posts tagged with the keyword ‘light’

2018.11.15

giant-led-cube-02

This year my “big” project for Maker Faire Milwaukee was a Giant LED Cube. In this post I’ll talk about designing it, and in a follow up post I’ll talk about building it.

I should mention that the idea for this started maybe three years ago. I think it was during a meeting for Maker Faire at Milwaukee Makerspace and I tossed out the idea of building a giant light sculpture using light bulbs. Lance and Chris talked about it a bit and Tom started looking up parts on Alibaba. Nothing came of it that year, and I sort of forgot about it for a while. In fact, I really didn’t think about it again until after we completed the DecaLight last year. Once the two dimensional relay controlled light bulb thing was done I thought going three dimensional would be a good idea.

I modeled the cube in OpenSCAD, and then animated it just for fun. I figured out how many pieces of each PVC joint I would need, and while I originally thought a 20′ cube would be a good idea, after some initial tests (and the unavailability of 10′ PVC pipe) I ended up going with a 10′ cube so the 5′ PVC pipe I could get would work.

I picked up Jordan Bunker’s book PVC and Pipe Engineer: Put Together Cool, Easy, Maker-Friendly Stuff last year and then ended up learning about FORMUFIT which allows you to build furniture using PVC pipe. I had a plan!

giant-led-cube-01

Here’s the first sketch of the Giant LED Cube. By now I had decided that I would use LED light bulbs and standard household lamp sockets. The nice thing about using such common parts is that they are very cheap. I found these Black Bakelite Fixture Socket with Terminals and ordered some so I could test the fit. It was close enough that it would work, and I just needed to make a small adapter. Well, at least 27 small adapters.

giant-led-cube-04

I designed and 3D printed over 30 of these using clear ABS, which is remarkably close to being white, and since you wouldn’t really see them, I was fine with the close match. I cranked these out so I’d be ready when they were needed. Like many parts of this project, they are just press fit into place. The entire thing was designed to be easily assembled and disassembled for making transport and storage an simple affair.

giant-led-cube-03

I had the basic design of the cube figured out, so I decided to work on the controller. Since we’d have 27 LED light bulbs I decided to use an Arduino Mega, which had plenty of I/O pins, along with two 16 channel relay boards. LED light bulbs are pretty lower power (compared to incandescent bulbs, anyway) so even though they’re 110 volts AC, 27 bulbs all on at the same time probably pulled less than 6 amps.

The image above represents my first attempt at layout out the controller, which I eventually abandoned. The screw terminals ended up not being a good idea. I would be pretty busy running Maker Faire so I assumed that I could find helpers able to strip wire, put them into the screw terminals, and get it all right. After attempting this myself on a small scale I decided that it needed to be even simpler, and clear enough that almost anyone could do the setup. So I scrapped the screw terminals. Around this time I also decided that running all of the power cords inside the PVC was going to be tedious and difficult, so with the decision to just run the cords on the outside (at least for this installation) I decided to just use standard household plugs. This would allow nearly anyone to just match up some numbers and plug things in. Simple wins!

The design process for the Giant LED Cube wasn’t too difficult. Doing this like this (designing, specifying parts, building, etc.) is pretty much my day job. The wiring was definitely tedious, and required at least one unexpected hour-long troubleshooting session due to a bad connection. I had a lot of help with the wiring of the lights from Adrian, and a lot of help with initial assembly from Becky. Without their help things would have taken me a lot longer. (Thank You!)

I think I’ve spewed enough about this project for one post (which I wanted to get out last month!) so I’ll end it here and get working on Part II ASAP.

2017.10.02

decagon-light-a

It’s been a while since Decagon Light (Part II), but we’re here with Part III! Thanks to Jason we (mainly he) finally got around to do the CNC work for this monstrosity. Becky then wired it up while I worked on the programming. (Thanks, Brinn Labs!)

decagon-light

Below is the small prototype again…

A post shared by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on

Besides adding some new patterns, I modified the code so you can use any consecutive pins. For the LEDs I use pins 1 through 10, but for the lamps we’re using 2 through 11. (Don’t ask why.) I also added an logic flipper, because LEDs and relays work opposite, HIGH is LOW and LOW is HIGH, depending on which you are using, so yeah, a lot of the code writing was just to deal with the differences between two version of this thing. Anyway, I squashed the last bug today, so it’s all good. (I think.)

And here’s a short video of it in operation. There’s still work to do, but we’ve made great progress in the last two weeks. (And yeah, I really wanted it done before Maker Faire, but didn’t quite hit that deadline.)

You’ll notice the design of the lines changed a bit. It’s still a decagon (a 10-sided polygon) but it’s no longer a 9-simplex. It’s almost a 5-orthoplex, but not quite. If you can figure out exactly what it is, let me know.

2016.11.27

A New Light

I recently acquired this lighted sign that was made by Buchler Instruments. (It’s probably 30 years old since Labconco acquired Buchler Instruments in 1989.) I decided to tear it apart and replace the non-functional insides with an LED strip. I’ll also be adding some vinyl to the front plate, but I’ll save that for Part II of this project.

Here’s some of the tear-down process, in photos.

A New Light

The front plate sort of press-fits into place. It seems like it should slide in from the side, but it wouldn’t budge, so I was able to pull & pry it out the front.

A New Light

After the bulbs were removed, the back reflector came out. I mean, it came out with a lot of pulling and a bit of bending. You can see that this thing is a bit worn and dirty. Looks like it may have gotten wet or had some chemicals seep into it (or out of it.)

A New Light

Plenty of rust, dirt, and corrosion. This is a not a transformer I’d trust to use in the future. Luckily I’ll just need a 5 volt power supply.

A New Light

More nasty stuff. The contacts for the bulbs didn’t look bad, but there was enough crud elsewhere.

A New Light

Everything out! The wires were brittle, and falling apart. The hardware was rusted, and overall just a mess. Still, it was nice to see the construction of this thing, and admire some parts of it.

If I don’t use the existing reflector plate I’ll just make a new one. I could probably make one using foamcore since heat won’t really be an issue with the LEDs.

A New Light

That crackle finish is beautiful. Luckily the outside is in much better shape than the inside. Just a little bit of rust on the back, but nothing that will be noticeable.

2016.10.01

Star-Blinken

If you’ve not read the posts Star-Blinken, Star-Blinken LED Testing, and Star-Blinken Stand, they provide some good background on this project.

Inspiration

The inspiration came from something Kathy and I saw at Maker Faire Detroit. After seeing the “M” at the Henry Ford I remembered I had left over batteries, LEDs, and binder clips from the Learn to Solder kits I made for the Zoom Symposium at UWM.

I thought that since I had the leftover parts because of a UWM connection, I should find a way to get UWM involved again, so I persuaded my Physical Computing class to help. (And by “persuaded”, I mean I bribed my students into helping me with assembly of the piece.)

Paper

I didn’t have a piece of posterboard large enough to make the star I wanted, so I make five segments that could be assembled into a star.

Paper

Since I don’t have a printer capable of tabloid printing, I split the pieces into halves and printed on letter paper. Some assembly was required.

Paper

I cut the pieces and taped them together, and then had the “star legs” I needed. I then used it to cut the black posterboard using an X-ACTO knife and cork-backed steel edge ruler on a cutting mat. (Sorry, no laser!)

Posterboard

And yes… things didn’t fit right. Again, no laser. I trimmed edges a bit until things fit together right and it was deemed “good enough”.

Star-Blinken

I took the star pieces to Kenilworth and attached them to the piece of sheet metal with some magnets. At this point, I had to wait until the Thursday night right before Maker Faire, which luckily enough, is when I have class! I brought in some bags of candy, and while I taught students in groups of two or three how to solder, the rest of them assembled everything…

Star-Blinken

200+ pieces of black construction paper were cut for insulation, 200+ batteries were opened and had 200+ LEDs stuck onto them, 200+ binder clips had the clippy parts removed, and 200+ magnets were attached and then placed on the sheet metal. Things go fast with so many people helping!

Here’s the first test with the lights out, which we did during the DECODE meeting. It was impressive!

I then had to get Star-Blinken from the fifth floor of Kenilworth to my car, which was fun, because the Milwaukee Film event was setting up and Kenilworth was a bit crowded. The stand is heavy to prevent tipping, so I needed a cart. Also, since there’s no on/off switch, it blinks all the time. No control!

Star-Blinken

Star-Blinken

I loaded Star-Blinken into my car and yeah, it just kept on blinking! It was a fun ride home. It kept blinking strong all night long in the garage and then I unloaded it the next morning at Maker Faire. I ended up placing in at the entrance of the Dark Room, mainly because there weren’t other things there, but I think being in a darker area may have been even better. (I was a bit busy producing the event to worry about a better placement.)

Dana helped disassemble Star-Blinken at the Expo Center, and I asked her to just drop all the pieces into a box. After I loaded everything out and took it home, I forgot which box it was in and opening the box gave me a pleasant surprise. I then spent over an hour putting all the binder clips back together, and taking apart all the pieces.

The cost of this piece was approximately $100, and about $36 of that was for the batteries, which are the only parts that cannot be reused. (Well, actually, some of them have life left in them! Some did die though. None are at full power anymore.)

So I can reuse all the parts, except for the batteries, either in a similar piece in the future, or in the Learn to Solder kit. I may return the sheet metal to Tom from Milwaukee Makerspace, and the wood was disposed of. (The wood cost $0.00 as it was all scrap, and I reclaimed all the screws.)

This is just one post in a series, check out the other posts as well:

2016.08.21

LED Testing

I’ve been testing some flashing red LEDs with CR2032 batteries to see how long they’ll last. My first test confirmed that they’ll definitely go 48 hours, which is good, because they’ll have to last the duration of Maker Faire.

Here are my completely unscientific notes taken this week after starting a new test on Monday night.

Day/Time Status
Monday 11pm Extremely Bright
Tuesday 11pm Extremely Bright
Wednesday 10pm Very Bright
Thursday 11pm Somewhat Bright
Friday 6pm Not Quite Bright
Saturday 6pm Dim
Sunday 6pm Very Dim

I think we can expect three solid days of bright LEDs, and maybe another day or two of acceptably bright LEDs. Working backwards, this means that if we want the LEDs still going strong by 6pm on Sunday, we need to start getting them in place by Thursday night.

Hmmm, Thursday night is when I teach class. Perhaps I can just make this into a group project for my class, or maybe DECODE can lend a hand…

LED

This is just one post in a series, check out the other posts as well:

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