GLO: The Midnight Message Board and RSS Display

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As a little kid, I remember the Glow in the Dark stars and shapes one could stick on their ceiling for night time view, frankly I remember the shapes being extremely boring

Older, equipped with some basic electronics knowledge and a deep interest in innovative display systems, I thought of a way of transforming my Rooms wall into a dynamic glow in the dark canvas.

While doodling on a Vinyl Glow in the Dark paper with a bright white light, i realized an interesting display could be built from it: GLO.

GLO consists of an array of 5mm UV LEDs that run on a simple linear axis, powered by long thread and a Stepper motor. The UV leds act like pixels, turning on at the right time, and drawing our desired text on UV sensitive surface such as my Wall (paper).

The result is a cool mystic, message board that glows in the dark and displays Twitter Trends, RSS Feeds, and Custom Text on my wall…slowly fading out.

Warning: Lying in bed watching  favorite news slowly fade out, can make you (me atleast) very sleepy.

Here is a Video of it, pulling and printing a Sports Headline from BBC on my wall:


This is also a contest entry, if you like it please vote for it :)

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tinyweasel1 month ago

Can you use any stepper motor for this?

tinyweasel1 month ago

Can you use any stepper motor for this?

tinyweasel1 month ago

Can you use any stepper motor for this?

tinyweasel1 month ago

Can you use any stepper motor for this?

cefn10 months ago

See for some alternative pixel fonts, although they are a bit larger, they could be useful for larger LED arrays. In particular there is a bitwise export of fonts into Arduino code at with as a reference example for the use of this Arduino-code representation.

nheck10 months ago

i had a similar project in my mind for ages. i really enjoyed reading your instructable and looking forward to build my own now!

i got some questions:

- how and why are you editing the format of your bitmap font? i don't understand the changes. maybe you can describe the process of editing more.

0x7E, 0x81, 0xA5, 0x81, 0xBD, 0x99, 0x81, 0x7E, // Char 001 (.)
{0x7E, 0x81, 0x95, 0xB1, 0xB1, 0x95, 0x81, 0x7E}, // Char 001 (.)

- why are you using a stepper-motor? wouldn't it be much cheaper to drive a dc-motor?

-third: i dont see the advantage of using a 6x5 font. can u explain why you havent take a 8x8 or 5x5 bit pattern?

-and last: i dont understand why you are so complicated whith the shift registers. you could easily do the first line of text with the one, and the second line of text with the other shiftregister. i dont see the advantage of splitting your letter up.

id would be nice if you could answer my questions. im sorry for my bad english.

best regards, norman

Adi M (author)  nheck10 months ago

I am glad you liked my project. Now to answer your questions:

As you can see i am using 12 LEDs, i would ideally want 2 lines that would have the same size of characters therefore i split the leds into pairs of 6. That is, 6 LEDs for the first line and 6 LEDS for the second line. For this reason i needed to make my own font, 5x5 Fonts are common so are 8x8, but as i couldnt find a 6x5 Font i made one. My font is simple, each character has a length of 6 pixels (6 LEDS!) and a width of 5 pixels.

This leads me to your third question, Shift registers usually work with 8 bit inputs and 8 bit outputs and that is how the function Shiftout is designed, but here my character pattern is only 6 bits (6 LEDS) so rather than writing a function that accepts B111111 (six bits) and only writes to the first line, i just merged both lines so each time i would have 8 bits to shift; that is 6 bits for the first line and 2 for the second line, and for the second shift register the remaining 4 bits for the second line. So this makes the process much simpler.

And now the second question; frankly speaking i used what i had lying around, but i also thought that having a stepper motor would give me room to add functionality in the future as i would have precise position control. I don't see any problem in using a geared DC motor though.

If you do build one, post the link here! :)

nheck Adi M10 months ago

So you use a 6x5 pixel-font because you had 12 LEDs. i just wondered because its unusual.

I already found out that the chars are signed/unsigned (first question).

The shiftregisters also work with 6 bit in-and output. so i dont see the benefit in splitting the second line up. its just more work to code.

Adi M (author)  nheck10 months ago
PS i just remembered one of the main reasons i did this: My circuit, i had used 8 Led's for the first register and only 4 for the second one, meaning 2 bits of the second lit of text was controlled by the first register. Yes i could fix that by rewiring but, software? why not ;)
Adi M (author)  nheck10 months ago
i urge you to try it out and you will understand. its fine you can write 6 bits to the Shiftregister but that would by default set the 2 unused bits to 0. Nevertheless have a go, i would like
to so your implementation.
nheck Adi M10 months ago

and thanks for the fast response. i will let you know if i build one!

analematico10 months ago

Wich torque has your stepper motor. Can you tell me the motor you are using?.

I love your project!

Adi M (author)  andrea biffi12 months ago
thankyou :) i love your project too !
jdenslinger12 months ago

I've visited for the last... well, a long time anyways - never once have I ever felt the need to sign up or comment on any project.
But this, this is truly amazing and I felt the need to let you know that!
I have voted for this project!

Adi M (author)  jdenslinger12 months ago
wow thankyou so much :) this means a lot as this is my first published project. thankyou for your vote :)
Alderin1 year ago
Very cool project! Well written, approachable, unique concept, and cool looking! I've always had a soft spot for glow-in-the-dark things.

I like the idea of "printing" on the back of the paper, could make a box with the paper held in a frame with the writer behind it. This would make it more portable, and allow for uglier but more solid "print-head" drive, like a threaded rod, CNC style. Could even have a second rod for stability to keep the LEDs as close to the paper as possible.

I have a couple of questions:
Do the UV LEDs flash visibly for the human eye as they do on the video?
If you "print" faster, I'm sure it will fade faster, did you try to find a balance here or was there a different limit to the "print" speed?

Got my vote! Thanks for sharing!
Adi M (author)  Alderin1 year ago
Thanks very much for your kind words. I initially was thinking of a box/frame style display, but the only problem is the short text length,even a decent sized frame could display a 10-12 Chars at a max! One way around this is to use SMD UV Leds, but i had trouble finding them; who knows maybe version 2.0 ;).

As far as glow life is concerned, there are 3 ways you can control it:
1) Material, as mentioned in my instructable, use a Red Glow in the dark surface for the shortest glow time.

2) Light Intensity, again as i mentioned this is what i went for, currently with no dimming i was getting 5 min rewrite time, which is decent. If i reduce the brightness it can be even shorter

3)Speed, as you rightly mentioned, moving it quicker means less exposure so yes shorter glow time. But with this setup its quite hard achieving fast speeds as im not using any pulley or gears.

and no, there isnt a strict balance, because one way of the other, you get a glow life about a couple of minutes, so currently i just ran it at a maximum safe speed.
i hope that answered your question :)
jimthree Adi M1 year ago

I'm also interest to know what the human eye can see in a darkened room from the UV LED's? I assume there may be a very slight purple-ish flashing but nothing as obvious as the camera picks up? Is that right?

Adi M (author)  jimthree1 year ago

Yes Exactly, there is only a slight glow visible.

perfo1 year ago

I like it good idea and well written instructable.

Two things I thought of are:- If you didn't want to use a stepper motor you could use a synchronous motor (search for mirror ball motor in Maplins) these will run at a pretty constant speed and run off the mains so no controller needed. Getting the right timing for the messaging can be achieved by using a timer as the motor speed is fixed to a fraction of the mains frequency it wont change much.

Another thing is rather than move the LED's, move the UV paper. Put two rollers on the wall and make a band out of the uv paper. Make the band long enough so the image has reached the right fade before reaching the end roller. That way you can have continuous messages. Also the leds can be set up accurately to almost touch the paper as it goes around the roller.

Anyway these aren't improvements as your idea is fine as it is, they are just food for thought.

Adi M (author)  perfo1 year ago
i looked at all possible ways to do this, and that was one. however this was the most easiest and approachable way to do this. the problem with the ghost writer (cool name!) is suspending the paper so it doesn't move when the uv array is moving across it.
perfo Adi M1 year ago
Do you mean when the paper is stuck to the wall or if made in to a band like my suggestion ?
If it is made in to a band then the UV array doesn't move at all and stays at one end aimed at the paper as it travels around the roller and so is nice and steady and close to the paper. If the glow time is say 1 minute then you can adjust the speed of the band to give you pretty much any length (with in reason) of display you want and of course continuous text with no need to fly back. Anyway like I said good idea and it got me thinking. You have a vote from me.
Adi M (author)  perfo1 year ago
Hmmm, interesting! I like i your idea, but i think if one were to implement that, the only constraint i see is Money. UV Sheets costs quite a bit! £5 for one A4!

Thanks for the Vote :)
perfo Adi M1 year ago
I suppose as it's a band you would use twice the length of paper for the same length display but then you could get three strips out of an a4 sheet. I'll have to get some of this paper to play with. Ever since I read this I've been trying to think of where I could use it, I haven't come up with anywhere yet but I'm sure the right application is out there somewhere :)
dishak1 year ago

wow good one i had a doubt:you used stepper motor i
believe that the speed of stepper motor is not much as dc motor & i
have done a similar project called persistence of vision where we
rotate a display at-least with 30-40 rotations per second to cause the
persistence otherwise it will not display the characters but, how is it
that characters are displayed in your project. Can you explain?

Adi M (author)  dishak1 year ago

This is not a Pesistance of Vision Display. It Writes text on a special glow in the dark surface..Hope that answers the question.

Joe21 year ago

Genius idea! Got my vote.
Think I might have to make this!

Adi M (author)  Joe21 year ago

Thank you so much :) Do share it here, if you decide to make it.

ray741 year ago
Your featured on hack a day too! Great project.
Adi M (author)  ray741 year ago

Thankyou so much :) Can you please give me a link to that? I cant seem to find it..

Tachyon Adi M1 year ago
ray741 year ago
Google your right on the front page :)
very cool
Adi M (author)  shizumadrive1 year ago
thank you :))
tastewar1 year ago
It might be fun (for some values of "fun") to write the next string backwards from right to left (just the drawing done in reverse order; personally wouldn't want the text to appear backwards) instead of moving the "print head" back to the left edge.

Very cool/cute project!!
Adi M (author)  tastewar1 year ago
this was a dilemma for me haha. in the end i decided to make it go back and write the second line again. i figured, right to left would feel very weird, because we would naturally try and read it before its finished.
NoseyNick1 year ago

Very cool!

... and yes, 6-pixel fonts are a pain in the ####, I needed to make one for my LED dance floor :-/

Adi M (author)  NoseyNick1 year ago
it was quite hard, yes. but if you look at my Sketch i have attached 6 Led font, including Upper case, lower case and symbols. Perhaps you could use them :)
billbillt1 year ago
cool... got my vote...
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