Introduction: Animated Star Wars CNC LED Lamp Arduino Controlled

Picture of Animated Star Wars CNC LED Lamp Arduino Controlled

I'm really excited because this is my first ever Instructable! Before I get started I just want you to know that I am solely using the dictation option on an iPhone in the Instructables app. (So don't criticize me for my punctuation and grammar) :)

Secondly I want you to be encouraged that even if you're a novice you can do something like this or better!

Just a year and a half ago I had no experience or understanding of electronics. It was through reading other peoples indestructible's that I gained the understanding and ability to not only learn about electronics but also build my own CNC router!

So even if you're a newbie and it all seems overwhelming, don't give up! People are willing to help!

Step 1: Create a Design

Picture of Create a Design

Because I'm a beginner I didn't want to pay for an application to create G code. Instead I found a browser based program called "easel".

(Here is mine)

There may be others that are better out there, but this is the one I chose because it was the one that I learned about first.

I created a design with multiple layers overlaying different shapes to create the picture that I wanted.

I did lots of searches for black-and-white clipart because they seem to work the best for outlines.

After I created the full picture I went ahead and tried cutting it out on a piece of scrap MDF. It's good to make sure you have things scale properly prior to wasting material

Step 2: Separate Your Design Into Sections

Picture of Separate Your Design Into Sections

I created six copies of my original design and renamed each of them and numbered them.

After that I deleted all the extra elements that I did not want in each layer.

Here is a picture of the laser and explosion from the Death Star

Step 3: Cut Each Layer Separately.

Picture of Cut Each Layer Separately.

Based on the number of layers that you have created you will want to cut one single piece for each frame of your animation.

(Just a note, I found out the hard way that cast acrylic cuts a lot better then extruded clear acrylic. also it's better to have a layer of paper on the outside then a layer of plastic. I found the blue plastic layer bled into my clear acrylic under the heat of the router tip.)

Step 4: Build a Base to Hold Each Acrylic Layer.

Picture of Build a Base to Hold Each Acrylic Layer.

Since I used clear acrylic that was one quarter of an inch thick, are used to table saw to cut a 1/4 inch wide slot into a piece of wood. I made the depth of the cut half an inch. You could use one piece of wood for the whole display but I chose to use individual boards.

As you look at my pictures you see that I use the tablesaw to find center on each piece of wood so that way I was able to drill holes for the addressable LEDs perfectly.

After I had all my pieces cut for each layer I marked where I would want each LED to be. Are used addressable LED wire so I had to make sure that each LED was at least within 2 1/2 inches of each other. (Because that's the distance in between each LED)

I used a 1/2 inch drill bit to drill holes for each LED and was careful not to drill all the way through. The goal is to drill the half-inch holes just completely through to the point of the bottom of the quarter inch cut that the acrylic will sit in.

I used a brad nailer to connect each piece of wood together so that way the layers lineup in front of each other.

Since my sheets of acrylic were 12 inches wide I also cut the pieces of wood at 12 inches.

Step 5: Make Sure Your Base Is Elevated

Picture of Make Sure Your Base Is Elevated

Make sure your base is elevated enough to hold all electronics and LEDs. Since I already created the mounts for each acrylic layer I decided to make a base using leftover plywood.

If you want a base like mine you use a tablesaw cut equal strips with each strip having a 45° angle on each side.

If you have a compound miter saw lean the upper portion to 33.9° (there should be a mark on your miter saw). Then turn the bass to 31.6° (these are the same angles that you would use for crown molding. )

Now you said saw to cut the strips you use the table saw to cut and make sure your measurements are from short period to short point.

After all your pieces are cut use a brad nailer to assemble them all together.

Step 6: Add Acrylic Layers to Base

Picture of Add Acrylic Layers to Base

Arrange each single layer in order and then insert them into the base. I had to use a rubber mallet to force each layer and individually. Make sure all your layers are aligned and in perfect order.

Step 7: Add Addressable LEDs

Picture of Add Addressable LEDs

Turn the whole display upside down so that way you can insert LEDs into the half-inch holes that you previously drilled.

Make sure that you add the LEDs one layer at a time. This will help you later during the programming process.

I used WS 2811 addressable LEDs. When you look at them closely please note that there is in arrow. The arrow points in the direction of which way the data should go meaning the wires going into the first arrow will be the first LED in the series.

This is what I used.

Step 8: Complete Electronics Using Arduino

Picture of Complete Electronics Using Arduino

I bought a cheap 5 volt power supply off of eBay to power the LEDs and was pleasantly surprised that it will also power the Arduino

There are lots of tutorials and how you can incorporate Arduino's to control adjustable LEDs in my vision is to have my display completely animated but for now I am using the sample code that comes from the Adafruit website.

From the 5 V power supply connect a wire to the 5 volt pin on the Arduino, also connect another wire from the 5 V power supply to the positive 5 V input for the addressable LEDs

You will repeat the same process for the ground. From the power supply run to wires one to the ground side of the addressable LEDs and another to the ground pin on the Arduino

From pin number 6 (that is the suggested pin in the Adafruit code) Connect a Resistor that is 400 ohm. Connect a wire from the downhill end of that resister to the data input on the addressable LED strip. (That's it! Super simple!)

Step 9: Program Arduino

Picture of Program Arduino

If you haven't done this already, download the Arduino integrated development environment. It is a program found at download the program for whatever platform you're using to connect to the Arduino.

He will need to download a library. This is a batch of code that is specifically created for the purpose of different actions for the Arduino to perform. The library you need to download is Adafruit Neo pixel. I will include a link

After you incorporate this library to the IDE software you can run the sketch called strip test to power these LEDs.

The striptest sketch will cycle through various affects. (It's really need to see them all)

I'm still learning about sketches and writing the code so this is what I'm using for now.

In the software click verify and then upload the sketch to the Arduino. If everything is connected properly and the and the sketches installed onto the Arduino when you turn on your power supply the hard work will be rewarded!

Step 10: Enjoy Your Project

Picture of Enjoy Your Project

The great thing about this project is that you can change it to however you see fit. If you ever get sick of the animation you can cut new acrylic and add it in the base.

I'm certain I will improve mine in the future. I built the CNC router that I used to cut the acrylic so the cuts are a little sloppy. I will do a write up for my giant 10x6x2 foot budget CNC router in the future. (See pic)

If you have questions please feel free to ask! I also want to improve this tutorial so I appreciate your constructive criticism!

I added some pictures of some of my other CNC projects so you can be inspired.


random_builder (author)2017-02-14

This thing looks great! Congrats on grand in sci-fi!

llluis (author)2017-01-10

You must publish a video of the effect working!


joshuarw (author)llluis2017-02-12

I finally posted a short video of the strip test sketch running.

joshuarw (author)llluis2017-01-10

Hey guys, I'm working on that! As I said before I'm using the Adafruit Neopixle library. (I'm using the strip test sketch.) The animation is at the first part of the sketch loop by default. I want to do some fade and strobe effects. Do any of you have experience with this library?

BrownDogGadgets (author)2017-01-09

Can you share a video of the animation working?

joshuarw (author)BrownDogGadgets2017-02-12

I finally posted a short video of the strip test sketch running.

joshuarw (author)BrownDogGadgets2017-01-10

Hey guys, I'm working on that! As I said before I'm using the Adafruit Neopixle library. (I'm using the strip test sketch.) The animation is at the first part of the sketch loop by default. I want to do some fade and strobe effects. Do any of you have experience with this library?

zambuno (author)2017-01-09

Great! Would be cool if you can upload a small video to illiustrate the animation effect.

joshuarw (author)zambuno2017-02-12

I finally posted a short video of the strip test sketch running.

JenaboH (author)zambuno2017-01-25

that's what I've want to see too?!!

joshuarw (author)zambuno2017-01-10

Hey guys, I'm working on that! As I said before I'm using the Adafruit Neopixle library. (I'm using the strip test sketch.) The animation is at the first part of the sketch loop by default. I want to do some fade and strobe effects. Do any of you have experience with this library?

joshuarw (author)2017-02-12

joshuarw made it! (author)2017-02-09

This is a new one I did yesterday for the company I just started working.

RoguePirin (author)2017-01-23

Congratulations on the win in the CNC contest!

marsekal (author)2017-01-18

good job

aleutenegger (author)2017-01-17


joshuarw (author)2017-01-16

I really want that stainless steel mug!

joshuarw (author)2017-01-16

Thank you to everyone for all of the advice and votes for the contest. I'm really excited for what we will be able to do in the future

watchmeflyy (author)2017-01-13

Props to you for building your own CNC router and for creating the Star Wars themed project. :) I've been wanting to create something similar, so thanks for sharing!

bpark1000 (author)2017-01-11

The secret to engraving acrylic plastic is using a sharp carbide cutter, running the cutter insanely slowly (2000 RPM for 1/16" cutter), and feeding very slow. If you do, you will get a mirror finish in the cut and no melting at all. Are your cuts made from the backside? (Back cuts throw more light forward). A V-cut is best.

joshuarw (author)bpark10002017-01-13

As you can see that is where my final project is different from the design. I flipped the images around so they are back lit. Thanks so much for the cutting tips!

beardland1993 (author)2017-01-09

what font is that Adventure sign at the end?

joshuarw (author)beardland19932017-01-10

My wife designed it on photo shop, I will find out what font she used tonight!

beardland1993 (author)joshuarw2017-01-10

Thank you!

joshuarw made it! (author)beardland19932017-01-13

Here is the pic

joshuarw (author)beardland19932017-01-13

Its called "Coneria" lol

Here is a pic

tedrich (author)2017-01-10

I am thinking about building a CNC router. What can you tell me about the CNC in the photo? It looks DIY. I interested in the details like motors, lead screws, backlash control, bearings, rails, controller, software, etc...



kjo789 (author)tedrich2017-01-13

Check out my DIY - CNC. I answer all your questions.

CarnivalBen (author)2017-01-10

I love your half-tone routered picture... looks amazing. How did you do it?

joshuarw (author)CarnivalBen2017-01-10

I will do a write up when I have some time. There is a program called LazyCam. When you download the demo version of Mach3 it comes with it for free. LazyCam is a G code generator. That is what I used to make the picture of my boss.

Here is the link.

WallyssonN (author)2017-01-09

I want to make one of these, but how you built the bases with the cut wood at middle?

joshuarw (author)WallyssonN2017-01-10

I used a table saw to find center and moved the blade accordingly to mark center line to a proper depth.

s732563 (author)2017-01-10

Good question.

joshuarw (author)s7325632017-01-10

Are you asking about the half-tone?

TONIOA (author)2017-01-09

muy intersante proyecto, seria posible tener un video en funcionamiento? y una mejor traduccion al español....felicitaciones y gracias

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2017-01-08

Nice. I love how you could animate it by lighting up the different layers in series.

About This Instructable




Bio: (My Instagram) @joshuarwoolley I'm just a normal guy trying to learn as much as I can. I'm Moving to Ecuador in August to ... More »
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