The lamp that wasn’t meant to be

Some time ago, I bought a few WS2812B addressable RGB LED modules. I’m still committed to using them in the next Light Show, whenever I get around to designing and building the next one. In the meantime, I wanted to make a simple project to play around a little more with these LEDs.

I decided to make a makeshift lamp. The lamp would be controlled by at Attiny85 board with a few potentiometers to control the intensity of each color.IMG_20150627_201909 After many thought out cuts, I abandoned the project. It became apparent that it would just look too silly and be too large for my limited desk space. Pictured above is the post and the top that would hang out on the top to hold the LED module.

IMG_20150718_131232I still wanted to test the LED modules out with the Attiny85 to see for myself that they can work on the small microcontroller (in comparison to the Atmega328p/Uno). I used the Adafruit Neopixel library and a USBtinyISP to program it. The code wouldn’t upload unless I burned the bootloader to use the internal 8MHz clock instead of the 1MHz clock. Otherwise, it worked great.

I would still like to make a small project with these LED modules, outside of the Light Show project. I need to brainstorm a little more.

Thanks for reading!

Here they are…

IMG_0001smAfter my little update post yesterday, the WS2812B LEDs decided to show up today. Despite taking longer than other packages from China usually do, I will say it was packaged well. It came in a properly-sized envelope and the LEDs themselves were in an antistatic bag (the first I’ve seen from any Chinese eBay seller) wrapped with bubble wrap. I’m impressed because I usually see things come from China in the smallest possible envelopes with things wrapped in plastic wrap. Anyways, let’s take a look at the LEDs themselves.IMG_0002smThese modules are a lot smaller than I was expecting (I’ve never used WS2812B LEDs before). I found them kind of tricky to solder cleanly.

Yesterday after I made that post, I started designing a single LED module similar to these but they have through hole pads to make the wire connections or add headers. After struggling to make solder connections on these look good, I’m still inclined on doing my own WS2812B boards to make it more convenient to solder a chain of them together.

To be fair, though, a smaller gauge wire may have helped here.

IMG_0003smI was up and running minutes after soldering them together, thanks to Adafruit’s NeoPixel library and the newest Arduino IDE that makes it so easy to install through the library manager. These LEDs are very bright and they produce colors that look better than the “dumb” RGB LEDs I’ve been using so far with the Light Show and other projects. I’m sold on going forward with these LEDs in my projects, even with the higher cost. I’ll need to familiarize myself with the library more before I can actually start adding them into projects.

Where are my LEDs?

I haven’t done any work on the old Light Show for a while because I’ve been waiting for some WS2812B LED modules from an eBay seller in China. It’s been so long that I’m thinking of just making my own WS2812B modules. I was hesitant about doing that in the first place since I’ve never used these LEDs before, but, besides the cost, there’s not many reasons why I shouldn’t try. I can get the WS2812B LEDs and capacitors from a local (well, within the province) supplier and the PCBs take about two weeks to manufacture and get here if I pay for fast shipping…

Thanks to the popularity of these LEDs, it’s not hard to find the resources I need. I’d like to try other PCB layouts in addition to the simple single LED board. I think this could turn out to be a really fun project! I will have more to share on this when I get a little more of it completed.

While we’re still on the topic of the Light Show, a few other parts came in for some upgrades. I purchased 5 more pumps which look better than the original pumps. My intention was to have them as spares to replace any of the pumps that don’t perform well, but now I’m considering expanding the number of fountains. The main challenge with that is finding or building a larger pool since the current container is too small for that. I also got some new mosfets in so I can redo the circuit for the pumps. I’ll have to decide how many pumps I’m going to be working with before I get to that…

As a side note, a new PCB design of mine should be here by the end of the week so stay tuned for that as well!

Let’s talk effects

The Light Show Project is an ongoing experiment. We’ve seen it built up to include elements like RGB LEDs (from the first shows with single colored LEDs), servo motors, and water pumps/fountains. I like to try adding something new with every show so that’s something fresh to play around with to make each show a little more unique to each other.

IMG_0001sm

In the next show, I’d like try incorporating a continuous servo motor somewhere. One of my ideas was to try and create an effect like scrolling stars or dots that would shine on the backdrop towers of the light show. The experiment with a rolled piece of cardboard with holes punched in it didn’t work very well. I was hoping the light from the LED would be brighter since I was using a resistor that would get the rated 20mA through the LED. I also think that the scale is too small to be able to produce any decent effect on the full width of the backdrop. If anything, I wouldn’t use the motor for this and just have a line of cardboard with poked holes and several white LEDs behind it.

IMG_0007sm

Then I started experimenting with this foil tape that’s used to seal air ducts. I covered the same rolled piece of cardboard. It created a sort of water reflection on surfaces but it’s very subtle. I think the foil tape can be used in other applications, like covers over some of the LEDs to make a more focused beam of light. The foil is conductive so it will need some insulation of the LED leads are inside of that. That’s for another experiment.

I want the starlight effect because I’d like to go back to mixing several songs within one show so we can have an array of song genres in one video, from fun pop party song to a gentle slow song, which is where the stars effect would come in. I’m still thinking of how to go about it. Stay tuned!

Investing in the lights

A few days later after ordering a few things off of eBay, there’s now more to come. I did a little experimenting on the fountains yesterday and, well, I broke things.

IMG_0001One of the things I’m changing with the fountains is the power supply. I’m upping it to a 9v power supply. To make it easier to move around the project or to swap the power supply again, I’m using these 9v clip connectors. IMG_0003I started taking apart the fountains to set up my experiment. I will move the current-limiting resistors for the fountain LEDs from the mini-breadboard to a soldered perfboard. I’m also planning on soldering the shift register boards directly to the perfboard since these LEDs will be running off of shift registers the next time you see them. I still need to draw up a plan to confirm the number of pins I need and things like that.

IMG_0001Anyways, on to that experiment! There were a few of things I wanted to test. I had some ideas on new nozzle designs, as well as “piping” designs where the pump would be placed away from the actual nozzle outlet. The last thing was to see if the 9v power supply would play nice with my current setup.

The picture above is of a new nozzle design that takes cues from the experiment I did with the last light show. The opening is slightly larger this time and the flow is pretty decent. The flow gets a little rough as the height is increased or if the water is aimed directly straight up. Those are the limits to using the cheap materials and pumps I’m using. The easy work around is to not aim it directly up, which looks good enough for me.IMG_0002About the “piping” design… I was thinking about trying to isolate the pumps from the turbulent water caused from the water falling pretty much directly onto the water going into the pump, which does cause the pumps to fail at times. I started playing around with the straws I have and I think this is something I’ll be trying out the next time. Of course, the picture above is literally just playing around with water. You’re not going to see random straws sticking up from the pool in the show. 😛IMG_0003This was the aftermath of those piping experiments. I’m pretty satisfied with my short experiments. To sum up, the pumps will be at the back of the pool and the nozzles positioned away from the pumps using the straws. They’ll sport that new nozzle design (though I’m still working on being able to reproduce them consistently). Now about that 9v power supply…IMG_0004It seems as though I’ve burned out three of the 5 transistor circuits. I used 2N4401 transistors because I already had them when I was building the circuit for the fountains. I’ll be moving to mosfets as I’ve always wanted to.

Those mosfets have been ordered on eBay. I also ordered some more of these 5x7cm perfboards, and five more water pumps. I’m not so sure we’ll see all 10 water fountains in the next show (but anything is possible, right?). I mostly ordered them as spares.

So that’s it for now. The project is again on the backburner as I wait for things to come in. Thanks for reading!

Debut [of sorts]: “How we do it”

The light show that never was… Enjoy these 15 seconds!

Another scrapped #arduino light show…

A post shared by Matt (@mwhprojects) on

The challenge of this one was to see what I could come up with using my updated shift register boards (which are available  on Tindie!). In the previous light shows that used my older shift register boards, I couldn’t use any PWM because those boards didn’t have the Output Enable pin broken out to use. My new ones do so I really want to see what I could do with them. Each color has its own shift register board, with an extra shift register board dedicated to all colors of the LEDs attached to the servos. I like some of the effects I made up and I hope to continue working on it so I can come up with something better with another song in the future. It’s “How We Do It” by Lights, by the way.

Thanks for visiting the blog!

Moving on

It’s kind of depressing when you think about it, but my ESP8266 project is held up by two little switches I need that are somewhere in the mail. It’s going to sit off to the side until those switches come, so I thought I’d shift gears and give you a quick preview of what’s coming up.

RF Transmitter and Receiver

IMG_0001I’ve never been much of a communications guy. Protocols and accommodating for noise and interference and all that has always been confusing/boring to me, but I seem to be tip-toeing toward it these days. I received two RF transmitter and receiver pairs in the mail today. I didn’t have a project idea in mind when I ordered them, but they’re so cheap that I figured it would be would be nice to have lying around if I did come up with something one day. I’m still drawing up a plan, though I think it’s only natural that I try to use that temperature sensor that was originally destined for the ESP8266 project. I haven’t done enough research to see what is and what is not doable with this pair so I can’t confirm anything just yet.

bbIn the ESP8266 project, I have three mini-breadboards that each have a main purpose on them: One for my AMS1117 power regulator, one with the sensors, and one with the ESP8266 module. I decided to try and combine two of them so I could free up one so I could use it to play with the RF pair. I managed to cram the AMS1117 and ESP8266 onto one mini-breadboard… As long as it still works, it’s fine. I hope that this project will be on a perfboard soon anyway.

74HC595 Shift Register Boards Rev B / Light Show 7

I hadn’t mentioned it before but I sent the next revision of my 74HC595 boards to get manufactured and they are on their way to me right now. I’m pretty excited to see how they turn out because they are my first manually routed board.

I’m also excited because it’s part of some upgrades I want done to the Light Show Project before I start programming a new show. These new shift register boards break out the Output Enable pin which allows for some PWM control. The backdrop will definitely have that, but I’m also considering having all LEDs in the project controlled by shift registers, including the fountain LEDs which have always been controlled directly from the Arduino. There are advantages and disadvantages to that but, either way, I plan on taking a close look at how everything is wired.

In addition to working on the wiring, I’m still looking for ways to make it even bigger. For every version of the show, I watch the show and pick out things that I want to focus on. What I realized with Light Show 7 is that it’s not designed very well to watch on a widescreen… We’ll see what comes of that.

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more!