Introduction: DIY Powerful LED Panel - Video and Work Light

Picture of DIY Powerful LED Panel - Video and Work Light

Today I am going to show you how to make a bright and cheap LED panel. I wanted a bright light for my working area, this panel comes with over 200 LEDs and I used just about 10 bucks to make it.

The panel is super bright and great to use as a video light, a grow light for plants, or whenever you need a lot of light while working!

We will be making the LED panel and 3D printing a tripod adapter. This means you have a vast amount of options for mounting the light. This also means the complete light takes virtually no space if you need to pack it. Perfect for tiny workspaces or traveling to a photo shoot.

If you like this project press the VOTE button in the upper right corner of this instructable!

Here we go!

Click here to see the video

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Picture of Parts and Tools

All right, to make this panel this is what you need:

Parts

  • LED light strip$ 3.9
    • These are long strips of tape with hundreds of leds on them
  • LED dimmer$ 2.8
    • This is optional but a nice feature. I chose a dimmer that comes with a remote.
  • Power supply$ 2.2
    • Needs to be 12 V where the max current supplied determines the number of LEDs you can power.
    • Chose a power supply with the right plug for your area.
  • DC Power Jack$ 0.8
    • If your LED strip dosent come with one. Most strips have this presoldered
  • Something to mount your LEDs on, this is the base of the panel $ 0.5
  • Total: $ 10.2!

Tools

  • Soldering iron
  • Wire strippers
  • Hook up wire
  • Access to a 3D printer
    • Definately optional, lets us make a nice tripod adapter for the LED base

Step 2: Choosing the Number of LEDs

Picture of Choosing the Number of LEDs

So this is how the LED strip works. The strip is 5 meters (16.4 feet) long and has 300 LEDs. On every third LED there are markings where you can cut the strip. This tells us something about how the long strip is wired.

A regular white LED usually draws 3.3 V. On a segment of the strip, three of these LEDs are in series which means the voltage drop is aggregated in the circuit. Three LEDs that draws 3.3 V each means one segment of LEDs draws 9.9 V. The strip is powered by 12 V so that leaves 2.1 V.

If the segment only consisted of the three LEDs they would get more voltage than they dissipate. This is not good for the LEDs and can quickly damage them. This is why each segment also has a resistor in series with all three LEDs. This resistor is there to drop the remaining 2.1 V in the series junction.

So if each segment accounts for 12 V that means each of the segments are connected to each other in parallel. When circuits are connected in parallel they all get the same voltage and the current is aggregated. The current in a series connection is always the same.

A regular LED draws 20 mA in current. This means a segment, which is three LEDs and a resistor in series still will draw 20 mA. When we connect several segments in parallel, we add the current. If you cut six LEDs from the strip, you have two of these segments in parallel. Which means your total circuit still draws 12 V, but they draw 40 mA in current.

This is the basis for how the current rating of a power supply wil set the total of LEDs we can power.

Now, I did some quick math to find out how many LEDs I was going to use for this panel.

The whole roll of LED tape is 5 meters, 300 LEDs, and they draw a total of 2 Amps.

My power source could deliver 1.5 Amps which meant I could use a total of 225 LEDs. (300 LEDs / 2 A) * 1.5 A. I wanted a small safety margin so I ended up using 216 LEDs total. I also chose this number because the number of LEDs has to be divisable by three. Because you can only cut your light strip on every third LED.

These LEDs are distributed in 18 long strips with 12 LEDs on each strip. This fits nicely on my lid without too much dead space, which gives a clean and proffesional look.

Step 3: Cutting and Gluing the LEDs Onto the Base

Picture of Cutting and Gluing the LEDs Onto the Base

When I knew the number of LEDs I was going to use, I started cutting all the strips. First I used a wire cutter, but I actually learned scissors are even greater for cutting the LED tape. The circuit where you cut the strip is as thin as paper, especially if you opted for the non-waterproof version. There are markings on the tape to cut it every three LEDs. These markings also indicate where we can connect the LED segment together again. There are solder pads on each side of the cutting mark.

According to my math I was going to cut 18 strips with each strip having 12 LEDs on them.

With all the LEDs ready, it is time to start gluing them to the base.

While gluing everything down the I alternated having the positive and negative poles upwards towards the top of the base. This makes it easy to connect half of the positive and negative leads with blobs of solder, which in turn means you only have to use half as many wires when you solder everything later on. Saves you a lot of wire stripping!

Step 4: Soldering

Picture of Soldering

Okay, time to solder!

You need to connect all of the strips so they all share a common ground and a common positive voltage connection. When soldering all the tiny, cut LED strips and segments you want to connect the positive pole of one segment to the positive pole of another segment. The same applies for the negative poles on all the segments.

I started by connecting the ground leads. This can be done anywhere on the led strips and not only on the edges of the strips. I connected all the ground leads that were next to each other by laying down huge blobs of solder. And then I did the excat same thing for the positive leads.

After this I connected every other positive lead together, and every other ground lead to each other using short hookup wire.

And we're done soldering! This means the project is basically done. We just need a nice way to mount the panel and spread that nice light all around.

Step 5: 3D Printing an Adapter

Picture of 3D Printing an Adapter

To mount this panel on a tripod I designed and 3D-printed a real simple and really strong grip for the panel. This simply slides onto the panel and grips it firmly. Then all you have to do is screw the panel with the adapter onto whatever you have with a tripod screw, which is 1/4 inch.

This was printed with functional threads so you don't have to prepare the adapter in any way. Just remove from the printer and mount right on top a printer! To get the functional threads I printed this with a resolution of 0.1 mm and 5% infil. You can download the STL file here.

You're done! Connect the power source and the dimmer, and everything should right light up!

If you chose the LED dimmer with an RF remote I will later show you another instructable on how you can automate the whole LED panel.

Step 6: Watch the Video

Watch the video to see how I put together the project, and remember to press the VOTE button in the upper right corner! Click here to see the video.

Click here to see how I automated the panel with an Arduino.

Comments

Siggi Bjarnason made it! (author)2016-07-23

I have it connected to a 12v marine battery for maximum portability. I used a slightly larger SAMLA lid http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50110299/, 15 ¼ " x 11" and I also didn't paint it. I used up an entire 16.4ft/5m LED Light Strips I bought from Amaamazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01E3ID592 plus some shorter left over strips that I had laying around. The center of gravity of this larger lid is to big for the little 6" tripods to be able to stablelize it so I used a 6ft tripod. Total power draw 1.25 amp, or 15W.

Mate that came out really good! I'm loving the look of the transparent lid and the bigger tripod!

How long have you've been able to power it from the battery?

Did you use the 3D printed tripod mount for the SAMLA lid? Really curious as to how it worked for you!

I have a 32Ah marine battery and I ran the light on for over 7 hours with no noticeable drop in voltage. There was no measurable or noticeable heat generated from the light during the 7 hour test run. If I remember correctly the ambient room temperature was around 75 deg F, and the temperature of the light was within couple degrees of that. My estimate is that I would be able to power this light from that battery for 24-30 hours. Naturally the size of the battery will determine how long you'll be able to power it, if you have couple of car or marine batteries available and a way to get them charged up there should be no limit in how long you can run the light. I low just how much light this provides.

Yes I 3D printed the tripod mount you provided on thingverse. Since I used the slightly larger lid than you designed the mount for, the lid is a little unstable but it is working just fine.

Really cool! I'm thinking about adding a power pack to mine so it's more portable. A marine battery is a great idea. I believe car batteries give off some not so healthy fumes when it's used?

Good to hear the tripod mount worked out for you!

here is a site I've purchased 12V batteries for my HAM rig from http://www.batterysharks.com/12-Volt-SLA-Batteries-s/1213.htm

Thanks mate, I'll look for something similar in europe.

myleslawrence (author)2016-08-04

The power supply you link to is only 1 amp not 1.5 amps meaning only 150 leds can be used or actually 144 with 12 rows of 12 leds

Thanks for letting me know mate. I've updated the parts list with a new power supply now.

Siggi Bjarnason made it! (author)2016-07-25

I added a second lid for a nice rain proof setup. Also added some hanging tabs and wire so I can hang this like a picture or from the ceiling if I so choose. The tabs I got here https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000UCI0E6. I had the wire laying around, any wire will work, picture hanging wire from local craft store, Target, WalMart, etc. will do just fine. The whole thing is 3-4 oz so it doesn't have to be strong. Even string will do the trick. Also pictured is a simple on/off switch instead of the fancy remote dimmer. The one in the picture I got here https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CWNMB86. However this one https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11705 is much less expensive. As for a tripod I went with https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005KP473Q. I wanted something that could be floor standing and reasonable tall. That was the best deal I could find. I felt the shorter tripods would require a table to put it on and I felt that kind of defeated the purpose.

Good thinking with the second lid! Yeah I've been toying around with the idea of hanging it on the wall as well. The picture tabs seems to be doing fine!

A simple on off switch is definitely enough if you reckon you'll always be at full power.

Awesome setup you've got there!

MarcusAvery (author)2016-06-12

did you really have to solder the ground leads together in the middle of the strip? I was under the impression these strips are electrically connected if you don't cut them. Seems like you had an unnecessary extra step there.

That's correct the whole 5 m roll is connected and can be powered as such. The reason I cut the strip into smaller segments was for gluing them onto the panel base.

It would be possible to continuously glue the whole LED strip to the base without doing any cutting and soldering. However, this would bundle up the LED strip around the sharp and bent corners. Which in my opinion wouldn't give a clean and professional look.

I thought the same as the above comment.... surely you'd only need to solder a connection from the end of the first strip, to the start of the second, then end of the second strip to start of the third... and so on.

I too am missing the point of the connections you made mid strip

Heyup (author)Sverd Industries2016-06-12

I totally agree mate, nothing better than seeing a finished project looking neat and tidy.. Well done mate.... John :)

Sverd Industries (author)Heyup2016-06-12

Yeah absolutely! Thanks friend :)

lalimn (author)2016-06-21

This light is really neat. I wonder if it would be possible to make a 12 volt one ?

Sverd Industries (author)lalimn2016-06-22

Thanks friend! But I'm not sure I understand what you mean? This panel already runs on 12 V!

lalimn (author)Sverd Industries2016-06-24

I'm sorry I thought it ran on 110 volt household electricity.

lalimn (author)lalimn2016-06-24

I want to be able to hook it up to a 12V battery and a solar panel at my cottage.

Siggi Bjarnason (author)lalimn2016-07-25

I've got mine connected to a 12v marine battery and it works just great. Had it running for about 7 hours with no noticeable drop in the voltage on a 30 ah battery. Also confirmed that the whole contraption stayed very cool, even though I had it enclosed.

Sverd Industries (author)lalimn2016-06-25

I see. It should run on both a 12 V battery and solar cells just fine! That is as long as they are rated at 12 V forwarding voltage and not average voltage.

lalimn (author)Sverd Industries2016-06-30

OK Thank you.

procter (author)2016-06-21

Great lesson, thanks. I will be giving this a go for sure.

Small educational matter: (12.0 - 9.9 <> 3.1) and (12.0 - 9.9 = 2.1).

I'm not sure yet what effect this would have on your project :-)

Sverd Industries (author)procter2016-06-22

Thanks for spotting that I've corrected it now!
Luckily that math error won't have an effect on the project, because I was just showing the power dissipated by the pre soldered resistor :)

procter (author)2016-06-21

Regarding Lumens, etc, and estimating - download a light meter app to your smartphone.

bombaste.vonhohenheim (author)2016-06-20

Actually you go to your local flea market and buy a cheap broken camera, cut the bottom out and you'll have your tripod adapter. In my case since I want just to light a very dark shed I will attach the panel directly to the wall.

That's a great idea, I hope you'll show a picture of your panel when it's finished on the wall!

jrlandau (author)2016-06-14

So, approximately 400 lumens. That sounds just about right for a workbench or desk. I think I've got just the place for it. Thanks for your effort and info.

Yeah, should be in that range.

Looking forward to seeing it when finished!

stevenjacks (author)2016-06-14

I'm definitely adding this to my to do list. Curious though, is there any way to integrate a dimmer switch or stage the brightness into more than one setting?

Yeah man, I added a dimmer between the power supply and the LEDs! This let's me control the brightness with a remote.

I used this dimmer.

jrlandau (author)2016-06-12

How much light do you get? Do you have an estimate of the lumens?

Hmm I don't know lumens.. Do you know how I could estimate and give you an answer?

The simplest thing I can think of to do (without a light meter) is to compare it side-by-side with incandescent bulbs of various wattages. Or, maybe even better, with LED lighting of known lumen output and the same pattern of light output as this one.

We need an instructable on measuring light output!

You know what I think you're on to something!

I can compare the LED panel to a led bulb with known lumen. And what could work is to use a camera on manual settings with a fixed blender opening, shutter speed, and exposure time. That way the different brightness in the different pictures could give an indication for delivered lumens.

What do you think?

With the camera is perfect, you can afterwards use a photo software to calculate average brightness and compare with a know flash or bulb

That's a great idea finding the average brightness and comparing it to a bulb!

Do you know what function I need to look for to find average brightness in photoshop?

average for white led at the moment is 100lm/W, getting better over time while packaging and subtrates advaces

The lumen output rating of LEDs is almost always somewhere in the sales page.

I dug around and found 540-600 lumens per meter.

Let's assume that translates to 540-600 lumens per 300 LEDs. I used 216 LEDs which means this panels gives (540/300)*216 = 389 and (600/300)*216 = 432.

So this panel gives 389-432 lumens at full brightness

Lee Wilkerson (author)2016-06-12

I only have one question: Why would you use a power supply (extremely inefficient) to light strips of LEDs? If you rig the strips in series, you don't even need a rectifier.

120 VAC x 1.4 (rectified voltage multiplier) = 168 VDC. Your light strips use 12 VDC, therefore 14 strips wired in series means NO extra loss. Total power consumption will be closer to 1 - 2 WATTS.

Interesting I hadn't thought of that.

Theres 240 VAC here, so that should give 240 VAC * 1.4 = 336 VDC. This could then power 28 strips wired in series.

I guess I could find a PWM dimmer to put between the mains voltage and the rectifier.

However I do have a couple caveats. I'm concerned with LEDs flickering while being powered by a 50 Hz source. Also, I'm not too comfortable working with mains voltage. Have you tried to do something similar?

Thanks for the idea!

Don't do this! You have to take care of isolating against dangerous voltages. At least in Germany anything above 60V ac and you need at least double isolation or protected earth with RCD. You average power supply is efficient enough. Take one from an avm Fritzbox with sufficient power rating it is designed to run 24/7

Yeah there's just less dangerous stuff to go wrong with using a power supply instead of mains voltage.

Excellent point being that power supplies are meant to run 24/7!

JohnC430 (author)2016-06-13

when u buy these strips on eBay the seller mentions the number of lumens. so u don't have to make measurements. how are you heatsinking the LED's?

JohnC430 (author)2016-06-13

the led strip is wired in parallel. in order to make it a series connection you need to wire the - of the first one to the + of the next. this means you have to split all the segments and make 400 solder connections. why would you do that instead of using a power supply?

TimoR3 (author)2016-06-13

Next time, try a recycled flat screen LCD! Just remove all electronics, save the aluminium backlplane, polycarbonate plate and the filter plastic sheets. Mount your bright LED strips to the backpanel with their own stickytape, secure them to place with the polycarbonate sheet and rivets, make the solder joints to get the LED strips in parallel and there you go...

Sverd Industries (author)TimoR32016-06-13

So you're thinking of using a recycled LCD as the base for the panel?

That would look so good!!

jrlandau (author)2016-06-12

Please forgive it if this is out of sequence. Apparently I need an instructable on how to use instructables. The camera idea seems better than just eyeballing it, which is what I was imagining.

One thing to watch out for--a bulb (incandescent or led) puts out its lumens in all directions, whereas the led lamp in your instructable throws the light all forward. So if you are not comparing lamps of the same type, you have to adjust (somehow).

Don't worry about the sequence!

You're right, I should look into using a reflector. I'm sure some aluminum foil will do just fine.

I'll upload and show you the pictures if I can find a DSLR to borrow!

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