How to design your own LED driver

If you find yourself in need of a driver for a high power string of LEDs this is a must read. [Limpkin] just designed this driver as a contract job. He can’t show us the schematic, but he did share some tips on how to build an LED driver around a MAX16834 chip.

As you move to higher power designs the barriers to success pile up rather quickly. Using a chip like the MAX16834 really helps to simplify the task as it can be used as a boost or buck converter, it includes functionality that allows for dimming, and it’s a constant currents solution. There are board design issues that need to be accounted for in these designs. [Limkin] included links to a few calculators that will help you determine trace width based power levels used with the driver. He also recommends using copper pours on both sides of the board connected with vias to help dissipate heat. To that end he used an IR thermometer for feedback during testing.

It’s too bad he doesn’t have any photos of the device at work. If you build something similar please take some pictures and tip us off about it.

Cellphone battery booster built at the checkout counter

When you’re away from home and your cellphone runs out of juice it can be a real downer. Sure, you could find a store and buy a wall charger, but wouldn’t it be more fun to build your own battery booster without using tools? [Spiritplumber] did just that, popping into a Radio Shack for the parts, then making his how-to video (embedded after the break) while standing at the checkout counter. You can see he hust set his camera on top of the battery display case and got to work.

He’s using four D cell batteries to provide 6 volts of power. Assuming your phone charges at 5 volts this is going to be just a bit too high, even though there’s some tolerance with most phones. To overcome that obstacle he added a diode to the circuit, taking advantage of the 0.7 volt drop that it brings to the mix. Grab a plug adapter for your model and then just hand twist the connections. [Spiritplumber] admits it would be better to solder these, but in a bind you can get away with it. We looked up some prices for this method and we figure this would cost around $18 (batteries included) depending on the price of the plug adapter for your phone.

Of course if you’re just looking for a way to charge your phone without paying consumer prices there are ways of accomplishing that as well.

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Breathing motion powered USB charger

When your batteries run low you can use your body to recharge them. This contraption generates power from chest expansion while breathing. [Jmengel] used some gears from old optical drives to boost the RPM generated by a belt around your torso that he calls a thorax expansion coupler. When you breath in, that belt pulls on a plate that spins the gears, ultimately rotating a small motor. The AC current generated by that motor is run through a rectifier and a boost converter, then fed to a charging circuit.

Does it work? Not really, as this only outputs around 50 mW. But we like the twinge of Dune nostalgia we get looking at it. Wouldn’t this be a perfect addition to a stillsuit?

In-button display for your car’s dashboard

OLED display in a dashboard button

Here’s an interesting take on augmenting a car’s dashboard. [Daniel] is using a button blank to house a 1″ OLED display in his Jetta. It shows auxiliary data such as boost pressure and several sets of temperature readings. The display itself has a tiny little circuit board with a PIC 24 to drive it. A larger board, seen above, collects the temperature data from some sensors that [Daniel] added as part of the hack. There are some pictures of the installed display inside of the dark car and it looks really easy to read. It also sounds like there’s some dimming functionality built into the firmware. This is the easiest way we’ve seen to add a display to your dashboard as it just requires you to pop out a button blank, rather than disassembling the entire console or patching into what’s already there.

Building a power supply around a DC-DC converter

The EEVblog is on a roll with interesting topics lately. In the latest episode [Dave] takes us through the nitty-gritty of switch mode power supply design. Using DC-DC converter IC’s in not especially hard. The datasheets tend to have fairly good usage schematics but there’s always a bit of heartache that goes into figuring out which external components will make for an optimal design. Get your calculator out and, in the video after the break, he’ll walk you through choosing component values based on the formulas for the MC34063 converter chip.

[Dave] makes the point that this is an extremely common chip, available from several manufacturers, and often found in consumer electronics. In fact, the switchmode supply hack from last month was using a regulator based around the MC34063. So you can buy it or scavenge for it. One thing to note though, we checked Mouser and Digikey and they’re pretty short on these chips right now. Plan your projects accordingly.

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Car computer requires PIN for ignition

[Ben's] added some nice goodies to his Volvo in the form of an in-dash computer. The system monitors two pressure sensors for boost and vacuum, as well as reading RPM, O2, and exhaust directly. All of this is tied into the touch interface running on an eeePC 900A. But our favorite feature is that the system requires you to enter a PIN to start the ignition. The forum post linked above is short on details so we asked [Ben] if he could tell us more. Join us after the break for a demonstration video as well as [Ben's] rundown on the system.

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Building a glue stick flashlight

Building an LED flashlight is simple, right? Take a battery, connect it to an LED by way of a resistor. Alright wise guy, now make one that steps up the voltage for multiple LEDs and don’t use a boost-converter IC to do so.

[fede.tft] shares a flashlight built inside of a  used glue stick case. It’s the perfect size for one AA battery (we’re always on the lookout for good battery cases), and a shape that we’re familiar with as a flashlight. The problem is that he wants two white LEDs but with just one AA cell he’s never going to have more that 1.5V available. He licked that problem, getting to 7.2V by designing his own step-up converter using one transistor, an inductor, and three passive components. To get the inductor he needs, a stock part is disassembled and rewound to suit. Maybe you just end up with a flashlight when all is said and done, but then again, the Sistine Chapel is just some paintings on a ceiling.

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