READING TIME: 12 MINUTES
In this guide, I’m going to show you how to 3D print & wire your own “Nanoleaf” LED hexagon panels.
Printing these yourself saves yourself SO much money. On the Nanoleaf website, a 7-panel kit will cost you $200. A 16-piece kit costs $410!
Assuming you already have filament, being able to print your own Nanoleaf for $80 is a huge cost savings. 3D printed parts cost cents. The bulk expense for this project is the controller, LED strip, and power supply. If you wanted to print 16 panels for DIY Nanoleaf project instead of 8 like I did, you’d really only be adding an extra $5 cost in used filament.
If you’ve been thinking about doing this yourself, here’s my full step-by-step guide. I’ll also include all the Cura slicer settings I used and rough printing times.
Obviously, you’ll need a 3D printer for this project. I’m using a Creality Ender 3 S1. I’m not including filament costs into this project, since black and white filament is something most 3D printer enthusiasts already have. But, I’m including links to the exact filaments I’m using just in case you need them. They are only about $20 for an entire 2.2lb roll of filament which will far outlast this single project.
- Black filament (hexagon frames) – Polymaker Matte PLA 1.75mm
- White filament (diffusion panels)- Overture PLA 1.75mm
- Athom addressable WLED controller
- 16ft addressable LED light strip
- 5V power strip
- DC 2-wire power plug
- Wire strippers
- CA glue (superglue)
There are quite a few different variations of Nanoleaf-inspired style panels you could download. Triangles, squares, hexagons, etc. I originally founthe STL’s for my project from this youtube video.
The reason I went with these STL’s is because the 3D models were created in a way that no soldering/cutting of LED’s was required. You even 3D print the connectors (the pieces that attach the hexagon frames together). Download link is below.
Download DIY Hex Nanoleaf-like Panels.
Cura Slicer Settings
Assuming you already have a default 3D printer profile, here’s the main settings I changed:
- Walls: 2 (all pieces)
- Infill: 5%
- Print Speed: 50-60
- Support: Tree
- Frame: Support needed
- Electronics Box: Support needed
I leveled my bed before starting this project, so I didn’t need any Bed Adhesion. But if you notice some of the smaller prints not sticking to the print bed, you can use a raft.
Rafts will make your project take a little longer, but it’ll also save you from having to level your print bed.
Step 0: Pre-Planning your DIY Nanoleaf Project
In the download link above, the author (tweetpv) created all 5 parts that are needed for this project for us. Below is a screenshot of the 5 parts he created. Obviously the more panels you go with, the more parts you’ll need to print out and the total project time will increase.
I purchased a 16ft roll of addressable LED’s. For 8 panels, I had 55 LED’s leftover. So, you might be able to get away with 10 or 11 panels before needing to splice two sets of LED strips together.
Step 1: Plan Out Your Design
The first step is deciding how many panels you want to print out. I went with 8 panels: 7 frames and 1 electronics box. When designing, I planned to keep the electronics box at the very bottom end. Since this will be hanging on a wall, I wanted the power cord at the very lowest hexagon.
I’m a visual person, so I planned this project out on paper first. This is optional, but it gives you a good idea of exactly how many of each part you’ll need to print out and how long it’ll take. My design took ~80 hours of 3D printing time, which ended up being about 6-7 days (accounting for downtime in between prints, sleeping, at work and can’t remove completed prints, etc.
- Frames (x7) – 4.5 hours each
- Control box (x1) – 5.5 hours
- Diffusion panels – 2 hours each
- Joints – ~15 minutes each. I printed in batches of 6 at a time, so I can’t be certain.
For my paper design, I realized hexagons aren’t the easiest thing in the world to draw over and over. So, I took a piece of cardboard and cut a single hexagon to use a template. I then used the template to trace out any future hexagons until I came up with a suitable design.
I highly recommend creating a template; especially if your first design idea you create doesn’t turn out and your need to redo it.
Ideally, you’ll want to come up with a design that has a lot of exterior edges. For this project, I basically ran the LED’s along all the outer edges as you can see by the arrows in the diagram below.
If you come up with a compact design (like the screenshot below), it’s going to be difficult to know how to run the string of LED’s without cutting them. Also try imagining where and how you’ll be the running a single LED light strip. It’s almost overwhelming.
Save yourself some headache and create a design that has a lot of exterior walls.
Step 2: Setup & Wire Athom WLED Controller
Like I mentioned earlier, no soldering or cutting was needed for this project. I used a single 16ft. strip of LED’s. The entire strip connects to the 1 Athom controller.
This controller has been pre-flashed with WLED. WLED, for those of you that don’t know, is a firmware that allows you control your LED strip. For addressable LED’s, WLED has a TON of built-in effects you can send to your LED strip, or in this case, your Nanoleaf.
I’ve already created an entire Beginner’s Guide To WLED, where I show you exactly how to wire & set up your Athom controller and how to add it to your wifi, so I won’t rehash that here. Follow that guide if you’ve never set one up.
The only thing I recommend doing differently than that guide is running the 2-wire DC THROUGH the 3d-printed ‘electronics box’ before wiring it into the controller. The electronics box has a dedicated hole for power punched into each side. If you don’t run it through first, the DC adapter won’t fit through.
Do the same with the LED strip – run it through one of the holes on the electronics box before wiring to the controller.
Step 4: Cut 4 standoffs in electronics box
As you can see the image above, the author added x4 standoffs to his electronics box. This is because a standard ESP8266 device can be screwed directly to this ( if using that and flashing youself, instead of using an Athom controller). Since Athom devices come pre-flashed and already in a protective case, we don’t need these standoffs.
I just cut them off so it has a flat surface to sit against.
Step 5: Test LED Strip
This step was already included in the Beginner’s Guide to WLED I created, but in case you skipped that step after everything was wired up, simply plug it into a wall outlet to verify it works.
By default, only 30 LED’s will light up until you specify the number (300) in the WLED settings.
Step 6: Run LED’s inside Frames
This next step is pretty self-explanatory. Once your Nanoleaf-inspired creation has been assembled together with all the joints, flip it over. This makes the LED openings easy to access (LED openings = slots modeled into each frame that the LED strip can be ran through.)
The LED strip I linked to has a sticky backing, and the frames have a dedicated channels for LED’s, so it’s just a matter of running the LED’s all the way around the Nanoleaf-inspired panel.
Remember: Try to run them along the outmost edge.
For the “junction walls” (i.e – the interior flat lines where the hexagons meet up), I recommend running the strip to the very end and then folding over the cut-out edges. If you fold them over as soon as you come across an opening, then you’ll have LED gaps. We want to fill in as MUCH as the frame as we possibly can.
Notice how I didn’t fold over at the very beginning of the opening? I went to the end of the opening, then folded over. See purple arrows and diagram below.
Continue running the LED strip along every exterior edge. Don’t be afraid to bend the LED’s; they still work just fine if bend. I also didn’t notice any “hotspots” where the folded over LED’s were bunched up.
Step 7: Install Diffusion Panels
Once the entire LED light strip has been installed, you can cut off the remaining strip at the cut mark. You can also go ahead and insert the white diffusion panels.
Note: The white diffusion panels mostly fit, but I did have to superglue a few in place because they were loose and fell out when mounted vertically on my wall.
Once the diffusion panels are installed, here’s what it should look like:
Looks pretty good, right?!
The one glaring issue is…I see is that the Athom controller in the control box. This is simply because the controller is too close to the diffusion panel.
So, what I did was superglue a few pieces of leftover insulated wire to the frame. This makes the diffusion panel stand a tiny bit higher – just enough to where you can’t see the controller from the outside. (If you look at Step 5, you’ll see some spare Red and White wires coming from the LED strip that aren’t used. I used those).
Then, installed the panel on top of those wires. Visually, you can’t tell a difference at all that it’s a tiny bit higher than the other panels – even during the daytime and when the LED’s are turned off.
Just look at the difference that small change made!
You didn’t think I was going to leave you hanging, did you? Half the fun of WLED is looking at all the preset effects.
So here you go!
If I were to do this project over, I probably wouldn’t have changed much other than printing thicker diffusion panels. And maybe thicker walls in the Cura settings. I did 2 walls, but I think 3 or 4 and changed the infill from 5% to 10/15%, which would have been better so the joints have something a little stronger to connect to.
Anyway, I hope this project inspired you to create your own Nanoleaf-ish LED wall project using WLED! And since WLED integrates perfectly into Home Assistant, you can setup automations to trigger these different presets you’ve setup.
My Favorite Home Assistant Devices
Below are some of the Home Assistant-compatible devices I personally use in my home. I highly recommend each of them.
- Zwave/Zigbee hub: Nortek GoControl HUSBZB-1
- Smart Plugs: Sonoff S31 Lite Zigbee
- Motion Sensors: Hue Indoor Motion
- Outdoor Camera: Amcrest IP5M Turret
- Robot Vacuum: Roborock S7
The full list of all Home Assistant compatible & recommended devices I use can be found on my Equipment List page.