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Bling out your Breadboard (how to add LED power indicator to Solarbotics transparent breadboard)

Picture of Bling out your Breadboard (how to add LED power indicator to Solarbotics transparent breadboard)
These transparent breadboards are much like any other electronics breadboard, but they are clear! So, what can one do with a clear breadboard? I think the obvious answer is add a power LEDs!

 
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Step 1: Here are the parts

Picture of Here are the parts
Here are the parts we'll be using:
1 x 200 point 21030 transparent breadboard
1 x Super ultra-bright LED (Red)
1 x Super bright LED (blue)
2 x 100 ohm resistors
1 x 2-pin header (optional)
1 x Breadboard Voltage Regulator Kit (optional - it's just a convenient 5V power supply)

(here's a bundle link for all the necessary parts)

Tools:
Drill with 3/8" bit (5mm works better)
Hot-glue gun
Soldering tools

Step 2: Prepare the LEDs

Picture of Prepare the LEDs
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Unless if your LED is already a flat-top, you'll have to grind/sand/cut it down to that the top is flat, and not far (within 1mm or 3/16") from the LED glowing element. There's not that much room to shove a whole LED in.

We used a sanding belt to bring it down to size, but see how it leaves the top an opaque white? Here's a trick: Rub the flat face against a sheet of paper for a full minute. It brings up the polish quite well, and if the face is fairly smooth, you can almost get it back to stock clarity.

Step 3: Drill the hole

Picture of Drill the hole
You don't need to measure - just watch how far in the drill bit goes! Go in as far and as close as you are comfortable (don't hit the metal breadboard rails), and clear out the drilled plastic.

Step 4: Install the LED

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Just don't go jamming it in! Figure out what lead is the cathode (-) and anode (+). The anode is the longer of the two leads. You want this on the top, so it lines up best with the positive power rail.

Use a dab of hot-glue to hold the LED in the hole. If you used a 3/16" drill bit, it may be tight. You might have to redrill it out by wiggling the drill bit side-to-side to open up the hole diameter a bit.

NOTE: If and when you do the LED on the other side, the polarities will reverse because you will be approaching the power rails from the other end. Make sure you keep your anode (+) and cathode (-) / red / blue rails sorted out!

Step 5: Add the 100 ohm Resistor

Picture of Add the 100 ohm Resistor
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Bend up the longer LED anode (+) lead so it's poking up near the top of the breadboard.

Clip off one resistor lead so you have about 3/8" of an inch (5mm) and bend it 90 degrees down. Stick this end into the last hole of the negative (blue) rail so the other end hangs out over the end of the breadboard.

Bend this overhanging lead down so it contacts the lower LED leg, and solder them together. Snip off the extra and save it.

Snip your 2-pin header in half (or use whatever pin you have handy - even other resistor clippings), and stick it in the last hole on the "+" rail (nearest red stripe).

Remember that extra lead I asked you to save? Use to solder a connection from your pin to the upper LED lead.

Step 6: Now we test!

Picture of Now we test!
I used a Breadboard Voltage Regulator Kit to do this test, but any 3~9VDC power supply will do. Plug it in to the proper sides of the power rails (red = + , blue = -), and your indicator LED should light up bright, shooting a bright beam through your clear breadboard!

No? Try reversing the polarity of your power supply. Now does it work? No? Hrm. The LED should light using this power supply in one of these orientations. If hooking up power one way doesn't work, swapping the leads around definitely should.

Either you have a bad LED, shorted wires, or an incomplete solder connection.

If it lit up the wrong way around... well, now you have to make the decision whether to leave it like this, or desolder your LED and turn it around. Making it right is definitely the wisest course of action.

Step 7: Making the installation permanent

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Let's use more hot-glue to coat these connections and make this installation more robust.

To do this, we'll use a trick I learned from Monty Goodson of Bittybot & "Fatman and CircuitGirl" fame (well, he's in the background lots) :

Use the clear plastic packaging that your breadboard came in to to flatten your hot-glue blobs into a nice, flat surface. Smother your parts in hot-glue, flatten the plastic against it, then stick it in the fridge/freezer for a few minutes. Once all the heat is sucked out of the hot-glue, the plastic will snap off, leaving a nice, flat, molded-like surface!

There. Now you've done one side, go do the other! I built mine so each LED is powered by a different set of power rails, which will make it easy to tell when I'm not powering both sides of the breadboard (that's been an issue for me).

Go out and bling your breadboard!
dragon7889 months ago

Would be interesting to see if this could be tweaked to track the power draw of the circuit to see when you are getting close to overloading a power supply.

yah we need those nails to work on small stuff lol
So true!
Beergnome3 years ago
Ive seen dirtier nails... Im looking at some right now!
nigel cox4 years ago
A great instructable, will be having a go myself, after polishing the led on the newspaper add a drop of clear nail varnish this should bring it back to original spec, regards Doc Cox
zybro4 years ago
Fun. I like it.
Solarbotics (author) 5 years ago
It's a handy indicator when you've left power to a circuit that shouldn't be left on. That, and it's a great way to use a transparent breadboard!
agis685 years ago
 OK but what the need to do something like that???