Disco Ain’t Dead: Blinky Ball Makes You Solder Inside a Dome

Disco balls take a zillion mirrors glued to a sphere and shine a spotlight on them. But what if the ball itself was the light source? Here’s a modern version that uses addressable LEDs in a 3D-printed sphere that also hides the electronics inside the ball itself.

Check out the video below to see the fantastic results. It’s a Teensy 3.6 driving a whopping 130 WS2812 LEDs to make this happen. (Even though the sphere has the lowest surface area to volume ratio.) There’s even a microphone and an accelerometer to make the orb interactive. Hidden inside is a 4400 mAh battery pack that handles recharging and feeds 5 V to the project.

For us, it’s the fabrication that really makes this even more impressive. The sphere itself is 3D printed as four rings that combine to form a sphere. This makes perfect spacing for the LEDs a snap, but you’re going to spend some time soldering the voltage, ground, and data connections from pixel to pixel. In this case that’s greatly simplified because the LEDs were sourced from AliExpress already hosted on a little circle of PCB so you’re not trying to solder on the component itself. Still, that’s something like 390 wires requiring 780 solder joints!

We love seeing an LED ball you can hold in your hand. But if you do want something bigger, try this 540 LED sphere built from triangular PCBs.

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Disco Bulb Keeps the Party Spinning

Even if you don’t like disco, you might like the slick moves that went into this project. [W&M] built a miniature motorized mirror ball inside of a standard incandescent light bulb, and the results are something to dance about.

Short of blowing a glass bulb, building a motor, and growing the wood, this is about as scratch-built as it gets. Much of the woodworking is done on a metal lathe, and this includes the base of the mirror ball itself. As with all good thing-in-a-bottle builds, the ball is too big to go in the bulb, so [W&M] quartered it, drilled a few holes, and ran a string through the pieces so they can be carefully glued and drawn back together into a sphere. He even cut up mirror tiles and painstakingly applied them with tweezers.

This disco bulb is meant to be hung from the ceiling and wired into mains like a regular mirror ball. [M&W] stuffed the guts from a small USB wall charger into the handmade beech base to provide clean power for both the geared motor that spins the ball and the tiny LED that illuminates it. Slip into your best leisure suit (or sweat suit, we won’t judge) and hustle past the break to watch the build video.

We don’t see a lot of disco balls around here, but we did see a disco icosahedron once.

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Disco icosahedron rings in the new year

While city engineers were setting up the multicolored ball of lights in Times Square this year, [Phil] at adafruit was busy designing the X2 Time Ball, a disco icosahedron perfect for celebrating the new year.

The ball is made of 20 acrylic triangles zip-tied together into an icosahedron. On each face, six RGB pixels light up via commands from an Arduino. The entire project is able to be controlled remotely thanks to the help of a pair of XBees. [Phil] whipped up a Processing sketch to control the LED ball any way we could possibly imagine.

Although it may be a little late to build an LED disco ball for this year’s New Year’s Eve party, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t use it the other 364 days of the year. It’s perfect for parties, weddings, and our weekly lightswitch raves. Check out the action video of the Time Ball after the break.

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