Blinking LED Mood Lighting

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Introduction: Blinking LED Mood Lighting

About: Well, I feel like I am a pretty regular guy... I work in the Entertainment industry. I love to create things, and build things so this site is one of my regular places :) I also enjoy going out doors, play...
Well I saw another instructable ( Fuzzy Logic Mood light )and was very inspired and decided the I wanted to take that idea and go a little further! This is a Piece of sheet metal with 48 blinking LEDs mounted in it, when it is laid on a table or aimed at a wall it gives a nice illusion of light reflecting off of water. But also it is cool to take a fogged piece of glass and put it over the top of it and it makes a very cool party looking piece of art!!
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Step 1: Materials Needed

Alright so I am sorry that I don't have a bunch of pictures of the materials needed, I accidentally deleted a bunch of pictures off of the camera that I had taken of the materials and parts needed. So I will make a list and try to add pictures later!

So here is a list of the Materials that I used and where I got them:

Blue Blinking LEDs ( Best HongKong )

Resistors ( Best HongKong )

Copper Metal Foil Tape (Micheal's Arts and Crafts)

Poster Board (Micheal's Arts and Crafts)

Old Phone Charger ( I just wrote a staff email at my work and had everyone bring there old phone chargers in, now I have a stock pile different voltage chargers!)

Piece of sheet metal (Home Depot, Lowe's, probably any hardware store)

Four Small Bolts with Nuts (Home Depot, Lowe's, probably any hardware store)

Four Small Rubber Caps that fit over the ends of the Bolts (Home Depot, Lowe's, probably any hardware store)

Step 2: Starting the Layout

First thing to do is to figure out how big you want to make this project and how many LEDs you want to be flashing...

So what I did is I wanted to have around 50 LEDs, and I thought I would like them about 2" by 2" grid, so I made six rows by eight rows which equaled 48 LEDs. Then I knew I wanted them to be 2 inches in between each LED so doing the math and keeping a 2" gap around the outside I ended up with a 18" x 14" piece of sheet metal.

Next I measured out my 2" by 2" grid onto the sheet metal with pencil (NOT pen, you need to erase these marks). Then you need to drill a hole just slightly bigger then the LED size you are using at every point that the pencil lines are intersecting. Make sure to place the sheet metal on a piece of scrap wood so when the drill bit goes through the metal it will have something to go into, because if you hit concrete, well lets just say that would be a bad thing.

As you can see in the image below the sheet metal was not the exact measurements that I wanted, but it was precut this way at Home Depot, so I did what I could, at each of the four corners I drilled a extra hole for the bolts, which will be used to elevate the sheet metal off of the ground, or away from the wall if you choose to hang this.

Step 3: Getting Ready for LEDs

So now that you have the Sheet metal all measured and holes drilled in it, it is now to to get the backing ready and holes in that so we can start the LED process. The reason for adding this backing (Poster Board) on to the back of the Sheet metal is so that we can more easily work with the LEDs and the soldering process, since there is a lot of soldering involved. I will show you what I mean "more easily" in the next step.

So the easiest way to get the holes on the Poster board to line up with the sheet metal holes that you already cut is to just lay the sheet metal on top of the poster board. Line up a corner of the sheet metal to the corner of the poster board so two sides of the board line up with two sides of the metal. Then take a pencil and start tracing the outline of the sheet metal onto the poster board, along with all the holes in the sheet metal.

Now take the poster board and start cutting and drilling out the holes, but make sure to use a little smaller drill bit then what you used to drill the sheet metal, not only does this poster board make it easier to solder but it will hold all the LEDs in place.

Step 4: Putting in the LEDs

Alright almost to the fun part of soldering! Maybe its just me but I enjoy soldering, it always seems to be one of the final steps so when you are doing it the project is almost complete!

SO, start putting all the led leads through the holes in the poster board so all the LEDs are sticking out of one side of the board and all the leads are out of the other.

Next grab your sheet metal and set it on top of the LEDs and start putting all the LEDs through the underside of the sheet metal. If you are doing this right the little ridge of the LEDs are being pinched in between the Poster board and the sheet metal.

Once you get all of those through and all LEDs in their places, grab the bolts and nuts and slide those through the holes that you made at the corners of the board, this will hold the Poster board to the sheet metal and keep all those LEDs in their correct positions.

Now flip the board over so you can see all of the leads sticking out of the back, at this time you need to rotate the LEDs so the negative leads are facing one direction and all of the positive leads are facing the other direction. Bend out the leads a bit so it is a little easier to keep track of them in case the rotate around a bit you can fix them before they do a 180 and are then soldered in backwards.

After that you are able to take a quick look at what the final project will look like!

Step 5: Soldering the LEDs

So as you know there are a lot of LEDs in this project so that means that there is a lot of soldering. It gets a little manotonous so get ready!

After doing some testing with the LEDs that I bought, I figured out that when they blink it actually cuts power from the light itself, so if you were to put a couple LEDs in an array they would blink together and not at there own pace, which would be cool if you wanted that effect, so maybe another project...

So to get the desired look I was going after I need to put each LED on its own circuit persay. So that is each LED needs its own resistor so they will all blink at their own pace.

I used the Copper foil tape as the main circuit for this, and then just soldered the positive leads of the LEDs to one side and the Negative leads to a resistor and then to the other set of copper foil tape.

I made some diagrams below to help with the understanding of this idea of useing copper foil tape, you could use wire for all of this, but I thought this is much cleaner. In these diagrams I use BLUE to represent the negative power from the power supply, and used RED as the Positive power from the power supply.

Step 6: Finishing Up!

Alright now that you got all of the soldering out of the way, it is about time to turn it on! So make sure all of the connections are good, and then go ahead and plug it in! At first all of them will blink a couple times in unison and then they will start to go off pace with one another and all will blink at random.

Some other Ideas that this could be used for... it looks really cool as is, but also if you put a fogged piece of plastic, or glass over it is a nice look. I even put it under a glass fogged table and it created a nice look, if you were to make a custom bar it would be nice lighting to put underneath, there are a lot of options and possibilities!!!

I hope you like this Instructable, and if you have ideas and or make your own versions I would love to hear, and see what you have come up with, thanks for looking, and good luck!





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P.S...
Not quite sure but I left it on for a couple hours and it started to make some rust looking dust on it, some kind of corrosion from the electricity or something, but it wipes off without a problem. So one thing to do is to seal the Sheet Metal before starting the project, or if any of you have any suggestions please let me know, and it can help me and anyone that is possibly making this project also, thanks!!

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    76 Comments

    Can this be battery operated somehow? I'm building a robot costume, and this would be awesome for it.

    great job, but i don`t understant why the leds are blinking,it is not normal to stay on????

    1 reply

    Well the standard LED is a solid lit LED. But I specifically purchase blinking LED's for this project!

    I see this is an old project. . Have you noticed if the LEDs dim after prolonged use? I made a LED night light and notice after a week of use, the lights had noticably dimmed. Do you get around that problem by using blinking LEDs?

    1 reply

    My LED's have not dimmed at all, still nice and bright. I don't think that using blinking LED's have kept them from dimming though. The main thing that causes dimming in LED's is to much power going to them, so maybe try using I higher resistance. Another thing is the quality of the LED's themself, now a days these things are so mass produced that the quality can be lost. Main thing is double check what resistors you should be using! Hope that helps.

    haha i wonder what rgbs would look like

    Why does it blink randomly?? wouldn't the LEDs stay on while there is a power supply?

    1 reply

    These LED's are actually made to blink, it is part of their construction. You can buy many different kinds of LED's, from steady on, RGB flashing or Fading LED's, these LED's are just made to blink! They all blink at random times because the construction of the LED's are not each exactly the same so they have a little different speeds of blinking.

    On the phone charger there is a positive and negative wire, so you just solder the positive wire to the positive copper tape, and do the same with the Negative.  If you are not sure which is the positive and negative, you can do a test with LED's, make sure you use the correct resistor for the test though so you don't burn out the test LED.

    What exacly is a poster board? I'm from quebec a french province in Canada and that is something i've never heard of. I made a quick search throught ebay and on google and it won't come up with anything close to your board. Is it mandatory or can i use anything else to hold the led in place, perharps plexiglass will do the trick?

    Thanks and great instructable!!

    1 reply

    poster board is just thin cardboard or real thick paper. try wal-mart's school supply dept or any craft store. it's realy cheap.

     wow it looks really professional. Nice Job!

    hi bro i have a question can we use the same thing but make it react to music ? if so please tell me the circuit diagram for it if possible instead of symbols please put the pictures of the actual component i am trying to make something that react to music but on a large scale like your project please help thanks in advance.

    3 replies

    Yes just hook it strate up to the amp out puts and change the settings on the filters intill u get the frequence u want

    well it depends on your Power supply, for the supply that I used... I used 1/4 watt 150 Ohm resistors.

    You can go to led.linear1.org/led.wiz  and figure out which resistors you need, It is a VERY handy website, I use it all the time!  I hope this helps, if you have anymore questions please let me know!

    did you just solder the pos and neg ends of the charger to the foil tape?