posts tagged with the keyword ‘light’

2016.08.20

Star-Blinken

I’m still gathering material, but this is a project I’ve got planned for the Dark Room at Maker Faire Milwaukee that is titled “Star-Blinken”. (Enjoy the conceptual rendering above.)

I still need to construct the frame (probably from scrap wood at Milwaukee Makerspace) but there is a sheet of steel about 36″ x 29″ that will be covered in flashing LEDs each powered by its own battery and attached with a binder clip and a magnet.

I’ve seen a single LED blink, and even a few blink at once, but this will consist of over 200 LEDs all blinking at once, and at different rates… Star-Blinken!

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

2016.04.27

Traffic Lights

I recently repaired the traffic and walk signals at BBCM. The system had been running on a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) which failed, and rather than find the proprietary programming cable and find and install the PLC Windows software, I decided to just put an Arduino and relay control board in place.

Arduino and Relay Board

I had a Teensy++ 2.0 I had pulled from another exhibit during an upgrade, and an 8 channel relay board on hand. These relay boards come in different configurations from 1, 2, 4, 8, and even 16 relays. Since I really only needed 5 relays (and 5 pins) I could have used an ATtiny85, but I had the Teensy++ 2.0 readily available. The wiring is all done using female to female jumper wires.

Traffic Controller

I mounted everything to a piece of scrap MDF and added mounting holes to that, with the idea that we’d screw the whole thing directly into the wall. The relay board has mounting holes, but the Teensy does not. That’s probably my one complaint about the Teensy boards, is that mounting them isn’t always easy. My Teensy BOB has mounting holes, but for mounting this Teensy++ 2.0 I just used some 3M™ VHB™ tape. (The “VHB” stands for “Very High Bond”). And yes, there are a few 3D printed parts on there. At some point I should make a 3D printed holder/mount for a Teensy++ 2.0

Labels

I try to label things clearly. If I look at this thing in 6 months, or 2 years, or someone else has to look at it, I want it to be somewhat apparent what is what, so there’s not a lot of guesswork as to what is going on. I included a label with the name of the Arduino sketch, and I always like to label power supplies. Sometimes we use 5 volts, and sometimes 12 volts, and they typically have tiny hard to read type printed on the side of the power supply that you can’t see when it’s plugged in.

The one thing I should start to add to the labels is the URL of the wiki page where the thing is documented. (Next time I’ll do this.)

Controller Mounted

Here’s the controller mounted. It’s not pretty. We ended up re-using the mount that the PLC was in, rather than screwing it right into the wall. In my defense, we did this repair on the floor during open hours, and it’s mounted high on a wall behind a TV. Does it work? Yes… Is it awesome, no… but again, it totally works.

The wiring for the lights was all 12 VDC, not 110 VAC, so those thin gauge wires are fine. Also, they were labeled, which was handy. (Thanks previous person who worked on this and labeled things!)

Wiring Diagram

I try to create wiring diagrams for everything. I use Fritzing because it’s simple and awesome and open and free. I often don’t find the components I need, but you can always just use a note and some text.

Here’s the script/sequence for the lights:

  1. Green Light is ON
  2. Walk Light is ON
  3. Waiting 4 seconds…
  4. Walk Light is OFF
  5. Don’t Walk Light is BLINKING (for 5 seconds)
  6. Green Light is OFF
  7. Don’t Walk Light is ON
  8. Yellow Light is ON
  9. Waiting 4 seconds…
  10. Yellow Light is OFF
  11. Red Light is ON
  12. Waiting 6 seconds…
  13. Red Light is OFF
  14. Don’t Walk Light is OFF
  15. (Repeat sequence)

I wrote this up to figure out how to program things. I find it helpful to plan things out before I start writing the code.

At first I just talked through the light sequence with someone and we made some assumptions about how it worked. We were slightly wrong, which I discovered when I dug a bit deeper into traffic lights and walk signals. I read at least some of the (very long) Wikipedia page on Traffic Lights. I also hunted for other info, and found some on the Signals FAQ page on the Minnesota Department of Transportation web site. (As I mentioned with the 911 Phone I really do aim for an accurate and realistic experience with these things.)

It’s been a few weeks and the lights have been working fine. Hopefully that will continue to be the case. If something does stop working we’ll open a ticket for it so we have a record. And yes, we do use an issue tracker for our museum exhibits… doesn’t everyone?

2016.04.17

DecaLight

When we last saw the Decagon Light the scale model wasn’t functional… Well, it is now functional!

I spent a bit of time at Kenilworth Open Studios getting things wired up and writing some code. I wrote a bunch of functions to run different patterns. Each function can be called with two parameters, the delay (which specifies how long the light is on) and the number of loops the pattern should run. Right now there are just four functions, but they can be called differently, and put into iterative loops. (I’m sure I’ll write more as this project progresses.)

DecaLight

For this test I’ve got the DecaLight powered by a Teensy with one of my Teensy BOBs. There’s also a USB battery pack from Brown Dog Gadgets supplying portable power. The final version will probably use the Teensy but use an AC adapter for power.

Back of DecaLight

I reused a bunch of JST connectors that were chopped off some other wires to plug the LEDs into. There’s also plenty of pieces of wire and heat shrink holding it all together. At some point maybe I’ll build this into a much nicer looking unit.

Teensy + BOB

The combo of an OSH Park purple board with the SparkFun Pink Teensy 3.1 (Anouk Edition) makes this one of the most colorful PCB project I’ve worked on yet.

Here’s a quick video of the light in operation.

2016.04.02

decagon

One of the projects I’m working on for Maker Faire Milwaukee is something I call the “DecaLight” which will (hopefully) consists of a decagon-shaped structure with ten light bulbs that are controlled by a set of relays and can turn on and off in pre-programmed sequences. For those unfamiliar with the Decagon, it’s a 10-sided polygon (sometimes called a “10-gon”) and this specific model is a 9-simplex.

Design

Etched Wood

While I started with building a quick and dirty prototype I also decided to build a scale mode. I used the laser cutter at Brown Dog Gadgets to etch and cut a piece of 3mm Baltic Birch plywood.

LED bulb

While the full-sized version will use light bulbs, the scale model will use 10mm LEDs. I just drilled holes for the LED leads since I never got around to adding holes to the laser cutting file.

Painted

Sometimes printmaking techniques come in useful when not making prints. I spray painted the wood and after it dried I rolled on some black ink to make a pure black and white version. For the full size version I’ll be using a CNC router to cut grooves (pockets) and then paint those white while the top surface will be black.

Wood

Here’s the bigger prototype I worked on, which just has a piece of plywood with lamp sockets attached. I got the sockets for cheap from ebay, but they’re terrible.

Sockets

I later spotted some nice ceramic (rather than plastic) lamp sockets at Menards that were just a bit more than the crappy plastic ones, so I’ll probably switch to those.

Hopefully I can get the prototype working in the next week or so. I’ve still got plenty of time to complete the full-scale version, but even with 174 days until Maker Faire Milwaukee, that time will go fast!

A video posted by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on

2014.02.16

GE reveal Light Bulb

I received a GE reveal® LED Light Bulb and was asked to write about it. Besides being given the light bulb, I was not compensated in any other way. Also, I’m sort of a lighting nerd. I use lighting at work for photo and video production, and I’m very particular about much of the lighting in my home and office.

If you want to see some of the typical comparisons, check out the GE reveal® Lighting page. The info I’ll provide below is a bit different.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb

This is a standard compact florescent light bulb. I sort of hate CFL bulbs. I find the light they produce quite terrible, and the big clunky base of the bulb is annoying. From a design standpoint, I find the spiral ridiculous. I do like the energy saving potential of the CFL bulbs, and we do use some around the house, but overall I hate them.

Standard Light Bulb

This is a standard incandescent bulb. I love these bulbs. They tend to produce a nice quality light, and they are cheap, and the design is beautiful. When I think of a light bulb, this is what I picture. Of course, these are quickly becoming illegal (sort of) and being phased out. Sadly, at some point in the future, you won’t be able to buy incandescent bulbs in the United States anymore. Sadness!

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

This is the GE reveal Bulb, which, design-wise, is close to an incandescent bulb, which is nice, especially if you have shades that go directly on the bulb. (Yes, older lamp shades did have a metal clampy thing that went right on the bulb. I still have some of those lamp shades.) One of the benefits of this bulb is that it matches the physical shape and size of the old incandescent bulbs. That’s a big improvement over the CFL bulbs.

Lighting Difference

As for the quality of light, it’s a pretty nice light. I found it to be just a little cooler than the incandescent bulb… in a good way. I definitely like the light it produces. The LED bulb gives off a great light! Slightly better than the incandescent, and much better than the CFL.

One little annoying thing about the design is that you only get light from half of the bulb. I know this is due to having to shove all the electronics into the other half of the bulb, but I can see this causing issues in some situations where you actually do want light spilling out in every direction.

Old Time Light Bulb

I decided to put the bulb into place in my painting room where I’ve been using an incandescent bulb. Now, our house is old, and the light sockets are old, and this old incandescent bulb has been doing the job fine, probably for years and years, but…

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

When I put in the GE reveal Bulb, it did not work. I tried a few times. I also pushed the bulb up against the fixture, and no luck. It’s worth noting that the socket is a bit wobbly, but the LED bulb just did not work. Maybe there are some sockets it won’t work in?

I should also note that I weighed the three bulbs, because I was curious about the weight. The compact fluorescent bulb (the largest I have in the house) weighed in at 6.4 ounces. The good old incandescent bulb was 0.99 ounces. (Yes, it was less than an ounce!) The GE reveal LED bulb was a whopping 7.3 ounces. That’s a heavy bulb! I can see this causing some issues if you’ve got a lamp that may already be top-heavy. I guess if we’re moving to a world were we have to convert high-voltage AC power to low-voltage DC power in every bulb, that may be the price we pay.

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

I moved the GE Reval bulb to another socket and it worked fine. This light also had a metal shade on it which would normally reflect light down, but since the GE reveal bulb doesn’t really shine light up due to the half-bulb design, the shade probably doesn’t do much. But hey, the bulb worked… that’s good!

GE reveal LED Light Bulb

The good news is, the GE reveal bulb is suitable for damp locations, though it does warn that it is not for use in totally enclosed luminaires. This will limit where you can use this bulb. Even though incandescent bulbs can product a lot of heat, they can also stand a lot of heat, like inside your oven! The electronics used in an LED bulb are sensitive to heat, and may not survive being in an enclosed fixture. (And yeah, never use one in an oven!)

There’s one more feature of the GE reveal bulb I’m really excited about… it’s dimmable! Yes, there are dimmable CFL bulbs, but none of the ones I have are dimmable, and the ones that are seem to be pricey. Incandescent bulbs excel when it comes to dimming. I put the GE reveal bulb in our bathroom fixture and it did indeed dim. It did not go as dim as my incandescent bulbs, but hey, it did work. I then tested it in an X10 controlled lamp, and the results were much better, though there did seem to be a slight flicker at the lowest setting.

GE is marketing this bulb to people who want to have beautiful light in their home (or elsewhere) to “reveal” the decor and surroundings, and for that, I’d say this bulb does the job. It provides a lovely light, and is well designed. A quick search online revealed this bulb to cost about $20, which is ten times what you might pay for an incandescent bulb. Of course the LED bulb should be more energy efficient, and should last much longer. In theory.

So that’s my review of the GE reveal® Light Bulb. Pretty much everything in this review had to do with testing, evaluation, and my own opinion. Now that’s all of that is out of the way, I’ll put the bulb into place and give a real-world test for a while, and then if I have new insights, I’ll share those as well.

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