Fnordlicht: RGB Mixing LED Light

While [Will] goes and hides in his offshore datashelter, Hack-A-Day is happy to welcome back our veteran foreign correspondent [fbz]. She promises future posts will have far less ‘German by example’. -[Eliot]

The Fnordlicht is a color mixing LED platform with free hardware schematics and open source firmware initially started by [fd0]. The system is dynamically controllable (via RS-485) and can also work as a standalone with pre-loaded color mixing. I have one of these soldered up and working at home; the circuits come in a stack of three boards with an optional serial level shifter board add-on. There are project pages in German about the Fnordlicht as well, which include some photos of the first prototype. Full kits (“Fnordlicht Bausatz” means “Fnordlicht kit”) and printed circuit boards (“Fnordlicht Platinensatz ohne Bauteile” means “Fnordlicht circuit board set without parts”) can be purchased from their shop, but be sure to ask them first about shipping prices to your location. I love this project, I fire it up and stick it in a corner of my hack room to add some color-changing atmosphere.

A while ago [Eliot] covered the MoMolight, a color changing led project controlled by the colors playing on your monitor.

14 thoughts on “Fnordlicht: RGB Mixing LED Light

  1. LED hacks are usually cheap but this one is quite cool. If the circuit manages to compensate for the variations in range and intensity of the different colors to make a smooth blend then I’d call it one of the best RGB LED hacks I’ve seen.

    I made a similar device years ago but it needed so much tweaking to balance out the differences in the colors that I disassembled it and went on to something else.

  2. #3: This board uses an atmega8…which is the microcontroller on the arduino. The arduino is great and all, but it’s more of a learning/hobby platform. Once you’re used to embedded development you skip the fluff and use the bare chip (which is a lot cheaper than using a development board).

  3. Oh this is a fine idea. I really like the use of RS-485 because thats so common. There must be like 6 of those ports on the back of my Mac. Oh wait I’m thinking of USB… Why in the world wouldn’t they just use USB?

  4. So would the flavor RS-485 this uses be DMX-512? This would make this project very exciting for people interested in building RGB mixing lights for theatre purposes. My German is a bit rusty, but good hack!

  5. I can’t see a good reason for using rs-485 other than DMX-512, so hopefully that’s it.

    Bhima – rs-485 is used by DMX-512, which is the ubiquitous protocol for controlling lights (and other devices) in theatres, rock concerts, etc. There are cheap USB->rs-485 converters, and every piece of equipment you buy for doing lighting in a theatre (intelligent lights, dimmers, smoke machines) will have a 3 or 5 pin plug designed to carry rs-485-based DMX-512. DMX-512 predates USB, don’t ask why it doesn’t use rs-232 :)

    In other words, if you have a theatre lighting console, you can hopefully just plug these things in and control them like any other theatre light. If not, you may not be the target market.


  6. I actually love this project. I am relating the idea to something NASA did regarding greenhouses using only LED lighting systems due to the low power, high intensity and long life of the LED. I would love to expand on this idea to become a larger project. From what I’ve seen regarding LED lighting systems designed for greenhouses, they can get quite expensive (ex/350$US to effectively light a 4×4 area)…

    Thanks for this post!

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