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Ping Pong Ball LED Diffuser

Blue Turns out that a Ping Pong ball makes a reasonable LED diffuser. Just drill a hole and insert the LED. Easy micro Locnar! With an RBG LED this could make a nice system indicator. Maybe build a strip of these indicators to make several status indicators. Each server gets a mini orb to show it’s online status, maybe each email account. How about a ball of balls, each with an RGB LED… 

I have wanted to build my own Locnar, like the one in the movie Heavy Metal,  for some time now. I bought an Ambient Orb a few years ago and love it. I even bought the serial port adaptor for the Orb but never got around to doing anything with it. I just leave the Orb on my bookcase showing stock market performance, a lot of red lately. The other day I noticed a package of Ping Pong Balls. It struck me that they might make a nice diffuser for RGB LEDs. If they did work well, I could make a mini Ambient Orb or Locnar for my desk.

First, I tried sitting the ball on top of an LED, that did work but the brightness was greatly reduced. Next I tried drilling a small hole, just big enough for the LED. This works very well. There is a noticeable bright spot on the ball but in general the entire ball lights up well.

BallAndLED LEDinBall

In these pictures an RGB LED is connected between the new bread board power supply and my adjustable current sink. I have the current set at 30mA to see the relative brightness of each color.

Red Green Blue

I have a ton of ideas on how to make use of this for monitoring status, much like the Ambient Orb does. Any suggestions?

Posted in Discovering, Hacks, Ideas, Projects.

19 Responses

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  1. Tomy says

    It seems a good idea, maybe I will use it to my projects.

  2. dfowler says


    I am not sure which exact part number but I got my RGB LED from Alan Parekh’s store

  3. Matt says

    Which RGB LED are you using? I live in the UK so don’t have the luxury of octopart but when ever I do searches on the internet etc. I always end up with SMD RGB LEDs and the one your using looks perfect for a project idea I have.


  4. lizardMote says

    I just saw something similar:

    Jamie Matthews uses an Arduino to make a glowing cube into a Physical Gmail Notifier.

  5. Nick says

    I would think that lightly sanding the LED with 600 grit paper would fix the “halo” issue by diffusing the light emitted from the tip.

  6. Mark says

    I wonder whether painting the tip of the LED opaque might stop the ‘halo effect’ on the far side of the ball, without creating a dark spot at the same time…?

  7. Mikael says

    Hotglue is a very good diffuser for LED’s

  8. springbat says

    ops: and I cutted away the lens on the top of the led(s) with my dremel to assure a better light diffusion with no changes to the ball.

    On the other hand, what about SMD leds for light diffusion inside of the ball?

  9. springbat says

    I used acetone to remove logos and brands printed on the balls; use it carefully (or intentionally) as it solves the ball.

  10. cmonkey says

    Styrofoam balls that you can get at crafts stores work even better. They diffuse light almost perfectly evenly. I used them with feathers and LEDs to make floating “fairies” for a Zelda themed room.

  11. bjh says

    I’m sure simply writing on the ball with a dark Sharpie would show up great; sure easier than engraving the lens of an LED 😛

  12. Brian says

    Thin strips of aluminum foil on the bulb/inside of the ball would be good for a pattern. About the light circle, try to cover up the top of the light with something (tissue?) and experiment till the ball it gone.

  13. Nick says

    If you want to mark the balls, try painting on their insides, or print on a transparency film and glue that to the inside. The lable would only be visible when the ball was lit. It would be hard to do, but I expect it would look rather good.

  14. dfowler says


    I thought about doing that… I did not have any sandpaper handy to try. If I can find some I will try this tonight.

    I did try scratching the ball to see if the scratch would show brighter. The idea was that I could engrave the ball with some informaiton. Like “Server 2” so that when it lit up, you would know which indication was active. I could not see the scratch.

  15. TK says

    I wonder, have you tried sanding the lens lightly? It may give a little more diffusion…

  16. dfowler says


    Neat… Another idea I had was to use the ball as an eye on your robot. If you cut one in half, a full ball can sit inside the cut one. then use a servo or maybe just a motor with a rubber weel to turn the complete ball. Paint an eye on the ball and have it move aroud. Of course with an LED stuck in the bottom, as a pivot point, the robot can have green eyes when it’s in “good” mode. Then switch to red to signal when the evil server is in control.

  17. dfowler says


    Very nice instrutable. This would make a great night light. Of course you know that.

  18. Diego Spinola says

    I`ve tried this some time ago and it works great(! Try stuffing the ball with crushed paper napkins(the cheaper you can get), they get rid of the “halo” on top of the ball:

  19. Andun says


    I like your idea and try to integrate it to my next Projekt as a simple indicator for the status of my robots or systems!