MWH Projects LED Foam Core Sign!

Happy New Year: Clean up time!


I spent the last weeks of 2016 and the first weeks of 2017 cleaning up my electronics and projects storage areas. I’m happy with how most of my areas are now, especially my soldering work station pictured above. I moved the power supply from the main work table to the shelf above so now I have lots more room to work on. Of course, it would be nice to have more but it is what it is.

First project of 2017: MWH Projects Sign!


I came up with this rather quick project for my first project for 2017. It would be a basic sign for my MWH Projects “brand” or whatever you may call it. The idea was to have nice clean lettering on a base with some LEDs. To make the letters, I printed out an outline of the MWH Projects text in Photoshop, taped it on some foam core, and carefully cut away at it.

The “MWH” was very easy since it’s all straight lines and large letters. The smaller “Projects” text was a little more difficult. I didn’t like the jagged rough edges so I soaked them in white paint. It gave the letters a rough texture but cleaner corners and curves.


The base was a simple box made out of black foam core board. I hot glued on the “projects” text before working on the LED circuit.

There are three WS2812B LEDs in this project which are controlled by my Attiny85 breakout board. For power, I’m using 3-AA batteries and a step-up converter to get it up to 5V. I’m not sure if the step-up was necessary but, at the time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be using 2 or 3 AA batteries.


All of the parts fit nicely inside of the box, except for the battery holder which is stuck onto the back of it.


And that’s it! I think it looks pretty nice, although the holes for the LEDs could be a bit cleaner.


Speaking of the holes for the LEDs, I actually used a drill bit the size of the WS2812B round PCB modules. Leaving it like that, it wasn’t putting enough light on the letters so I cut a little more around them. I wasn’t sure I liked how the lights were showing on the letters but, after a while, I got used to it.


I’ve been finding myself stuck on project ideas so I’m super glad this project worked out well.

Thanks for reading!

Revisited: Desk Lighting Project (v3)

For the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with adding LED lights to my desk. The first time, I basically scattered 5mm LEDs all over my desk. The second time, I used a decorative LED string of lights. Now, I’m onto 12v LED strips! For this revisit, my workstation next to my computer desk will also get some lighting too.

IMG_20160810_191527I took the switch enclosure and enlarged the hole to fit two new switches. I used hot glue to fill any gaps and black paint to make it blend with the color of the enclosure. There’s something about this process that’s just so satisfying!

IMG_20160811_154919The switches basically open and close the positive connections of the two LED strip segments. All of the grounds are connected together. It’s a very simple circuit that did not take very long to put together.

20160811_163944The longest part was organizing the cables and strips. The switch panel is in a lower position so it doesn’t exactly blend in quite as well as it did before. The reason that it’s so low is that the cord for the power supply is much shorter so it wouldn’t comfortably reach the power strip outlet.

20160811_163928 The LED strip is much brighter than any of my previous attempts at adding lights to this desk.

20160811_163936This is my workstation with the LED lighting. This has actually had the LED strip installed for a while now but I was using the lab power supply to power it, which was noisy. It had a hand in motivating me to get this project done.

20160811_172920My battlestation’s getting better.

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.


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.


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!

DIY LED Bargraph

I’m planning on revisiting my 74HC595 shift register boards in Eagle soon. One of the things I want to add in the next revision is a breakout to the Output Enable pin which allows you to have some PWM control. I never tried it before so I started setting it up to test it. I don’t have any larger breadboards available so I had to use a mini-breadboard. I didn’t like having to lay out the LEDs and resistors, especially on these smaller breadboards, so I put together a line of LEDs on a perfboard. I didn’t bother going on eBay to buy some of those LED bargraph DIPs because I bought a bunch of things on eBay over the holidays so I didn’t want to waste any more time or money.IMG_0001Anyways, here it is connected to a shift register. The PWM worked just fine, though I think it may have looked better on a different color.IMG_0003I already had this piece of perfboard sitting around so I’m pretty happy that the design is pretty optimized. Everything fits on the board without too much wasted space. The 8 pin female header leads to the anodes of each LED and the single female header on the right is connected to all of the cathodes of the LEDs.
IMG_0004Soldering didn’t go too smoothly because I need to find a better tip for my iron. The one I used was a conical tip which doesn’t transfer the heat very well. I have another tip with a flat edge, but the edge is too wide for my liking.

Anyways, that’s it for this quick show-and-tell. Thanks for reading!

Let’s get going on Light Show 7!

In this post, I want to lay out the plan for Light Show 7.

I still don’t have a drawn sketch of the plan but I have a pretty good idea of what I want in my head. The backdrop and the fountains will not be attached together which allows me to build both separately and place them together when I’m ready to program. My goal is to finish building it in 2 weeks, which leaves one week to program if I want to make it for the end of November. (The first, and possibly only, show will be the Christmas/holiday show.) I’ve been procrastinating getting started so I finally pushed myself to start working on it today.

IMG_0348As I talked about a while ago in an experiment, the backdrop will be made up of towers lit up by “floodlights”, or RGB LEDs. There will be 7 of these towers and the dimensions of each tower is 1″ x 1″ x 10.5″. I scored lines on the back of the cardboard so that the cardboard would be influenced to bend in a straight line when I folded it into a rectangular tower.IMG_0349In the previous experiment, I scored the front of the tower which made clean sharp corners, but I think the smoother corners from bending it this way might look better. I’m still thinking of something to top each tower with, if anything. They won’t be standing this close to each other when the stage is put together, it was just for the sake of taking the picture on my desk. The plan is to place them all on a base which will also have the RGB LEDs for each tower planted on so that it all stays together. This is the part where I need to draw out a complete plan.

I won’t be posting everything I’m doing for the new show because I want it to be as surprising and exciting as it can be. I will do a photo tour of it after the show debuts as I’ve done with previous shows. You can probably guess what will be included anyway when I say that this show is pretty much a combination of all of the Light Shows I’ve done thus far. Stay tuned! I don’t plan on leaving you completely in the dark!