Ask Hackaday: What About the Diffusers?

Blinky LED projects: we just can’t get enough of them. But anyone who’s stared a WS2812 straight in the face knows that the secret sauce that takes a good LED project and makes it great is the diffuser. Without a diffuser, colors don’t blend and LEDs are just tiny, blinding points of light. The ideal diffuser scrambles the photons around and spreads them out between LED and your eye, so that you can’t tell exactly where they originated.

We’re going to try to pay the diffuser its due, and hopefully you’ll get some inspiration for your next project from scrolling through what we found. But this is an “Ask Hacakday”, so here’s the question up front: what awesome LED diffusion tricks are we missing, what’s your favorite, and why?

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3D Printable LED Diffusors

While you can get an LED matrix in any size or shape, the really cool looking ones that are perfect for low-res displays all have diffusors. When they come from a nameless Chinese factory, these diffusors are thin sheets of plastic set into an extruded plastic frame. Since [Jan] has a 3D printer, he figured a custom diffusor was just a few bits of filament and a SCAD file away.

The basis for this custom LED diffusor was a LoL Shield given to [Jan] by the creator at the recent 31C3 conference. This shield is really only just 126 LEDs, multiplexed and in an Arduino form factor, and that many LEDs were just too bright and indistinct next to each other. The plan for a 3D printed diffusor was hatched.

After taking a few measurements, a pair of OpenSCAD files were whipped up and printed out. Assembly consisted of pressing 126 tiny little white diffusors into a frame, but once everything was attached to the matrix, the results were worth it.

Check out the video below for the before and after, demonstrating what a few bits of plastic can do to a LED matrix.

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