The Much Larger Board of Many Ping-Pong Balls




Introduction: The Much Larger Board of Many Ping-Pong Balls

About: LEDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, you saw the 8x8 board, now prepare yourself for the 16x32 awesomeness that is about to ensue.

I cannot apologise enough for the video quality, but I am still using my phone as a camera until I have fixed up my decent one

However... I do have decent pictures (ie not from a camera phone). Unfortunately, instructables thinks that 13.24mb for a photo is a bit excessive. I disagree, so until I resize them you will have to make your way to my blog to see them.

Just a little note, as whatnot has reminded of me in the comments, ping-pong balls are made of celluloid, which is very flammable. The LEDs do not heat up, or anything else for that matter, but you should not put this near anything that could light it. Using this on a stage can be problematic too, as most won't allow wooden fixtures. Some do, and if you explain it most are understanding.

Step 1: Things You Should Know

Firstly - I sell (or try to sell :-) ) kits. Unfortunately, I am a Brit  (not actually unfortunate, just impractical). This means shipping abroad is expensive. Very expensive. This means that for this, I cannot sell the wood parts, or anything that is not the electronics. If you buy a kit you get all the network cables, PCBs, ICs, Components, and LEDs. If you want to get the boards fabricated yourself, never fear, they have been open sourced under CC-BY SA V3.0 Unported and Eng+Wales. As for the laser cut wood panels, the DXF files are released under the same license. All you have to do is send the files to your local friendly CNC turner or Miller, pay him, and get some nice identical panels (though without my blog etched onto them :-) ), and you can pick any wood you like, and save yourself about £150 in shipping (no joke, that is what it would cost).

Secondly - The stand and frame are the only things that were manufactured by hand. There are no CNC files for these. In this instructable I will go over how I made my stand and frame, then an alternative method without requiring a full on workshop, then a guide on how to design your own if neither of these are to your liking.

Thirdly - Ah the joys of copyright. Initially I found another project, a matrix of the same size, and used their computer-side code. I then modified it, as allowed, ported it to my hardware, and added animations for my specific purposes. The problem is, that due to their licenses, I cannot redistribute my modified code. I do have my own original code, but it is still in the pipeline, and not ready for others to use it, its a bit of a "poke it with a stick" type program. Never works first time, until you kick it. Aaaannnnyyway, I digress; there is a solution to the problem, in that instead of giving out the modified code, I modified my electronics design to work with the code, without modifications or porting. Unfortunately, the electronics are worse because of it, but until my code is ready, that's just the way things are. (The code is from

Step 2: Thou Shalt Need...

Tools for the main stuff...
Glue Gun (preferably with glue  :-)  )
Drill with 5mm bit
Soldering Iron (with solder, a WET sponge, stand, and a de-soldering sucker if you think you will make errors)

Possible tools for the stand and frame...
Welding equipment
Pop Rivet Gun

You can get them all here

Electrical Stuff... You can get a kit of all this stuff here
Arduino Uno
512 Common Cathode LEDs
RJ45 Cables
74HC595 Shift Registers
RJ45 sockets

Stand and Frame will be listed when we get to it.


Step 3: Glueing in the Balls


This is the fairly self explanatory bit, but there are a few nice build tips here, so it is quicker and looks even better. The picture of the board is the one generated from the CAD program for the last one, it's not identical, but you get the general idea. After you cut it / buy one from me, this is what will be staring you in the face.
The next step is, surprise surprise, glueing on the balls. When I built this one, I did the balls in lines of 4, by getting the board upside down, then putting the balls under it, wobbling the board around until they aligned with the holes, then glueing them. This was inefficient and ineffective. You then had to wait for ages as the hot glue dried, before you could lift it again to get the next ones under. When building my new, bigger one (not yet finished), I had a new method, which is much quicker. Here goes...

For this way you need to find any flat object the size of the board, be it a bit of Ikea flat-pack furniture that to this day you cannot find where it was meant to go (this was me), a bit of wood, or some strong cardboard, or whatever.

1. place the board RIGHT SIDE UP, so that you can see the side that you want to be the front (probably the side without burn marks, or if you want to stain it / cover it in stickers.etc, then that side.

2. Place all 64 ping pong balls (note, make sure that they are all white with no markings, unless you want them for style) on the board, in the holes. They should sit neatly on top. If you are going to stylise it, then this is how it will look when glued.

3. Place whatever flat thing you have selected on top of it so that it covers the whole board. Them, holding it firmly, flip it. The rear side of the board should be facing you, on top, with the flat thing on the bottom, with the balls sandwiched in between. Looking at the board from above you should see the balls through the holes. If you need to, adjust some so that they fit neatly.

4. Glue (with the hot glue gun) round the edges of the holes, touching the balls. The seal should go all the way round. It will secure the balls to the board, without the glue being visible from the front. On some balls, you might see bubbles rising through the glue, and possibly hear a strange deflation sound. This is because the hot glue has melted a bit of the ball, and as it is under pressure inside it, some of the gasses escape, causing the bubbling. This is not a problem, but take it as a hint to more on to glue the rest of the circumference, or if finished, the next ball.

Repeat this for all 8 of the panels. 

Then it's time to drill the ping pong balls. You can use any sort of drill or dremel, but you need a 5mm bit.
I won't bother going into the details. If you can't use a drill then this project probably isn't for you, but here are a few tips:
-- Too much pressure can break the glue seal and the ball could fall out, this is not a good thing.
-- If you use cheap balls like me, you will get lots of plastic scrap round the edge of the hole. Depending on whether you want it inside the ball or outside, you can use either direction on your drill, the friction is enough to make the hole.

After you have done all the panels, it's not a bad idea to lay them all out so that you can see if there are any problems, and get an idea of how it will look. I have attached a picture of mine when I did that.


Ok, solid glue tubes go in, melted glue comes out, melted glue solidifies.
Just put the glue stick into the back of it, then plug it in (turn it on if it has a switch, many don't).
Wait a bit, then put the tip on the bit that need glueing. Pull the trigger, hot glue comes out.
You can slowly pull the trigger, and drag it, to glue a large area, OR ROUND THE EDGE OF A HOLE ON AN LED MATRIX

Step 4: SOLDER TIME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes. By now you will have all the panels, ready for LEDs. You will have spent probably a day on this up to now, and are feeling sorry for yourself. Just wait till after the soldering. If you have never soldered before, it could take over 100 man hours. With experience that time will shorten.

In reality this is probably too much work for one person. I taught some people how to solder, and then they helped me do the soldering, splitting the work. Thank you nice people :-D

I used bare copper wire, as it is SSSOOOOOOOOOO much quicker than stripping sheathed wire, but if you can't find any....

Step 1 - Arrange the panels face down so that they all tile. You now know where they all go. Mark each panel with an UP direction. Some are obvious, but the three identical corner pieces can e confusing, and you need to know which way to do the wire grids

2 - Put all the 64 leds in the holes in the ping pong balls. Make sure that they are all orientated the same way, otherwise it will not work. Bend the longest of the 4 pins on the LED down towards the bottom of the board, so that they are at about 45 degrees. You are not doing these immediately, but they need to be pointed in the right direction. On one side of this pin there will be one pin, and on the other, 2. The pin on the side of the longest pin with only one pin is usually the red one, but that doesn't matter. Bend it to about 30 degrees from the wood to the side it is on. On the other side of the longest pin there should be 2 pins left. Bend the outermost of these out to the side it is facing, and slightly down towards the bottom of the panel. Leave the last pin facing upwards.

      |     |     
|     |     |     |                          Here is a crude picture of the LED pins, so from the left
|     |     |     |                          1 goes to the left and slightly down to the bottom
|     |     |     |                          2 is left vertical
|     |     |     |                          3 is bent down towards the bottom
|     |     |     |                          4 goes to the right

Do this for all the 64 leds

Everybody has a different style, some people weave the copper wire under and over the pins in the line, some go over them all, but tighten the wire by bending it over the sides of the panel. Just go with whatever works for you.


FIrst do the "Red" pin (the one with a side all to itself). This is a column, so the wire should go top to bottom, and get all the 8 pins in that line.

Next do the other extremity pin. This is also a column. After you have done both of these, tape over them with insulation tape. You should cover all the wires in the "led area" (ie ignore the extra wire), and the pins. Any of these can cause a short.

Thirdly, bend the vertical pin to the side it is on. It should be over tape. This is also a column. Tape over it as before.

The last pin (bent down towards the bottom) is a row, the wire should go from side to side, getting all 8 pins. This needs taping as well.

STEP 4 - Test it. Get a power supply and stroke the negative lead (black) over the wires that come out at a side, and the red positive lead over the wires that come out of the top or bottom. You should see light, this is as good as testing gets at this stage. Make sure that the power supply is low power (minimum forward voltage of the LEDs) as not to damage the LEDs. If you are worried, you can use resistors, but if you stroke quickly you will not need them (providing you have the PSU set to a low voltage.

Tips for collaboration.

Not everybody has to solder, have 3 people soldering, one putting in LEDs and bending pins, and one taping / cutting wires. (this is a vague ratio, most people won't be able to get 4 more volunteers, but just play with it.

Step 5: PCBs

Now time to populate and solder the PCBs. Everything is marked in the silkscreen, so there is very little to say here.


Now time to solder the PCBs to the Panels. There is a slot for Pin Headers in this board revision. It is quicker to solder in female pin headers and just put wires into that, but it is less secure (but secure enough for me). Just solder wires from the extra bits on the panel, and take them to the right hole. There is a list at REMEMBER, THEY ARE ADDRESSED FROM THE FRONT.

Step 6: Giving It Legs

Ok, I did timber T-bar stands, but anything will work, somebody suggestive tank traps, which is quite a good idea.

Anyway, of you want to go with my way (T-bar), then this is how you do it.

1. Cut a bit of 2x2 timber to the desired height, and a bit for the bottom (based on height, maybe about 1500mm ??)
2. Cut a MDF (or other wood board) into a triangle, reasonably large (this is all the structural support)
3. Mark the center of the small bit, and line it up with long bit.
4. Glue the MDF triangle to the timber, then screw the MDF to the timber

5. Paint it if you want to (can be bothered)

Step 7: Das Frame

This is where I had at my disposal a full workshop, and person who can actually make stuff, unlike me, who just goes to CAD. Most people won't have both of these, so I have posted an alternative method.

The way mine was done.

Mounts added to the side of the T-Bar stands, separated by the height of a panel.
Then we made 2 flat-bar crossbars, hooked onto the mounts, with wing-nuts holding it tight. We did the same for the bottom one.
Extra pieces of flat-bar were welded between them at the ends to stop it falling over (can be disassembled into the flat-bar rectangle and the two stands (plus the panels, obviously)   )

Then we cut some small pieces of thin flat-bat, and bent them into hooks, and fixed them to the panels with a pop-rivet. The panels then hook over the steel frame, as shown.

Ok, if you don't have that stuff.

Just make the rectangle out of timber, with more vertical supports. Put screws into it and drill holes into the panels so that they will hook over. Put a bolt through the frame into the stand, with a wing-nut. I'd go with 2 on each side.

Step 8: Bringing It All Together

Put the frame on the stand (2 man job)

Hook on all the frames

Chain up the panels with the network cable (into the PCBs)

Add in the controller (An arduino uno with a protoshield, it's just a really really simple breakout you have to make, the table is on, really, it's SOOOOOOO simple, just solder off some wires from some pins.

Run the software, and then just roubleshoot, you're done

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    44 Discussions

    could u make me one and sell me it? how much would it be?


    5 years ago

    hei! :-) how big can u make it? can u make it 80*800? :-)

    1 reply

    No, ish
    There would be issues with the data rate (over TTL serial), power, scanning, control architecture.
    You would have to either use multiple ArtNet (DMX over Ethernet) controllers (or nodes as they are refered to) and an artnet controller. This is preferable for low-res video (like this).
    The other option is DVI in, but this would be much, much harder. You would need to get ITU-R BT.6XX (from a video decoder, such as the TVP5150AM1), and put it into an FPGA, possible more than one depending on the size.
    Power is simple, just more of it :-)

    If this is serious, contact me at and I can go more in depth


    5 years ago

    hei! :-) how big can u make it? can u make it 80*800? :-)

    Do you still sell kits? Your website is under maintenance...

    1 reply

    Sort of...
    I don't have the resources to keep things in stock (thus the website is closed - and being redesigned).
    However, if you email me at "" then I can make things to order, though there is a substantial lead time.

    Does anybody know if they are for sure common cathode?
    says common anode..

    1 reply

    The two projects have very different controllers; this matrix is cathode and the little one is anode.


    ish - you could easily fit the numbers on it, the problem would be how it would know the time. It could be told it from a computer, though that is quite a bit of overkill. What most people use is something called an RTC module, or a Real Time Clock. These are little chips (you can buy them in easy pre-done modules) that keep track of the time and give it over i2c or similar. The problem with this is that the i2c pins are used (though not by i2c) so you would have to modify the pinout to free these pins, then put an RTC on them. It should be plain sailing from there.


    would that be something you might be able to do through your online shop and sell to me? sounds too complex for me! cheers

    Yeah sure, though I have a LOT to do at the moment, including coursework (sooooo much coursework), more projects (cool instructables on the way, such as a fire-spitting twitter pumpkin, concrete nixie clock, joke keyboard .etc) and breathing (I am currently ill). But after I have got through this large mountain of work (ie half term), I should be able to start work. The basic stuff will be ok, but doing the frames (and animations I know I will end up doing), might take a while.

    Thanks, George

    All the panels are slightly different, due to borders, and space for text, but for arguments sake let's say 400mm square, and the whole thing is 1600 by 800mm not including the bottom text bit.


    Reminder: Real ping-pong balls are made of celluloid and celluloid is about as flammable as it gets, so keep that in mind if you use a ton of them.

    4 replies

    Yeah, I know, but the LEDs don't get hot, or even heat up by one degree, so hopefully it won't burn anything down for a while :-D

    I wasn't worried about the LED or anything, it's just that with a lot of ping-pong balls strapped to a large area it's good to know you should keep it away from candles and such, more a general reminder for people that make it and don't realize.

    I'm sure it's fine in on itself and wasn't knocking the project which looks rather spiffy. :)
    But the neater something is, the more people make it, the more chance that somebody doesn't realize and now they know.

    Actually, by quirk of fate, the cheap ping-pong balls are plastic, not celluloid, so they don't easily burn (just go black and melt when I put a lighter to them)


    yeah, good call. I will add it to the instructable. I had problems with that, and the fact that it is wooden when people use it as a fixture. Commercial fixtures are all metal, so people can get a bit panicky.

    @DaShroom; Hi! Awesome indeed - I tweeted this. Pixels the size of ping pong balls! Cheers : ) Site