Custom Electronics and LED Panels Brighten Up a Nightclub

ledPanels

When [Robert] is presented with a challenge, he doesn’t back down. His friend dreamed of reusing some old LED panels by mounting them to the ceiling of the friend’s night club. Each panel consists of a grid of five by five red, green, and blue LEDs for a total of 75 LEDs per panel. It sounded like a relatively simple task but there were a few caveats. First, the controller box that came with the panels could only handle 16 panels and the friend wanted to control 24 of them. Second, the only input device for the controller was an infrared remote. The friend wanted an easy way for DJ’s to control the color of the panels and the infrared remote was not going to cut it. Oh yea, he also gave [Robert] just three weeks to make this happen.

[Robert] started out by building a circuit that could be duplicated to control each panel. The brain of this circuit is an ATtiny2313. For communication between panels, [Robert] chose to go with the DMX protocol. This was a good choice considering DMX is commonly used to control stage lighting effects. The SN75176 IC was chosen to handle this communication. In his haste to get this PCB manufactured [Robert] failed to realize that the LED panels were designed common cathode, as opposed to his 25 shiny new PCB’s which were designed to work with a common anode design. To remedy this, he switched out all of the n-channel MOSFET with p-channel MOSFET. He also spent a couple of hours manually cutting through traces and rewiring the board. After all of this, he discovered yet another problem. The LED’s were being powered from the same 5V source as the microcontroller. This lead to power supply issues resulting in the ATtiny constantly resetting. The solution was to add some capacitors.

Click past the break for more on [Robert's] LED panels.

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Blinding Shades Hide Wearer’s Four Eyes

 

We ran into [Garrett Mace] at Maker Faire. He wasn’t exhibiting, but in keeping with the fun he made something to show off. This pair of RGB LED Shades was assembled the night before. They may have been hacked together, but they were in no way a hack. Especially of interest to us is the hinge design which is made of PCB substrate and a few machine screws.

Our video above does a pretty good job of showing off the blinky patterns he coded. What’s surprising to us is that the wearer is almost no view of the light the specs are emitting. The slots aren’t that hard to see out of either, and they hide [Garrett's] prescription glasses quite nicely. This pair steps up from the single color version we saw a couple of years back. That set was also on display, but you really do need to get a closer look at the newer design. Luckily it took us so long to get this video edited that the Macetech blog now has complete details.

Driving 1000 NeoPixels With 1k Of Arduino RAM

timing

NeoPixels, or WS2812 RGB LEDs, are the display device du jour for impressive and blinding lighting projects. Commonly known for very tight timing requirements, [Josh] discovered this is, in fact, usually unnecessary. The timing requirements for NeoPixels aren’t as bad as they seem, once you get to know them.

The official WS2812 timing specs give values that are fairly constraining for anyone writing a library to drive these RGB LED pixels, but simplifying the timing diagram by assuming a 50% duty cycle on the data lines and ignoring the longer maximum times results in a surprising conclusion: the only tight timing parameter for NeoPixel signaling is the maximum width of the 0-bit pulse.

Realizing this, [Josh] wrote a simple demo program to drive over 1000 NeoPixels – an 11 meter long strip – using 1K of RAM on an Arduino. The trick comes by simply delaying the bitbanging a set number of cycles. No obtuse assembly required.

There is only one problem with [Josh]‘s method of driving a nearly unlimited amount of NeoPixels – building a display where every NeoPixel is an element in a larger image, such as in a video display, is impossible on systems with limited amounts of RAM. The code writes values to the NeoPixel strip algorithmically, so if you can’t build your animation with for loops, you’re out of luck. Still, Driving this many NeoPixels is a migraine trigger, and we have to give [Josh] credit for doing this with 1K of RAM.

Check out the video of [Josh]‘s extreme NeoPixel strip below.

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Green Light Go, Red Light Come Back Later

LED IM status indicatorDepending on your taste for social interaction and tolerance for distraction, an open floor plan or “bullpen” office might not be so bad with a total of four people. Hackaday.io user [fiddlythings] likes it, but people often stop by to see him or one of his coworkers only to find them busy or absent. While their status is something they could plainly see in Microsoft Communicator from their own desk, some people like to chat in person or stop by on their way to and from meetings.

In order to save these visitors a few seconds, [fiddlythings] came up with an IM status indicator using their existing nameplates outside the door. Each of their names has a little silver dot by it which he backlit with a flattish RGB LED. These LEDs are driven by a Raspberry Pi and NPN transistors through a ribbon cable.

The plan was to imitate the Communicator status colors of green for available, red for busy, and yellow for away. [fiddlythings] dialed up a lovely shade of amber for away using a mix of red and green. Since he really only needs two colors, he’s using eight NPN transistors instead of twelve. The quick ‘n dirty proof of concept version used Python and a Pidgin IM console client called Finch. Once he got IT’s blessing, he implemented the final version in C++ using Libpurple to interface with Communicator.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Pi used to indicate status—remember this mobile hackerspace indicator?

The p.u.l.s.e Parking Light

Pulse[Anool]‘s brother loves his motorcycle, and when he came across a ‘breathing LED’ mod for the brake light, he had to have one. Being tasked with the creation of a pretty cool mod, [Anool] came up with p.u.l.s.e., an extremely small LED controller and a slight tip ‘o the hat to Pink Floyd and the second or third greatest CD packagings.

The circuit is a slightly Apple-inspired mod for the  parking light that keeps the lamp fully lit when the Neutral Detect line on the bike is high, and slowly pulses the LED in a ‘breathing’ pattern when the Neutral Detect line is low. Not a lot of logic is needed for something this simple, so [Anool] turned to the ATtiny45 and the Arduino IDE to accomplish his goal.

[Anool] created a circuit in KiCAD that would plug in to the lamp socket of his brother’s bike. A cluster of LEDs replace the T10 lamp inside the parking light, and a small amount of code takes care of the logic and breathing effect. It’s a great mod, and the astonishingly small size of the board puts him in the running for the smallest Arduino we’ve ever seen.

Videos of the light in action below.

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Blinky LED Necklace That Actually Looks Chic

LED bib necklace by Agy

[Agy] a fabric hacker in Singapore has made a chic light sensitive LED necklace, and written up the tutorial on her blog  Green Issues by Agy. The lovely thing about this hack is that it doesn’t look like a breadboard round her neck, and most of the non-electronic components have been upcycled. [Agy] even used Swarovski crystals as LED diffusers for extra bling.

Using a LilyPad Arduino with a light sensor and a few LEDs, [Agy's] circuit is not complicated. She seems to be just branching out in to wearable tech, so it is nice that she learnt to program different modes for bright and low light (see video below). Her background in sewing, refashioning and upcycling does show through in her crafty use of an old pair of jeans and lace scraps for this project.

We love tech focused jewelry like [TigerUp's] LED matrix pendants or [Armilar's] Nixie-ify Me Necklace, but they do scream Geek. DIY electronically enhanced accessories are becoming more commonplace with the variety of micro-controller platforms expanding rapidly. Low energy wearable boards like MetaWear are making it easy for the tech to be discreet and easily connected to your smartphone.  3D printing is enabling us to create durable enclosures, settings and diffusers like the ones used for LED Stegosaurus Spikes. With all these things, hobby wearable projects can not only be functional and durable, but can also look great too.

Do you think this necklace would look out of place in a non-geeky gathering? Have you got any helpful tips for [Agy's] code? Have you tried using gems or crystals as diffusers and what were the results? Let us know in the comments below.

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Homemade Gravity Light Doesn’t Last Long but Proves the Concept!

gravity light

After being inspired by the Deciwatt Gravity light, [Steve Dufresne] decided he wanted to try making his own as a proof of concept.

The Gravity Light by Deciwatt is an innovative device designed for third world countries to help eliminate expensive lighting like kerosene lamps. It has a small weight on a pulley which can be lifted up in under 3 seconds. During its slow descent down the weight provides light for 25 minutes! It’s affordable, sustainable, and reliable. It’s also mechanically impressive, which is exactly why [Steve] decided to try making his own.

He’s using a single LED, a small DC motor, a few pieces of wood, an old bicycle wheel, some bicycle chain, and a few jugs of water. The water is connected to the chain which is looped over the smallest gear on the bike. The generator is then powered by a belt wrapping around the outside of the rim. This gives the motor enough speed to generate electricity for the LED. His current design only lasts for about 3 minutes, but he’s already working on the second iteration. Testing systems like this really give you an appreciation for the effort that must have gone into the real Gravity Light.

Stick around after the break to see it in action.

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