The 15×6 LED Matrix

Last wasn’t a very good year for projects (and this year honestly doesn’t look much different¬†ūüėź). Over the course of the year, I was trying to work up to a grand Christmas fountain show with an LED matrix backdrop. I got the backdrop worked out but nothing else… and even with the matrix actually working, I had no motivation to do anything with it.

It’s just been sitting around, collecting dust, and being a massive waste of space so, before I start pulling it apart, I figured I’d make a quick post to show it off.

For the power supply, I used one of those power supply boxes from China where you feed it 120v ac and it spits out 5v. I wanted the project to have its own voltmeter display (inspired by something I saw at Toronto’s Maker Festival last year) so I got that in place. I also wanted a large e-stop button but, in the end, I ended up with a simple switch.

Here is the completed 5v power supply. This one is rated at 2A but you can get ones that can put out many more times that current. These short terminal blocks make it easy to connect and disconnect things.

The matrix is setup on some foam core. One of the three panels was already a year old and was used in my 2016 Christmas light show. I made two identical ones and wired them together. The support pieces are made of scrap PVC pipe I managed to get. Everything else is tape and hot glue.

Here it is from the back, powered up. The glow from the front is also nice, but I realize if I were to do something like this again, I’d want a material that’s a little more transparent to get more light in front.

With the effort put into it, I’m actually quite proud of how it turned out. I just don’t like the amount of space it’s currently taking up while not having any motivation to anything with it so I’ll be pulling it apart. I’ll keep the panels seperated, and maybe use my sketchy 5v power supply in another project.

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TTC Light Map Build!

On December 17, 2017, the Toronto Transit Commission opened its new subway extension. With free rides on opening day, I had no excuse not to go check it out!

Along the way, they were handing out little goodies. One of the hot items many people were grabbing up were opening day subway map posters. For the longest time, I wanted to buy one of the subway maps they sell and fit it with LEDs but I never got around to it. Since a map was literally put into my hands, the motivation instantly came to get this project done.

Materials

1 x Subway map

2 x Sheets of black foam core board

75 x WS2812b LEDs

1 x Atmega328p Breakout Board (An old custom PCB of mine!)

1 x USBTinyISP MicroUSB module

1 x Toggle switch

1 x 5v 2A Power Supply Adapter

The Build

The process was straight-forward: Cut out the station holes, hot glue all of the WS2812B modules down, and then solder them all together. I did find that the module ends up getting hot enough to remelt the hot glue while soldering but it was still manageable even with small gooey messes along the way.

I initially put down Line 1, just to see how it would look before I did the rest of the system:

Despite the really unclean holes, it looked good enough to continue.

Lots of soldering and hot glue was involved…

I did run into issues on the first power on after soldering all of the LEDs. Reflowing some of the joints and replacing some of the wire fixed it.

The system uses an Atmega328p with a USBTinyISP microUSB module I picked up on eBay some time ago. It’s my first project using one of these. I’m definitely getting back on eBay to order more because they’re a dream to work with and it combines with my Atmega PCB perfectly.

I’m very happy with the way this project turned out. It feels great to kick off the new year this way!

Videos

I tweeted a video of it in action.¬†It’s also up on YouTube.

I’m planning on getting some hooks to hang it on my wall. I’m not sure what it will display once it’s up but for now it’s just playing the Demo Reel example sketch from the FastLED library.

MWH Projects LED Foam Core Sign!

Happy New Year: Clean up time!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

Thanks for reading!

A Dry Christmas (Light Show 8 Update)

In the first update for my next Arduino Light Show, I went through some of my experiments with my fountains. After some thought, I had planned on scaling it back but, in the end, I decided to scrap the fountains all together from the next light show. Despite the loss of the fountains, there are still new things to see!

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OK, so this is not really new. I made this weird Christmas tree last year. It was rather last minute so I didn’t do much with it. The¬†plan now is to incorporate it into a new Light Show. Actually, it’s going to be the main feature.

I did a little bit of cleaning up. I cut the base into a circle and painted it black, trying hard to avoid painting over the LEDs.

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Here’s¬†something new… well, again, sort of. I’ve done LED “spotlights” before by strapping 5mm LEDs to a servo motor. What’s new this time is that¬†I’m using two servo motors per spotlight to make it pan and tilt. I’m also using WS2812B LED modules like on the tree. More movement and color should make the spotlights more interesting than before.

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After testing out the concept, I made an army of four.

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Some LED tests.

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I painted the spotlights all black as much as I could so that they’ll blend into the darkness.

So that’s the current state of the next Arduino Light Show. I had some other ideas in mind¬†but I wanted to leave lots of time to get what I have here ready and programmed. We’ll see how the next little while goes. Thanks for reading!

Happy holidays! (Christmas project 2015)

Last year’s Christmas holiday project was the “Make A Wish” fountain show. My original plans for this year was to follow it up with an updated set but I couldn’t find the time or motivation to do it. Instead, I decided to do something simpler.

20151222_190705_001Behold!¬†A modern-style Christmas tree! It’s made out of foam-core board and has eight sides which are lit up by WS2812B addressable LEDs.20151222_190631With the room lights off, you can get a better sense of what I was going for. I am very happy with the way that it came together, considering how little time I gave myself. This was almost all done on a Sunday.20151221_193338It’s one of my larger projects, with the base being 50x66cm and the “tree” standing at 52cm. I’ll have to find somewhere to put it because I would love to work with it next year.20151222_190933_022One amusing observation which I hadn’t planned for was the fantastic pattern the project projects onto the ceiling.

Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope to find some time to write up a year-in-review-style post as I did last year. Stay tuned!

The lamp that WAS meant to be! (WS2812B LED Box)

A little while ago, I was experimenting with a WS2812B LED and toying with the idea of making a basic lamp. Things didn’t work out and the project was scrapped¬†but¬†I still had the internals of it ready on a breadboard so I gave it another go, while¬†taking in some inspiration from the comments on that post which mentioned a product that’s more or less¬†a small table-top spotlight.

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From my previous experiments, I already had a WS2812B LED soldered to some wires. For this project, I used only 22AWG stranded wire. For isolation and to hold things in place, I used hot glue.

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With the LED ready, I started by putting one of my Attiny85 breakout boards onto the perfboard.

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I then completed the soldering of the LED and potentiometers to the perfboard. The potentiometers are all connected to each other by Vcc and Ground. It seems like the connections in between one another weren’t very good as the LED would go wild at times, changing color¬†or blinking for no reason. After some wiggling with the wires, I found which connections were weak and reflowed them.

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… But even reflowing the connections didn’t work. The only thing that did fix the problems¬†was putting force on the connections in a certain way. Once I got it working, I quickly hot glued everything. I know that’s horrible, but, being such a no frills project, I’m not very concerned. After the circuit was completed, I trimmed down the perfboard since the rest of it wasn’t needed.

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The potentiometer and LEDs were all 5mm^2 so it wasn’t difficult cutting out appropriate sized holes for them. I first put in the LED and taped it to hold it in place before adding hot glue.

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After the LED was in place, I fed the power supply wires (female jumper wires) through a hole I cut near the bottom corner of the box. The potentiometers come with a washer and nut so I didn’t need any hot glue to keep those in place. This is my¬†first time using these kind of potentiometers in a project and, even without fancy knobs, I think they look great. They certainly look better than tiny trimpots, which is what I would have used otherwise.

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And that’s it! The placement of the potentiometers was planned specifically to double as a way to lay the box down on an angle.

I hope you liked this simple project of mine. I recently ordered a set of these LEDs for an idea for the next Light Show.

PS. My main website, www.mwhprojects.com, was recently updated!

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!