LEDs From Dubai: The Royal Lights You Can’t Buy

[Clive] had an interesting video about LED lights from Philips. You can’t buy them unless you live in Dubai. Apparently inspired by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who wanted more efficient and longer-lasting bulbs. The secret? A normal LED bulb uses an LED “filament” at 1 watt each. The Dubai bulbs run at about a fourth of that which means they need more LEDs to get the same amount of light, but they should last longer and operate more efficiently.

After exploring the brightness and color of different lamps, [Clive] tears one up and finds some surprises inside. The LEDs get over 200V each and the driver circuit has a lot of pairs of components, possibly to keep the size small for the high voltages involved, although it could be to improve reliability, [Clive] wasn’t sure.

By reducing the power, [Clive] was able to count that each LED strip contains 21 LEDs. He also notes some of the oddities in construction that appear to be for reliability and ease of manufacturing. We aren’t sure how that compares to the construction of conventional bulbs. The circuit includes a bridge rectifier and a linear current regulator using a MOSFET.

The bulbs cost a bit more, but if you factor in the probable long life, their total cost over time should be reasonable. Overall, it is interesting that a nice design came from what amounts to government regulation. Of course, there is a price: in exchange for the development of the bulbs, Philips has the exclusive right to make and sell the bulbs for the next several years. They expect to sell 10 million lamps by the end of 2021, although they are only available, currently, in Dubai.

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Dynamic Map Of Italy On A PCB

While most PCBs stick to tried-and-true methods of passing electrons through their layers of carefully-etched copper, modern construction methods allow for a large degree of customization of most aspects of these boards. From solder mask to number of layers, and even the shape of the board itself, everything is open for artistic license and experimentation now. [Luca] shows off some of these features with his PCB which acts as a live map of Italy.

The PCB is cut out in the shape of the famous boot, with an LED strategically placed in each of 20 regions in the country. This turns the PCB into a map with the RGB LEDs having the ability to be programmed to show any data that one might want. It’s powered by a Wemos D1 Mini (based on an ESP8266) which makes programming it straightforward. [Luca] has some sample programs which fetch live data from various sources, with it currently gathering daily COVID infection rates reported for each of the 20 regions.

The ability to turn a seemingly boring way to easily attach electronic parts together into a work of art without needing too much specialized equipment is a fantastic development in PCBs. We’ve seen them turned into full-color art installations with all the mask colors available, too, so the possibilities for interesting-looking (as well as interesting-behaving) circuits are really opening up.

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Smart Power Delivery For Long LED Strips

Addressable LED strips, most commonly using the WS2812B, have revolutionized the pursuit of the glowiest and flashiest of builds. No longer does a maker have to compromise on full RGB color or number of LEDs due to the limitations of their chosen microcontroller, or fuss around with multiplexing schemes. However, the long strips of bright LEDs do have an issue with voltage drop on long runs, leading to dimming and color irregularities. Thankfully, [Jan Mrázek] has come up with a useful solution in the form of the Neopixel Booster.

The device consists of a small PCB which packs a 5 volt regulator capable of putting out up to 4 amps. It’s designed with pads that match typical Neopixel strips, such that it can be neatly soldered in every 50cm or every 60 LEDs or so. Each booster PCB is fed with a set of fat power wires, at between 6-18 volts. This allows electricity to be fed to the full length of the strip at higher voltage, and thus lower current, greatly reducing resistive power losses. By having several regulators along the length of the strip, it helps guarantee that the whole length of a long run is receiving plenty of voltage and current and can light up the correct color as desired.

It’s a well thought out solution to a frustrating problem, and [Jan’s] efforts on the design front mean that a 5 meter long waterproof strip can be converted in around about an hour. We can imagine this could be manufactured into strips in future, too. If you’re wondering what to do with all those LEDs, consider making yourself a custom display.

Replacement LED Light Build Uses A Few Tricks

Microscopes have become essential work bench tools for hackers, allowing them to work with tiny SMD parts for PCB assembly and inspection. Couple of years back, mad scientist [smellsofbikes] picked up a stereo microscope from eBay. But its odd-sized, 12 volt Edison-style screw base lamp, connected to a 17 volt AC supply, burned off after a while. He swapped the burnt lamp with the spare, which too blew up after some time. Dumb lamps. Maybe the original spec called for 24 volt lamps, which were unobtanium due to the odd Edison screw base, but those would throw out a pretty yellow-orange glow. Anyhow, for some time, he worked with a jury-rigged goose neck lamp, but frequently moving the microscope and the lamp was becoming a chore. When he got fed up enough about it, he decided to Build a Replacement LED Microscope Light.

Usually, such builds are plain vanilla and not much to write in about, but [smellsofbikes] has a few tricks worth taking note of. He found a couple of high power, SMD LEDs in his parts bin. They were just slightly wider than 1.6 mm across the terminals. So he took a piece of double sided, copper clad FR4, and edge mounted the LED against one side of the PCB piece, twisting it slightly so he could solder both terminals. This works as a great heat sink for the LED while still having a very narrow profile. This was important as the replacement LED board had to fit the cylinder in which the original lamp was fitted.

The LED is driven by a constant current buck regulator, powered by the original 17 volt transformer. A bridge rectifier and several filter capacitors result in a low ripple DC supply, for which he used the KiCad spice functionality to work out the values. The LM3414 driver he used is a bit off the beaten track. It can run LEDs up to 60 watts at 1 amps and does not require an external current sense resistor. This was overkill since he planned to run the LED at just 150 mA, which would result in a very robust, long lasting solution. He designed the driver PCB in KiCad, and milled it on his LPKF circuit board plotter. The nice thing with CNC milled PCBs is that you can add custom copper floods and extend footprint pads. This trick lets you solder either a 0805 or a 1206 part to the same footprint – depending on what you can dig up from your parts bin.

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A Wi-Fi Enabled Dog!

Our canine friends have been at our side for millennia, their prehistoric wolf ancestors evolving alongside us into the breeds we know today. But astoundingly until now no dog has been Wi-Fi enabled, at least according to [Entropy], whose dog [Kaya] now sports a colourful Wi-Fi enabled collar.

Light-up dog collars and harnesses have been with us for a while, and serve the very useful purpose of protecting the animals from accidents by making them visible at night, but [Kaya]’s colar was a particularly disappointing example. Its single light and lacklustre optical fibre coupled with disappointing battery life left much to be desired, so when it broke there was ample excuse to upgrade it. In went a strip of addressable LEDs and an ESP32 module, along with an 18650 lithium-ion cell. We’re a bit unsure whether lights can be controlled from a mobile phone, but perhaps the most significant benefit lies elsewhere. The Wi-Fi hotspot from the ESP32 serves as a beacon to find [Kaya] within a short distance should she wander off, which as any dog owner will tell you can be a boon when they’re investigating some fascinating new smell and ignoring your calls. You can see her modelling the collar in the video below the break.

Canine hacks appear on these pages from time to time. One of our favourites is this not very successful but highly amusing remote controlled dog.

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Building A Website-Controlled Christmas Tree

Back in the day, Christmas lights were simple strings of filament bulbs, and if you really splashed out, you could get some that flashed. These days, we expect a lot more capability out of our blinking decorations. [JT] has put together a rather nifty website-controlled setup for his own tree.

The setup is a little different than builds you may be used to. The website runs on a cloud-hosted virtual machine on Digital Ocean, rather than running locally. This allows anyone on the web to visit the site, and use the interface to control the lights on the Christmas tree. An image of the tree is used as the interface, and allows users to set the color of each individual LED on the tree. The LEDs themselves are driven from an NodeMCU ESP8266, which uses its WiFi connection to query the website itself and grab the color data as needed. [JT] has also included a secondary interface, where the chat of the Youtube livestream can be used to control the LEDs, too.

It’s a build that’s a touch more complicated than most typical online LED blinkers, but one that teaches useful skills in interfacing on the web and using virtual machines. We’ve seen other builds in this genre too; even some that are reactive to “Christmas fever” itself. Video after the break.

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DIY 8-Bit Computer Knows All The Tricks

Some projects are a rite of passage within their respected fields. For computer science, building one’s own computer from scratch is certainly among those projects. Of course, we’re not talking about buying components online and snapping together a modern x86 machine. We mean building something closer to a fully-programmable 8-bit computer from the ground up, like this one from [Federico] based on 74LS logic chips.

The computer was designed and built from scratch which is impressive enough, but [Federico] completed this project in about a month as well. It can be programmed manually through DIP switches or via a USB connection to another computer, and also includes an adjustable clock which can perform steps anywhere from 1 Hz to 32 kHz. Complete with a 1024 byte memory, a capable ALU, four seven-segment LEDs and (in the second version of the computer) a 2×16 LCD disply, this 8-bit computer has it all.

Not only is this a capable machine designed by someone who clearly knows his way around a logic chip, but [Federico] has also made the code and schematics available on his GitHub page. It’s worth a read even without building your own, but if you want to go that route without printing an enormous PCB you can always follow the breadboard route.

Thanks to [killergeek] for the tip!

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