PixelBrite is an LED wall/coffee table done right

pixelbrite

The scope of this project is almost as jaw-dropping as the cost of the parts. [LeoneLabs] calls the project PixelBrite. It’s a highly-polished modular RGB LED panel system, and he’s not keeping it a secret. We think it’s reasonable to call the build documentation mammoth. If you’re a fan of fast-motion assembly videos he’s got you covered there as well.

It’s interesting to compare this build to some of the Daft Punk tables from years back. It shows how economies of scale in the hobby electronics industry have helped new and affordable products to emerge. For instance, this offering is a 10×10 grid which is outside of the normal 8 pixel wide orientation dictated by 8-bit microcontrollers. The reason for the change is that this doesn’t use a matrix built with point-to-point soldering. It uses a string of RGB pixels (WS2801).

The enclosure is also a thing of beauty. The dividers that make up each cell are laser cut foam board. This makes the joints very tight to prevent light from leaking into the next cell. The housing is acrylic held in place by an aluminum rail system. Need more than one panel? No problem, a single connector chains one panel to the next. But we did mentioned the cost of materials. Unassembled you can expect to drop over five hundred bones for the pleasure of seeing this thing blink.

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Great junk-yard find leads to a reclaimed control panel project

Having the “can you believe somebody threw this away?” mentality has gotten us into some trouble through the years, but look what [Joshua] found at the scrap yard! It’s a door from a power conversion station and it contains fourteen indicator lights and a lot of other doodads. But since this is just the door, he needed a way to monitor the controls and drive the indicators. At the heart of the hack he used to get this up and running is a PIC 18F2550. It has no trouble driving the indicators thanks to a pair of ULN2803 darlington arrays which switch the higher 24 volt levels.

His writeup doesn’t mention the method used, but the panel also has a couple of meters at the top. In the video after the break you can clearly see that he’s got them both working. We’d bet there’s a plan for each of the buttons as well, since this will be prominently featured in their alien-invasion themed Halloween display this year.

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Etching panel faces on the cheap

[James] came up with a way to make small numbers of high-contrast instrument panels cheaply, and without too much labor. We’ll make with the bad news right away; you’re going to need a laser cutter to use this method. Traditionally, panels that look like the one above are etched onto special composite that has one color at the surface and a contrasting color beneath. [James] started with plain old acrylic, etched his labels, then filled the voids with black wax crayon. Just scribble all over the etched face to rub wax into the grooves, go through a couple of cleaning steps using white spirit, then bake the panel to even out and harden the wax layer. He’s got several examples of his work, including medallions that are used to label LED indicators.

Backlit Buttons and Panels

“Kick the tyres & light the fires” is a blog by [Ruscool Electronics] that is focused on building a cockpit simulator from scratch, and while the blog is loaded with all sorts of nifty information, reader [Brian] pointed out one entry which explains how to make back-lit control panels out of acrylic sheet, and a CNC machine.

The parts start off as clear acrylic, and cut to shape and size. Next up is a thick, but uniform coat of paint so the panels are opaque , then its back off into the CNC machine for engraving. What is engraved is now a frosty white, ready for leds behind.

The end result looks fantastic and professional, though, we are left thinking of how to pull off the same look, sans CNC.

Ideas?

Solar powered WiFi repeater

For all those times you need to broadcast your own access point where there’s no outlet [Larry] shows us how to make a solar-powered hotspot. He started by slapping a solar panel on the lid of a cigar box and attaching it to five rechargeable AA batteries inside. These power the mainboard from a router which is the perfect size to friction fit in the opening. It has been flashed with a copy of DD-WRT, and set to scan for open WiFi connections. When it finds one it connects and rebroadcasts its own WiFi signal to the surrounding area. He leaves it in the back window of his car and uses it to get on the net during lunch.

EL Wire: make it, connect it, power it

[Jeri's] back with a series of videos that outlines the step-by-step electroluminescent wire manufacturing, making EL panels from PCBs, and assembling power supplies for EL hardware. These concepts are actually quite approachable, something we don’t expect from someone who makes their own integrated circuits at home.

The concept here is that an alternating current traveling through phosphors will excite them and produce light. You need two conductors separated by a dielectric to get the job done. For wire, [Jeri] uses one strand of enameled magnet wire and one strand of bare wire. The enamel insulates them, protecting against a short circuit.

But that’s not all, she also tests using a circuit board as an EL panel. By repurposing the ground plane as one of the conductors, and using the solder mask as the dielectric she is able to paint on a phosphor product resulting in the glowing panel.

Finally, you’ve got to get juice to the circuit and that’s where her power supply video comes into the picture. We’ve embedded all three after the break. It’s possible that this is cooler than blinking LEDs and it’s fairly inexpensive to get started. The circuitry is forgiving, as long as you don’t zap yourself with that alternating current.

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Etch aluminum control panels

aluminum etched control panel

This clever Instructable demonstrates how to etch beautiful aluminum control panels for electronics projects. We like how similar this process is to DIY circuit board etching. Both abide by the same technique and use blue transfer paper. The primary difference is in the use of muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide for etching aluminum.