IKEA LED Table Mod Doesn’t LACK Awesome

Ikea LED Table

Some people look at IKEA LACK tables as cheap furniture. Our readers look at them as a blank canvas. [Klaas] has turned a LACK Side table into an interactive LED table featuring 144 RGB LEDs. After attending a class on WS2801 pixel strings at his student IEEE chapter, [Klaas] was inspired to design something of his own. He settled on an IKEA LACK table and started sketching. He didn’t actually have a table on hand, so he had to deduce the size from the website images and dimensions. He calculated a usable size of around 45cm, which was pretty close to the mark. After running a few tests, [Klaas] determined that a 12×12 grid of squares 35mm on a side would provide that enough resolution to play simple games. The 35mm x 35mm grid would also be small enough for the LEDS to illuminate. He used a laser cutter to cut the an interlocking grid from 3mm MDF. A base plate with 144 12mm LED holes was also cut out, and the entire assembly was glued together.

For illumination, [Klaas] settled on WS2812B LEDs, as they were cheaper than their WS2801 couterparts. The WS2812B’s also snapped easily into his 12mm holes. At this point [Klaas] actually purchased his IKEA table and proceeded to cut a huge hole in it. The grid glued right in, and some aluminum L-profile cleaned up the top edge. Driving all those LEDs would need a bit of processing power, [Klaas] chose a Teensy 3, and the well-known OctoWS2811 library. He also added a USB host shield, which allowed him to use an Xbox 360 USB game pad as his controller. For software, he created a simple Tetris clone, and ported snake from the Arduino game shield. A menu and some scrolling text ties everything together. The only thing left to add is a glass top. [Klaas] hasn’t settled on clear or diffuse glass yet. We a suggest clear to avoid hiding any details of this great build.

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LIDAR With LEDs For Under $100


If you need some sort of distance sensor for your robot, drone, or other project, you have two options: a cheap ultrasonic sensor with limited range, or an expensive laser-based system that’s top of the line. LIDAR-Lite fills that gap by stuffing an entire LIDAR module onto a small board.

In traditional LIDAR systems, a laser is used to measure the time of flight for a light beam between the sensor and an object. The very accurate clock and laser module required for this system means LIDAR modules cost at least a few hundred dollars. LIDAR-Lite gets around these problems by blinking a LED with a ‘signature’ and looking for that signature’s return. This tech is packaged inside a SoC that reduces both the cost and size of a traditional laser-based LIDAR system.

As for the LIDAR-Lite specs, it can sense objects out to 40 meters with 5% 95% accuracy, communicates to any microcontroller over an I2C bus, and is small enough to fit inside any project.

Considering the existing solutions for distance measurement for robots and quadcopters, this sensor will certainly make for some very awesome projects.

Edit: One of the guys behind this posted a link to their spec sheet and a patent in the comments

The Butt Lamp: Light From Where the Sun Don’t Shine


[Trent] is one of those guys who can make things happen. A friend of his gifted him a  mannequin derriere simply because he knew [Trent] would do something fun with it. “Something fun” turned out to be sound reactive LED butt. At first blush, this sounds like just another light organ. This butt has a few tricks up its …. sleeve which warrant a closer look. The light comes from some off the shelf 5050 style RGB LED strip. The controller is [Trent's] own design. He started with the ever popular MSGEQ7 7 Band Graphic Equalizer Display Filter, a chip we’ve seen before. The MSGEQ7 performs all the band filtering and outputs 7 analog levels corresponding to the amplitude of the input signal in that band. The outputs are fed into an ATTiny84, which drives the RGB strip through transistors.

The ATTiny84 isn’t just running a PWM loop. At startup, it takes 10 samples from each frequency band. The 10 samples are then averaged, and used to create a noise filter. The noise filter helps to remove any ambient sound or distortions created by the microphone. Each band is then averaged and peak detected. The difference between the peak and the noise is the dynamic range for that band. The ATTiny84 remaps each analog sample to be an 8 bit value fitting within that dynamic range. The last step is to translate  the remapped signal values through a gamma lookup table. The gamma table was created to make the bright and dark colors stand out even more. [Trent] says the net result is that snare and kick drum sounds really pop compared to the rest of the music.

Without making this lamp the butt of too many jokes, we’d like to say we love what [Trent] has done. It’s definitely the last word in sound reactive lamps. Click through to see [Trent's] PCB, and the Butt Lamp in action.

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Green Light LEGO, Red Light Stop

Master LEGO craftsman [Baron von Brunk] had the same childhood passions as a lot of us—LEGO (obviously), Transformers, and Nintendo. But he also harbored a passion for traffic lights and road signs. His latest offering, a fully functional LEGO traffic light, is some pretty fantastic plastic. You might recall that we featured [Baron von Brunk]‘s LEGO mosaic lamps a few weeks ago. This project is that one on steroids.

The body is made of 1700+ LEGO and Technic pieces. [Baron von Brunk] was kind enough to provide his LDD file, though he says it should be considered a rough guide to construction. The red, yellow, and green 1×1 areas are each lit with a 48-SMD LED floodlight bulb. Colored lights are available, but he used the solid white variety for greater luminescence. The lights are driven by a traffic light controller typically used for model railroads.

[Baron von Brunk] ended up lining the inside with black 1x1s and metallic reflective duct tape to keep the light from leaking out of the masonry. He used some Technic bricks on the rear door to form hinges, and Technic pins to hold the LED lamps.

[Fran]‘s LEDs, Nixies, and VFDs.


With a love of blinky and glowey things, [Fran] has collected a lot of electronic display devices over the years. Now she’s doing a few teardowns and tutorials on some of her (and our) favorite parts: LEDs and VFD and Nixie tubes

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that someone with hardware from a Saturn V flight computer also has a whole lot of vintage components, but we’re just surprised at how complete [Fran]‘s collection is. She has one of the very first commercial LEDs ever made. It’s a very tiny red LED made by Monsanto (yes, that company) packaged in a very odd lead-and-cup package.

Also in her LED collection is a strange Western Electric part that’s green, but not the green you expect from an LED. This LED is more of an emerald color – not this color, but more like the green you get with a CMYK process. It would be really cool to see one of these put in a package with red, green, and blue LED, and could have some interesting applications considering the color space of an RGB LED.

Apart from her LEDs, [Fran] also has a huge collection of VFD and Nixie tubes. Despite the beliefs of eBay sellers, these two technologies are not the same: VFDs are true vacuum tubes with a phosphorescent coating and work something like a CRT turned inside out. Nixies, on the other hand, are filled with a gas (usually neon) that turns to plasma when current flows through one of the digits. [Fran] has a ton of VFDs and Nixies – mostly military surplus – and sent a few over to [Dave Jones] for him to fool around with.

It’s all very cool stuff and a great lead-in to what we hear [Fran] will be looking at next: electroluminescent displays found in the Apollo Guidance Computer.

Videos below.

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UFO-looking RGB LED RC Plane Lights Up the Night, Uses All the Acronyms

[Roballoba] decided to combine his love for RC planes, things that light up, and photography, and we’re glad he did. He shares his method in this Instructable for illuminating a bare styrofoam replacement fuselage for a Parkzone Stryker RC plane.  There are many more amazing pictures there as well.

He used low-tack tape to lay out the LED strips on the fuselage, solder the connections, and test them. Once he was satisfied with the arrangment, he flipped the strips face down so the foam diffuses the light. The lights are powered by a 12V Li-Po battery he soldered to a deans connector. Finally, [Roballoba] covered  and heat sealed everything with Doculam, a very cost-effective laminate that offers great protection and security.

He used some LED corn lights as afterburners, which is a nice touch of realism. There is a video after the break where [Roballoba] shows us the connections up close and then runs through some light show options.  Another video of a nighttime flight is waiting for you in the write up.

Spent too much money on eggnog and a new console this year to be able to replicate this build? $30 will snag what you need for this smartphone-controlled paper plane we featured a few weeks back. You could always BeDazzle it.

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LED Matrix Mask Will Scare Up Holiday Cheer

[Davide] sent us this fun LED matrix mask he built using an ATMega8 and 74LS595N shift registers. Each of the eyes is an 8×8 LED matrix, and the mouth is made from two 8x8s. [Davide] used a ULN2803A Darlington transistor array to drive the matrices.

When the user steps behind the mask, an IR sensor detects that a face is within range and activates the facial features. The code randomly runs the eye and mouth patterns. If the user starts speaking, a microphone element detects his voice and a separate speaking mouth pattern is executed.

The mask body and stand are découpaged with pages from Dylan Dog comics. [Davide] says he built the mask years ago, but decided to submit it to the 2013 Inverart Art Fair in Milan. As you can probably imagine, the mask has been a big hit with the kids so far. Stick around to see [Davide]‘s Santa-fied demonstration after the jump. [Davide] didn’t give us any details on that sweet hat, unfortunately.

If you require a better degree of protection or more LEDs, check out this LED helmet.

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