Krafty Kaleidoscopes, Pretty Patterns

A kaleidoscope uses three mirrors in a triangular arrangement to form repeated reflections of small objects placed inside. These symmetric reflections produce lovely patterns that change with the movement of the objects being viewed.

This 3D printed kaleidoscope project generates patterns that glow with wireless LEDs embedded inside translucent 3D printed shapes. The luminous forms are free to slide around the rotating base to produce colorful changeable configurations that extend as far as you can see.

The illuminated images inside the kaleidoscope are lovely, and the kaleidoscope itself makes an appealing item to display. You can select your favorite filament color for the 3D printed parts, and choose from three different embossed patterns that decorate the exterior.

The kaleidoscope design has three different embossed decorative patterns to choose from.

Wireless Workings

Wireless LEDs glow without connected power, making them ideal elements to slide around freely while still showing a glowing colors inside the kaleidoscope.

Looking closely at the tiny lights reveals that each is attached to a small assembly of tightly coiled magnet wire. Power is transmitted to these coils using principle known as Faraday's Law of Induction, which states that changing magnetic fields generate electric current, and also the converse, that electric current generates a magnetic field.

The energy for our LEDs comes from a larger assembly of coiled wire with circuitry that runs a fluctuating current through its loops. This current generates a changing magnetic field which can induce a small (about 2 mA) electric current in the tiny loops, enough to power the LEDs.

Induction Limitations

There are some constraints on transmitting power via induction. Since electric and magnetic field strength drops off sharply with distance, the power transmitter and receivers must be close to each other. The greater the distance, the less power that is received.

Additionally the orientation of the receiving coils and transmitting coils must be parallel. You can experiment with your wireless LEDs by placing the LEDs and transmitting coil on a flat surface, and providing 5V power to the induction coil. Notice that turning the LEDs on their side stops them from lighting up.


Wireless LEDs and Transmitting Coil

Video of a white woman holding ten bare LEDs in her hand. She slides her hand over an inductive charger, lighting up the ten small LEDs.
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Power Connectors

The wireless LED transmitting coil requires 5V power input directly into its red and black wires. There are a number of possible ways to connect it to power, but the easiest (no-solder) method is to use the power adapter and cable below to attach the wires to a 5V USB power source of your choosing.

Angle shot Female DC Power adapter - 2.1mm jack to screw terminal block
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3D Printer Filament

You will need two different colors of PLA filament for the 3D printed parts.

  • Opaque PLA for the body of the kaleidoscope
  • Transparent (clear) PLA for the LED covers

Acrylic Circles

To cover the eyepiece, you will need (2) 3-inch diameter circles of clear acrylic with a thickness of any value from 1mm to 3.2mm (1/8"). You may laser-cut these circles yourself from clear acrylic sheet or purchase them pre-cut in a multi-pack, like the one below.

2 x 3" Diameter Clear Acrylic Circles
Pre-cut acrylic circles


The kaleidoscope requires three rectangular mirrors, each 160mm x 55mm in size (but no larger), and not more than 1.6mm thick.

If you have access to a laser or CNC cutter, you will get the sharpest reflections from 1.6 mm (1/16") mirrored acrylic sheet, cut to exactly 160mm x 55mm. You can also score this thin mirrored sheet with a craft knife and break it along straight lines, though it is harder to make exact cuts this way.

If you don't have a cutting machine, a simpler alternative is to use flexible mirrored sheet that can be cut with scissors. The reflections are not quite as crisp, but they are still quite good, and it is a much easier and safer material to shape by hand.

Obtain ONE of the two mirror material options listed below:


This guide was first published on Mar 01, 2023. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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