A clock that uses sixty RGB pixels

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Here’s a project inspired by a highly polished art piece. [Tobias] has been working on his own RGB LED clock which uses one light for each minute in an hour. He was inspired to start the project after seeing the Equinox clock. That one used a little PCB for each LED, and included an acrylic bezel and diffusers for each light. With the advent of LED pixel strings assembling one of these for yourself has become quite a bit easier.

The key part of the project is the laser-cut plywood frame which has a finger between each digit in order to perfectly space the lights. Each pixel is hot glued in place, with the Arduino board which drives them at the center of the frame. These lights are super bright, so [Tobias] also included a light dependent resistor which allows the system to measure ambient light and modulate the pixel brightness accordingly.

There are four parts to his project post so make sure you take some time to click around in order to get all the gritty details.

Brake Light Backpack overpowered with LED pixels

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Here’s another Flora Arduino based project from [Becky Stern]. It’s a backpack with brake lights and turn signals for use when motorcycling, but it should work just as well for bicyclists. From this view the project looks pretty normal, but things get downright crazy when she decided to use the WS2801 pixels for the LEDs. Sure they take all the work out of driving an array of LEDs, and they offer full color and dimming levels. But when you see the bulk of cabling and PCBs this adds to the project (shown in the video after the break) we think you’ll agree that this was an interesting choice.

That issue aside the project is a lot of fun. The system doesn’t patch into the motorcycle’s electronics. Instead, it uses an accelerometer to detect when the brakes are applied and light the LEDs according. The turn signals are switched with an RF remote control that can be mounted on the handlebars.

Anyone looking to hack outerwear with electronics can learn form the fabrication techniques used here. [Becky] details how to make holes in the bag and sew parts to them, as well as using Sugru to waterproof vulnerable components.

[Read more...]

NASA inspired circadian rhythm lights

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After reading about an initiative between NASA and Boeing to develop lights for the International Space Station [Rasathus] decided to give it a go at building his own. The project uses RGB pixels to build a circadian rhythm light installation. Without the normal rise and fall of the sun the sleep wake schedule for the astronauts can be pretty rough. This uses color and intensity of light in a well-defined schedule to help alleviate that. [Rasathus] is trying to bring his project in well under the $11.1 million mark which was established for the ISS.

The light modules he’s using are from a strand of LEDs from Adafruit. Each is driven by a WS2801 controller, a common driver used for easy and complicated projects like this huge ball of light which our own [Jesse Congdon] tackled. The board above is the start of an adapter board for interfacing with the Raspberry Pi GPIO header. [Rasathus] wanted to make certain he didn’t fry the control electronics so he built some protection into this adapter. The control software is covered in the second portion of  the write up. We’ve embedded the video from that post after the break.

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Bring your LED matrix project into the living room

If you’re able to make a project look this good it shouldn’t be hard to convince that significant other to let you install it in a prominent place in the house. We think [Greg Friedland] pulled this off perfectly by building a 4’x8′ tablet controlled LED matrix.

First of all, everything looks better in a shiny case. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this looks nice, thanks to the face plates which are mounted in a way that gives them a modern style (we’d expect to see this hanging in Ikea). They’re acrylic diffuser panels meant for used with lighting in a suspended ceiling. They do a nice job of scattering the light put off by the 544 LED modules that make up the display. The wiring was made easy by using LED strands where each pixel has its own control chip (WS2801). It sounds like the display will peak at around 160 Watts, which isn’t really that much considering the area. One nice touch that’s shown off in the video after the break is a full-feature iPad interface that even allows you to paint in light using your finger. But we’re also satisfied that [Greg] posted about the physical build too.

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Lighting up a runway into the garage

[Timo] didn’t want to look like every other lighted driveway but using solar path lights. Instead he decided to light it up as if it were a runway. It’s easy to look at the result as cute and move on to the next hack. But look again. If you were going to do this yourself how would you implement it considering a car will drive over it, and it’s outdoors?

The first issue of protecting this from traffic is actually not too tough in this case. [Timo's] driveway is made of pavers and is not a solid sheet of asphalt or concrete. He drilled out some of the intersections to make just enough room for each of the PCBs he etched to house the LEDs and host the driver. These boards are inserted horizontally into the sand between the pavers like a fin, with the surface mount LED positioned along the edge. Power and control wires run along each line of lights. They are serial controlled which cuts down on the number of conductors needed. [Timo] didn’t mention weather proofing but we’d suggest casting them in crystal clear resin just like this headphone amplifier.

This giant hand made LED matrix must be ours!

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[Martin] wrote in to share a project his company has been working on for some time, a gigantic 1470 pixel LED wall. The group provides lighting for clubs, parties, etc, and their hand-built LED matrix is always certain to be the hit of the show.

The amazing matrix was designed from the ground up and built by hand in [Martin’s] living room. They designed small 32x32mm “pixel” boards, each of which features 6 PLCC6 RGB LEDs driven by a single WS2801 LED controller. The PCBs were populated by hand and each one was reflowed in a small pizza oven that [Martin] owns. After the pixels were completed, they were attached to aluminum bar and combined to build thirty 70x70cm frames which are connected together to form a giant matrix.

As you can see in the collection of videos below, the display is very impressive. We just hope that they will be compelled to release the schematics for their boards so that we can build one of these in the office.

[Read more...]

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