Make: Easy Diffuser Panel From Bubble Wrap

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We like re-using stuff as much as possible. We like popping bubble wrap. Once bubble wrap has met its intended goal of providing sweet, sweet relief, however, it’s pretty much done and is generally tossed into the recycling bin.

On a whim, we decided to see what would happen if we tried to turn it into a diffuser panel because… we can. Obviously it should only be used in low-temperature applications, e.g., it’s likely LED-only, and shouldn’t be too close to any type of bulb that generates significant heat.

The Process

  • Pop a bunch of bubble wrap. Thank us later.
  • Cut into roughly-equal pieces…
    • … larger than the piece you need so you can trim it down.
  • Get an iron and heat it up.
  • Get some sort of non-stick sheet, we used these PTFE Teflon Sheets.
  • Take n sheets at a time and iron them, fairly briefly, until they stick together.
  • The “right” temperature is… no idea. We had our iron cranked up almost all the way, but it seemed excessive.
  • You can do multiple chunks of n and then stack and iron those.
    • We did all first panel this way, the rest we did all at once.

In Pictures

The Results

Here’s a bunch of images showing a few results for various bulbs and number of plies.

Recommendations

Keep a flat side on the top and bottom.

We stacked each two sheets bubbles-to-bubbles. It’s probably more important to make sure the top and bottom pieces have their flat sides facing out, but we explicitly wanted relatively smooth surfaces.

Alternate bubble placement.

When using large-bubble wrap if you “tile” the bubbles you can end up with an almost fibrous-looking plastic sheet similar to some Japanese papers used for shōji, which we’re excited to experiment with, particularly for outdoor applications.

Experiment With Your Wrap

We liked this particular wad of bubble wrap at about 6-8 layers, which gave it that vaguely “fibrous” look discussed above while letting a fair amount of light through. Our 16-ish layer experiment looked surprisingly fibrous and was a pretty cool effect.

The distance of the sheet from the light source matters a lot (obviously). For our little Matrix Portal M4 project the 16-layer was a bit too dense, even flush with the surface. The 6-layer, when flush, did a good job of masking the unlit LEDs and allowed plenty of light through. Offsetting about a centimeter juuuuust started to blur individual LEDs and was quite pleasant.

Get Creative

Since this is nothing more than a plastic laminate there’s no reason not to experiment with throwing things between the layers. Grass or leaves, glitter (we hate glitter, or at least claim to, but hey, you do you), natural fibers or thread, paper shapes/dots, the possibilities are (roughly) endless.

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