in Code, DIY, Tutorials

DIY LED Bubble Tube: Part 6–First Test!

Okay, so I haven’t had a chance to 3D print the base for the tube that will hold all the components together, but I couldn’t wait to preview what the finished bubble tube was going to look like. So without further ado, take a look at this video:

I have to say, I am totally frickin’ excited about how this is coming out. I have to wait until the semester ends and all the students have finished their final semester projects before I can get into the maker space to use the 3D printer, but I know I’m going to be there the very first second that I can!!!

I tested this out on the deck first. You know…in case the bottom came off and flooded me out again. But after about an hour without incident, I got brave and moved the whole setup inside. (Cross your fingers that I don’t flood my kitchen and drown my electronics!) One cool thing is that I ordered a new, quieter pump, and you can barely hear it. That means that you get the soothing sound of the bubbles popping at the top of the tube. Talk about feng shui!

After staring mesmerized at the bubbles for a couple of hours, my imagination began to completely run away with all of the possibilities for variations and upgrades to this project. Today was the last day of teaching for the semester. I can already tell you where are large chunk of my summer is going to be devoted.

If you just stumbled onto this post, you can find the first five parts of this tutorial series here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

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  1. Is this sealed on top? Or is there a check valve there also to allow the air out? If not I would think the built up pressure would eventually stop any air from entering the tube. Nice work btw.


    • Hi Bruce,

      Currently the top is open, but eventually I will create some kind of lid that will allow air to escape, but hopefully prevent spillage should the tube fall over. At present, I don’t have any plans to try to make this a closed system.


  2. So, now that you have built this, I would like to know if you plan on maybe providing plans for the do it yourselfers like me. I would pay for said plans. My daughter is a Speech Patholigist and wants me to build her one fot her students. I have watched all the videos and look forward to hearing from you!

    • Glad you liked it! I’m not quite done. I still have to 3D print the base and assemble everything. After that, I’ll definitely post everything. That being said, you could probably build yourself a different base that doesn’t require 3D printing. There should be enough info in the posts to do all of the programming and connecting the electronics together. You just need to design a housing that will keep the tube upright, and hopefully protect the electronics from water in case of a leak or spill.

  3. AWESOME and thank you for sharing your “adventure”. I am creating a sensory room at my church for our special needs ministry. Of course the price to purchase one is too much for us. I have been searching the net to find a DIY project and your’s is exactly what I’m looking for. Thank you oh so much for sharin.

  4. Thanks for sharing all the products needed including the price and location so helpful. Your bubble machine turned out good.

  5. Great job! We would love to have one at home as well as we have 2 high function ASD.
    I have 1 question for you:
    Could you make the bubble float a little bit slower? I thought they were too fast when comparing with a manufactured one. Thank you.

    • Hi Isabela, I think the speed of the bubbles is governed by the laws of physics. 😉 That being said, it probably has something to do with the actual size of the bubbles. I suspect you might find a diffuser that is able to produce larger bubbles which might move more slowly. Alternatively, I can only think of maybe changing the liquid inside the bubble tube to something “thicker” than water, like some kind of vegetable oil. Of course, then you have the problem of the oil going rancid or otherwise causing problems… BTW, I prefer the acronym ASC (C = characteristics). Neurodiversity is not a disorder! 🙂

  6. I’m building something very similar…I am running into an issue as you mentioned with a base to secure and keep upright…I know post is dated but do you have a link or something to show what you came up with? Thanks and great job

    • Hi Dan, So…I was pretty naive when I designed the base. I discovered that to 3D print the base I designed it would cost over $1800 to have it printed professionally (at Shapeways), and would take over a week to print out on the 3D printers at my school (and would likely fail). Sadly, I haven’t gotten back to it yet, but in my head I’ve designed something that looks like a Christmas tree stand. It would also be made of acrylic (which I’d likely cut out with a laser cutter), and have 6 or 8 triangular “spokes” with a hole in the middle to hold the bubble tube. If I ever get around to actually designing and building it, I’ll be sure to post an update. Meanwhile, if you come up with something, please let me know and I’ll post pictures of your base here for other people to see.

      • Printing a base sounds really expensive and time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be easier to build one out of wood. Does the maker space have woodworking equipment? A circle cutter likely wouldn’t be readily available for the size of your tube but could be cut out using a jig saw after a starter hole is drilled.

        • Yeah, I realized I need to come up with a simpler, cheaper, easier-to-build solution. I’ve been thinking (like you apparently) that something kind of like a Christmas tree stand would probably work. Thanks for the comment!

  7. I am in the process of designing a similar tube setup (and much appreciate you sharing your work here!), and for base I am looking at building a box shaped enclosure, about 16″ x 16″ and 12″ high, from 1/2″ or 3/4″ MDF. An inner wall would create a division about 4″ from the back of the box, making space for pump and electronics, with large venting opening to the back. The main portion of the box would be sealed carefully inside with thick waterproof paint. The tube would rest on the bottom of the box, elevated an inch or two to make space for light (short LED strips). The box lid can be made in a number of ways, either split in halves for easy removal or as a whole… with a hole. The main features of the box design would be a) to provide a sufficient base area to reduce risk of tipping, b) provide support for the tube 12″ up (coming through the lid) and not least c) provide a safety volume big enough to hold all of the water in the event of a leakage.

    For the bottom end I am considering gluing a 7″ x 7″ x 0,5″ sheet of acrylic right to the end of the tube, first having cut a 1/4″ deep circular groove, the width of the tube thickness, in it with a lathe to provide more surface area for the glue and increased stability.
    I am looking to use a tube around 6″ x 60-65″.

    I have yet to find a powerful enough (pressure, not flow) air pump that runs on low voltage DC, all the serious (and really quiet, since that is a priority) ones seem to need mains power. I intend to put an RCCB in the base, feeding both the pump and the lights.

    My main consideration right now is the physical user interface. I want the user/spectator to be able to switch between a few fixed colors of light, and also between 2-3 different air stones for different bubble types, introducing a bit of interactivity. I am also experimenting with ways to make (much) fewer and bigger bubbles, and I think I’m on to something. 🙂

    Looking to start building in a few weeks when holidays are over so stuff can be ordered.

  8. Hello Morgan, I know this is an old thread, hope you see this. I’m rebuilding a Stonycraft light tube from the ‘90s. Your video series has been very helpful.
    Which pump did you go with? Source?


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