WS2812Bs, or NeoPixels, or whatever else you call them brought full-color LEDs to maker projects a meter at a time in recent years. Hooked up to a microcontroller, they make creating vibrant, full-color glowables a cinch. They won’t work on their own though, and a some point you want to ditch the dev board and let the blinking stand on its own two feet. Enter the USB LED Otter.
This small square of PCB lets you plug an LED strip directly into a USB port. The PCB itself has four traces on the back that mate with any USB port, and three pads for soldering the strip’s ground, 5 V line, and data. An STM32F072 microcontroller serves as the brains of the operation, packing plenty of horsepower and full compatibility with USB 2.0.
Code is flashed to the chip over USB using Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) and once written the strip can then be driven by jamming the string into a suitably powerful USB wall charger. The woman behind the build, [Jana Marie], has mentioned that Open Pixel Control could be implemented but that may be an exercise left to the reader.
It’s a useful little tool, and one that promises to do even more with a little more development. Whipping up a few boards should be an easy task for anyone with a reflow oven and a free weekend. Oh, and if you’re tired of the WS2812? There’s other addressable LEDs out there, too!