Introduction: Chromation Systems RGB LED Tube Light
Built utilizing a 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller to control 12 volt RGB LED Light Strip, in 8 separate groups. Each group has individual 8-bit PWM which can create over 16 million colors. And is driven at full current for maximum color saturation and accuracy. Using the ColorMotion Compatible Firmware, various colors patterns and effects can be created in the software and the uploaded to the device for it to run by itself, without a computer.
This device contains 8 groups of 2 segments(6 RGB LEDs) of 12v RGB LED Strip spaced out on a 2" ID white PVC pipe, encircled in a 6" diameter tube of white/cloudy plastic. Supported by two 6" plywood discs. Its fairly simple and creates very eye catching effects. A favorite of everyone who sees it.
Electronic Kits including a 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller Kit, 16 sections of 12v RGB LED Strip, Dual-Voltage 12v & 5v PSU with Panel mount DC jack, and all the required Wire, is available for purchase. RGB LED Tube Light, 8 Channel , Electronics Kit
Or get a Full kit, with all the required electronics, the PVC Pipe, the Plastic Sheeting, the end caps all ready to use. RGB LED Tube Light, 8 Channel, Full Kit
Step 1: Supplies & Tools
Kits with all the electronic parts, including: 24 Channel High Current LED Controller Kit, 16 sections(3 RGB LEDs per) of 12v RGB LED strip, Dual-Voltage PSU with Panel mount DC jack, and Wire Can be Found in The Store
Or get a Full kit, with all the electronic parts listed above, the PVC pipe, the Plastic Sheeting, the end caps ready to use. Find it Here
- 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller Kit - Assembly Instructable can be found Here
- 15 ft - 3-Conductor, 22AWG Stranded Wire,R-G-B
- 7 ft - 22AWG Wire, White or Black, for Anode Wiring
- Panel Mount DC Power Jack compatible with the power supply
- Dual PSU with 12v @ 1A and 5v @ 500ma Power Supply(included with the full kit) Like This One
- 12v PSU @ 2A or more and a 5v step-down circuit or a DC/DC Converter
- 2" ID PVC Pipe, white is best, got it from Home Depot, 10ft for ~$6, cut to 30.5" if following exactly, otherwise measure!
- 2x 1/2" thick, 6" Diameter Plywood disc endcaps
- 32" x 19.25" x 50mil thick, HDPE Cloudy Plastic Sheet**
- 1/8th Pope Rivets, I used white ones.
- White Spray Paint
- Aluminum Tape, or adhesive reflective film.
There are many things that could be utilized, such as semi-translucent paper(rice paper?) or some other type of plastic.
- Jigsaw or bandsaw
- Sander or Sandpaper
- Soldering Iron
- Power Drill or Drill Press
- Razor or Rotary cutter to cut the plastic sheeting.
- Pop Rivet Gun and Rivets(I used white ones)
Step 2: Prepare the Pipe
Skeleton: A 2" ID PVC pipe with an OD of about 2.35" was used for support. Two segments of RGB Light strip can be cut so they butt together perfectly when wrapped on the outside of the tube. Two types of end caps are attached to the ends of the pipe that the plastic will be wrapped onto. The pipe's length is less than the overall length so a space can be left for the controller and for the end caps. Allow 1" for the controller, and one of the end caps will allow the pipe to recess into it, so it will be about 0.25" deep. 32" total light = 30.5" pipe
- Cut the pipe to length, try to get the cut end straight as possible, the pipe should be able to stand on one of the ends by itself.
- Find the flattest end of the pipe, that will be End Cap 2, the other end will be the controller end, mark it with a C or something.
- Clean off the pipe with some soapy water, rubbing alchohol or other cleaner/degreaser
- Mark the LED strip spacing with a sharpie, see the diagram for details
- Cut 8 pieces of 8" aluminum tape
- Apply the tape on center to your spacing marksDrill a 1/4" - 3/16" hole in between the tape, 7 holes total
- Either Re mark the LED strip positions, or you will have to guess to place it.
- Cut off 2 sections of RGB LED strip
- Wrap it around, on the center of each piece of tape. Some brands can be cut and the ends will butt up to each other, but on other brands that are a bit to long, wrap the LED strip at a slight angle.
- Apply all 8 sections of RGB LED Strip and press them down firmly.
Step 3: Wiring the LED Strip
Run Anode Wires: Each LED strip's "+" or +12v lines need to be all connected in parallel(all share) and connected to the +12v input from the power supply jack.
- Using some black or white wire(any color other than Red, Green or Blue) start connecting all the "+" positions on all 8 sections of LED strip together. Keep the wire tight, don't let them have to much slack. Make sure the solder connections are good, shiny not dull.
RGB Line Wiring: Simple enough run wires from the RGB postions on the LED strips down to the end with the controller.
- Starting from the hole in the pipe closest to the controller.
- Feed down some 3 conductor RGB wire, until it comes out the end. Stiff wire can be pushed down, but other wire may need to be fed with a tool such as the bolt-grabber pictured, or some other method.
- Have the wire hang out the end at least 4", so there will be slack to connect them to the controller
- From the hole where the wire was fed down from, pull the wire tight (so you still have 4" out the end) and position it over to it's LED strips solder pads, and cut all 3 strands.
- Strip those ends and solder them to the LED strip
- Label the wire channel 1 - 8
- Repeat, running 8 sets of wires down the pipe to the controller.
Final Anode Wires: It is recommended to run 2 different anode wires to supply the +12v from the power supply jack.
- From the top most hole, run a wire down to the controller end, leave 4" or so and cut
- Solder that wire to on of the LED strips anodes.
- Repeat with another wire, but run it to on of the LED strips closer the controller
Step 4: End Caps
- Layout and rough cut with a jigsaw, bandsaw or handsaw, two plywood discs 6" in diameter
- Finish the discs so they are as round as possible, use disc sanders, files and sand paper to do this
- One disc gets a 2.36"(the OD of the pipe) diameter circle cut out of the middle using a 2.25" hole saw, this is End Cap 1
- The other is left as it is, End Cap 2
- Paint both discs white, make sure to get the sides well. Painting the sides white will help hide them when the device is lit.
Finish the End Caps:
- End Cap 2 Needs to get attached to the far end from the controller onto the pipe.
- Either use a 2 1/4" hole saw on some 5/8" MDF to get a circle, and glue it on center to End Cap 2.
- Or bolt a small block of wood inside the pipe so it sits flush to the end of the pipe, to have something to screw into from the end.
Make Faux Bottom: The fake bottom(end cap) is made out of 125mil polystyrene, but acrylic or hardboard could be substituted.
- Cut out of 6" diameter disc.
- The plastic end cap and End Cap 1 need to have 3 holes drilled at the same time so they line up, these will be used to conceal the controller in the end compartment.
- Place the plastic disc on top of End Cap 1, line them up
- Mark 3 evenly spaced holes, 1/4" in from the edge around the outer edge
- Drill a 1/16" or so hole through the faux bottom into End Cap 1(doesn't need to go through)
- Pick the best side and counter sink the holes on the faux bottom.
Attach End Caps:
- End Cap 2(with the circle of MDF) goes on end farthest from the controller, seat it all the way down.
- Drill 3 holes through the PVC pipe into MDF circle, and screw in with small coarse threaded screws.
- Depending on the hole drilled through End Cap 1, you may need to apply some electrical tape to the pipe so that it will be snug when its attached. Loosely twist it as you wrap to make it thicker then wrap it once over normally.
Step 5: Plastic Sheeting
Tube Creation: The plastic sheeting, which was 50mil HDPE, with a rough texture, has to be formed into a tube with a 6" inside diameter. I found using a strap or some sort of belt, that can be tightened and slid around helps with this step.
- Lay the plastic sheet down on a table.
- With both end caps attached, place the assembly down on the table
- Wrap the plastic into a cylinder, tight to End Cap 2, Tape it tight with some packaging tape
- Partially tighten the other end of the sheeting around End Cap 1 and tape securely.
- Drill a hole 1/4" in from the end through the seam where the sheet edges overlap, centered on End Cap 2's edge,a screw will go in there later to secure the sheeting to the end cap.
- Push in on End Cap 2 so it slides into the tube, End Cap 1 should start to work its way out from the other end.
- Put a temporary screw in the holes that were drilled, just to hold the plastic together
- Push End Cap 1 down an inch or 2, and drill a 1/8" hole for a pop rivet. The hole should be behind End Cap 2 closer to the open end of the tube, so End Cap 1 can keep getting pushed through.
- Install a pop rivet in that hole, securing the overlapped sheets together.
- Use a ruler and mark a few more hole locations with a sharpie, every 4"
- Push in on End Cap 1 to slide in further, until it is behind your next mark
- Tighten the sheet by hand around End Cap 1, then drill a hole through the overlapping seam for the next pop rivet.
- Install that pop rivet.
- Keep working your way down in the same manner, sliding the frame in and install a pop rivet every 4"
- Eventually the hole pipe and both end caps will slide out the far end and you will be left with a perfect 6" inside diameter tube.
Stuff the Tube:
- Pull off End Cap 2 from the pipe, so only End Cap 1 is attached.
- Insert the tube assembly back into the pipe, so End Cap 1 is on the end that it started on.
- Sit the tube upright on End Cap 1, so the tube and the end cap are flush together.
- And install a screw in the first hole that was drilled, that should be on center of the edge of End Cap 1.
- Slide End Cap 2 back down into the tube and seat it onto the pipe, flush to the end.
- Once End Cap 2 is seated, from the tube's seam, drill a hole through the seam into the edge of End Cap 2.
- Install a screw to secure End Cap 2 to the plastic tube.
Now there should be a suitable compartment for the controller to be installed in on the next step.
Step 6: Wire Up the Controller and Assemble
Prepare the Controller:
- Complete the 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller and set all the outputs to sink. I chose not to install the 6-pin header and 2-pin power header. The button was wired the simple way and the power was connected directly to the PWR header position with some wire.
- Complete the included button kit, follow the directions(Either Method) on the 24 Channel LED Controller's instructions(Instructable)
Mounting Controller: The controller needs a external connections for the button, the power jack and the USB jack. And optionally a ICSP jack(not shown here) All the connections should be on along the seam with the pop rivets to keep it cleaner looking from the front.
- Test fit the controller into the compartment, it is most important to mount it in a way that the USB jack can be accessed from the edge once a hole is cut in the sheeting.
- Take into account the wires and their required positions.
- Once its all test fit properly, hold the controller in place and mark/drill 1/16" holes in the plywood through the PCBs mounting holes, not all are accessible but use as many as possible.
- Screw the controller down.
- Use a 1/4" drill bit to drill out roughly where the holes will be for the USB jack access, Button and Power jack.
- Use a razor blade to carefully cut out the holes to their final sizes. Snug is best, be really careful and use a sharp blade.
- Test fit the external connections in their holes
- Make any adjustments.
- Figure out how long to cut the power wires(+5v and +12v) and trim them to length, then solder them onto the DC jack, be careful to avoid solder bridges and ensure you solder the wires to both pins(each contact +5, +12 and GND have 2 pins each, and leave the shield pins unconnected)
- Use some hot glue to secure the button assembly in it's hole.
Step 7: Testing and Assembly
- Look over everything carefully, ensure there are no shorts, solder bridges or anything that would otherwise cause problems. I had a very small solder bridge betwen V+ and a cathode on one of my LED strips, the device appeared to function correctly, but quickly the transistor on that channel fried, so be very careful when looking over and checking for shorts and solder bridges, test the connections with a continuity meter.
- Power it up to test if everything is working and the wires were connected correctly.
- If everything is working correctly.....
- Measure the depth of the compartment between End Cap 2 and and the top of the sheeting, subtract 1/8"(for the 125mil faux bottom, which fits into the tube flush to the end) And if necessary cut the nylon spacers to length.
- Insert 3 screws into the faux bottom, from the counter sunk side.
- Slide the sized nylon spacers onto the screws.
- Carefully line up the screws into holes that were drilled into End Cap 2 previously and secure them The faux bottom should be inside the tube, but flush to the end.
- If not, either resize the nylon spacers or remove the screw holding End Cap 2 in place, adjust End Cap 2's position and secure it with a screw.
- Power it up and Enjoy!
Step 8: Firmware and Programming
This device was designed to run the Chromation Systems ColorMotion Compatible firmware. It allows the user to create colorful patterns on a computer (Windows, Mac or Linux) and upload them to the controller through USB. Then the controller can run the created patterns without being connected to a computer, just power the device up and it will start running. Also the firmware is capable of accepting Live streaming data(Live Mode) from a computer over the USB port. There is a example program with source code available for download, Live Mode Demo Program
The ColorMotion Demo Version of the firmware comes loaded with several patterns, but the user can not upload new patterns to the device but user created patterns can be demonstrated on the device that will run until the device is powered off. Live Mode is fully functional in the demo firmware version.
The Full ColorMotion Firmware is required to create and upload your own patterns, and can be included with the purchase of a kit or programmed PICs, ready to use, can be Purchased in The Store
Other Options: Included in the Project Files on the 24 Channel LED Controller's Instructable and Webpage
Project 1: Really old method of USB Communication, not recommended, but MPLAB Project files and Processing source code is included.
Project 2: Demonstration ColorMotion Compatible HEX file
Project 3: C18 MPLAB Project files, with USB COM Port Emulation and the required functions to perform Live Mode communication, just like ColorMotion Compatible Firmwares. Live Mode Demonstration Program and Source Code can be Found on the Website
Or write your own, the Hardware Profile(Channel Pinouts) for the controller is included in the Project Files
Step 9: Computer Software
The recommended firmware is the Full Version of ColorMotion Compatible, which allows user to create and upload custom patterns through the USB connection for the device to run by itself without a computer. The full version and the demo version also support Live control of the color channels over USB, through an emulated COM port. The code to interact with the device is open source, so it could be ported to any other language that can interact with serial ports.
There is also the Live Mode Demo Program, which can be used to control the output colors individually live from a computer. The program was written in Processing and the source is included, so you could code your own interface for the compatible controllers.
Other options, would be full DMX-512 connectivity through the compatible DMX firmware available for the 24 Channel High Current LED Controller. Or write your own using the C18 MPLAB Project Files framework.
Step 10: Finished
This is just one of the many types of projects the 24 Channel High Current LED Controller can be used for.
Shown are some preliminary images for my 8 Channel RGB LED Panels, made with the same controller in addition to a DMX-512 Interface(Instructions and kit coming soon). Two types of geometric patterns/shapes were laid out of a wooden frame and covered with diffused acrylic. Instructable will be posted soon, check www.ChromationSystems.com/rgbledgraphicpanels.html for updates
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And Visit the Website at www.ChromationSystems.com for more Projects, Software, and to Purchase a Kit, Parts or LEDs.