. After many revisions of this mechanism (at least 5 design changes!), this design proved to be easiest to wire, take up the littlest space and to be the most reliable / durable.

This step applies to both the top and bottom motor however the difference is that the aluminium strip is not wrapped around the spool on the bottom because there is no lamp to mount above it.

Motor Mount:

  1. Print two "motor pipe mounts"
  2. On a piece of aluminium strip which is roughly 120mm long, mark a line at 70mm
  3. Bend this piece of aluminium 90 degrees at this line
  4. Line up on the middle of the plastic mount with the 70mm side of aluminium
  5. Drill two holes through the aluminium into the plastic motor holder
  6. Super glue the aluminium strip onto the plastic but line the screw holes up and then screw in two 20mm M3 screws to secure more tightly
  7. Insert this assembly into the pipe and mark where the centre of the pipe is on the bent side of the aluminium strip
  8. Drill this hole out, large enough to accommodate the motor shaft
  9. Drill the two smaller motor support screw holes then insert two 5mm M3 screws to hold the motor mounts in
  10. Repeat 2-10 for the other motor

Step 8: Top Motor Spools and Cabling

Top Motor Spools and Cables


  1. Attach the motor coupler to the shaft and tighten the grub screws
  2. Place the spool over the coupler and drill a hole through the middle which corresponds to the top coupler hole which doesn't have a grub screw in it
  3. Insert a 4mm screw which is roughly 20mm long


The cable anchors are a small, durable glued on device which has two position that allow cable to be wrapped around it (the + position) and giving it a twist puts it in the | position which stops the cable from slipping

  1. Print six "cable anchors" (in step 10)
  2. Super glue one anchor per leaf roughly 10cm away from the hinge in the centre


  1. Cut six lengths of roughly 30cm long pieces of cable and make a slip knot in the ends of each one
  2. Put the slip knot around the screw on the spool and tighten by pulling
  3. Tighten the screw
  4. Wrap the cable around the spool twice to give it slack
  5. Run one cable down to a cable anchor (in the + position) and wrap the cable around it
  6. Tighten the anchor by twisting it clockwise 90 degrees (to make a | shape)
  7. Repeat for all other cables

Step 9: Bottom Cable Guides

When the lower motor spins, it pulls the cables attached to the leaves, but to make this a smooth process, cable guides must be used (snags and breakages can happen). Here, the guides are aluminium strips attached to the main PVC tube.

Bottom Cable Guides:

  1. Begin by taking 6 pieces of aluminium strip 10cm long and cutting them out
  2. Mark and cut out two notches to make the end a triangular shape
  3. Insert the triangular part underneath the two hinge screws and mark where the screw hole for the attaching screw hole is
  4. Drill these holes out on each guide
  5. Use a hammer and solid edge to tap a tight curve into the "non-triangular" end to create a lip (picture 7)
  6. Use a vice and something soft (old shirt, cardboard) to bend the smaller section (the one with the lip) down to a desired angle (picture 12)
  7. Glue on a cable guide tube just a little before the lip

Step 10: Bottom Anchors

This is for making and attaching the bottom cable anchors

Bottom Anchors:

  1. Print six more "Cable Anchor"
  2. Insert a 10mm M3 screw to join them (picture 1)
  3. Mark the position on an open leaf directly below the cable guide's lip from the last step parallel with the surface of the PVC pipe
  4. Super glue the anchor on this spot after cleaning the area and do for the other five bottom leaves

Step 11: Bottom Motor Spool, Cabling and Installation

Bottom Motor:

Cabling: (Image 1-3)

  1. Above each aluminium cable guide, mark and drill a hole just thicker than the cable
  2. Countersink the hole to remove rough edges

Spool: (No Images, refer to step 8)

  1. Attach coupler to motor shaft, tighten grub screws
  2. Place spool over coupler and drill a hole followed by inserting the 20mm x 4mm screw
  3. Cut six lengths of 50cm cable and make slip knots on each one
  4. Put slipknots over the screw and tighten the cables first, then the screw
  5. Wrap the cable 3 times around spool for slack

Motor Mounting / Installation (Image 4-7)

  1. Line the middle of the spool / motor assembly with the holes in the side of the PVC tube
  2. Mark two spots next to one of the aluminium cable guides
  3. Drill out these holes
  4. Insert two M3 20mm screws to fix the motor to the inside of the PVC tube

Cabling:(Images 8-10)

  1. With the disco ball turned upside down, use tweezers to take one cable and feed it through the hole in the side of the PVC pipe, then pull it through
  2. Repeat for the other cables
  3. Now take one of the cables and attach it to the cable anchor directly below it
  4. Do this for the rest of the cables and anchors

Step 12: LED Base Cap

This bottom base cap is essentially a decoration that hides the bottom terminals and casing of the motor which sticks out from the bottom of the ball. Additionally the LED lights will automatically turn on when the ball begins to open and turn off when it closes shut. These LED's add a bit of bedazzle to the sequins on the bottom leaves.

LED Base Cap:

  1. Print the attached STL file
  2. Mark on the outside dome a hexagon in which each point will be an LED
  3. Use the Dremel perpendicular to the side walls to cut grooves for the LED. I suggest regularly trying to fit an LED to make sure it fits snug
  4. Position the LED so its beam of light will point outwards with the curve of the dome and hot glue in place
  5. Repeat for the other 5 LED's
  6. Use wire to solder all the +ve leads in a ring and then all the -ve leads onto a second wire ring
  7. Run 2 large lengths of wire from each ring the same length of the main PVC tube that will connect at the top

Step 13: Disco Bulbs

To definitely give this chandelier a WOW factor, I discovered these bulbs which plug into a standard lighting fixture and use LED's and a motor to spin a faceted cone to become an instant disco light. I bought three of them and set out to install these with in the disco ball... and to only turn on as the ball opens and switch off once it closes.

Disco Bulbs:

  1. Take the bulb and remove the base cone (which has the screw or bayonet fitting)
  2. Cut any wires still attached
  3. Remove the transformer (it's 12v which means the LED's and motor run on 12v luckily!)
  4. Tin the wires
  5. Solder on roughly 20cm long wires and attach heat shrink tubing to the connections.

Now go to the main PVC tube:

  1. Mark a spot between two leaves in line with the equator of the closed leaves. This should ensure the centre of the bulb sits equally between two hemispheres (top and bottom leaves)
  2. Roughly 2cm above this line, mark and drill a small hole
  3. Feed the new wires from the bulb through this hole
  4. Hot glue the motor on the bulb onto the lower mark and reinforce the edges with more glue
  5. Repeat for the other two but try to equally space them around
  6. Find the +ve's of those 3 wires and connect them into one and repeat for the -ve's

Step 14: Connecting the Lights

The microswitches here only activate the lights during the open / opening phase and turn them off when the ball is closed.

Microswitch 1:

  1. Connect R, G and B from LED control box to appropriate connectors on the LED strip
  2. Connect a wire from V+ on the LED controller box then attach the other end to an "outside" leg of the microswitch
  3. From the other "outside" leg of the microswitch, attach the wire to the V+ or arrowed connector on the LED strip
  4. Super glue the microswitch underneath a closed leaf so that when the leaf is slightly raised, it open the microswitch and upon closing, clicks the microswitch off again

Microswitch 2:

  1. From the dc power plug, attach a wire to the positive lead from the bottom LED cap, top spotlight and the positive of each of the disco bulbs
  2. From the negatives terminals of each of the lights, connect these to one of the outside terminals of the second microswitch

FINALLY, take the wires of the LED base cap, LED spotlight, the disco bulbs and the LED strip power supply which should be connected to microswitches and solder the +ve's to the positive terminal of the female power jack and then the -ve's to the negative terminal of the female power jack.

Step 15: Connecting the Relays

This is the trickiest part of the build because the wiring can be a bit of a mind bender. This wire layout uses two wireless relays to wirelessly control the opening, closing and up and down motion of the disco ball on the same remote.

  1. Connect a 12V cable to both 12v in on the wireless relays.
  2. On relay 1 only, run a cable from the 12v in to the COM (common) port on terminal 1 and 2
  3. Connect ground to both the ground Vout on relay 1 and 2
  4. On relay 2 only, run a cable from the Vout into the common port on terminals 1 and 2
  5. On relay 1 terminal 1 (purple wire), connect this to:
    1. Terminal 1 on motor 1
    2. Terminal 3 on motor 2
    3. NO (normally open) on terminal 2 of relay 2
  6. On relay 1 terminal 2 (aqua wire), connect this to:
    1. Terminal 2 on motor 1
    2. Terminal 4 on motor 4
    3. NO on terminal 1 of relay 2
  7. The main 12v and ground should be connected to a common DC power jack (female) from the previous step
  8. Now slide the relays, wires and LED controller box into the PVC pipe

At this point, if you connect the power, the relays should illuminate and upon opening the right leaf, all the lights should turn on and you connected everything correctly.

Step 16: LED Candy Cane

LED Candy Cane:

  1. Unwind all of the LED strip
  2. Use a whiteout pen to cover all the black diodes, resistors and writing to make the strip look completely white and match the PVC tube
  3. Peel the backing off the LED strip and begin wrapping the strip around from the top of the PVC tube and spiralling it down the tube until you get to the disco bulbs
  4. At that point you will have to leave a gap as to allow the width of the gearboxes
  5. After that, keep wrapping until you run out, which if done well, should stop before the cable guides
  6. Connect the wires from the LED controller box to the terminals of the strip using breadboard jumper cables

Step 17: LED Spotlight

The LED spotlight is a focused beam of light that hits the top dome (the ceiling mount) which wont be discussed in this instructable. This dome will be covered in sequins like the ball itself and will house the lift motor which lifts the ball up and down and also gives the ball rotation.

LED Spotlight:

  1. Carrying on from step 7, the top motor mount which should have a large excess of aluminium strip, about 10mm away from the edge of the spool, mark a line
  2. From this line, mark another line, the distance being just a little more than the height of the spool
  3. Bend the first mark 90 degrees so the strip is now facing up
  4. Bend the second mark 90 degrees so the strip is lying over the spool
  5. Use tin snips to cut a "V" in the strip directly above the motor shaft / coupler
  6. Print the "spotlight holder" and super glue it so the notch on it lines up with the "V" on the strip
  7. Cut off excess aluminium strip beyond this holder
  8. Insert the spotlight into the holder and run it's wires through the V and cable tie to the inside of the "C" shape that was made from the two bends of the aluminium strip

Step 18: Sequins!

Now take the sequins and use super glue to cover the entire surface of the mirror ball including leaves, bottom dome cap and top cone cap.

Some pointers:

  • - Over lap the areas between the leaves so that when it closes, it completely fills the seams and looks like a solid ball
  • - Do one row along the equator and from there, go row by row going towards the north and south "pole"
  • - If using superglue, dot the areas with a small drop of glue before you put the sequin on
  • - Don't get glue on the front of the sequins or they go cloudy
  • - Don't use an alcohol to clean the fingerprints off the sequins as it will dissolve them or remove the shiny layer

Step 19: Touch Ups, Finishing Off and Future Plans

Finishing Off:

  • To finish off the project I recommend taking picture hanging wire (thin, flexible metal cable yet very tough) and attach this to two opposing screws from the aluminium hexagon hinge ring and securing with swages. These two cables can then be run up a hook so it is able to be hung from a ceiling.
  • Printing "Buffer cap" and "Top buffer side" and placing these around the top motor mount and covering with sequins. This hides the electronics and any wires that stick out

Touch Ups:

  • Re-glue any sequins that have fallen off at this point. I also took a cotton bud and water to wipe the finger prints off each sequin to make them more shiny.

Future Plans:

  • A fancy remote with momentary switches that have integrated LED's which would look cool. They would be oriented in a "+" shape where up and down control the lift of the ball, the left and right control opening and closing of the ball and finally the centre button would toggle rotation.
  • A lift and rotation motor into a ceiling mounted base.
  • Smaller top motor system and a smaller top LED spotlight.

Step 20: Acknowledgments

I would like to thank:

My Dad for helping me with how to use new power tools.

Ben and Tom from UTS Robotics Society for giving me advice on electronics.

And Arthur whose has learnt to solder and spent countless hours chatting to me while I built this.



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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Pink Floyd used this ball in the 90's, Madonna has nothing to do with it and should not get credit when she wasn't the person who created it, not to mention have it created for her performance. It wasn't something she designed and had someone build for her show, she saw it from a previous performance and borrowed it for her own, Please remove her name from the title of this project. It is disrespectful to the actual creator's and designers.


    3 years ago

    wow this is like so epic! :)