My friends and I had the idea to build a climbing wall using climbing holds with embedded LEDs instead of taping holds to indicate routes. In the spirit of "go big or go home", we decided to build a really big wall for Burning Man!  We're excited to use the wall for even more cool things there -- like visualizing music and playing climbing games! (The completed wall is the third picture -- it was a pretty sweet experience!)

We've been iterating on design and manufacturing for the holds for the past few months and finally locked down on design, materials, and electronics. This Instructable will teach you how to make one of these holds, how to mount it to a wall you build, and how to control the holds to set a route or have a light show dance party (our system is controllable by anything from an Arduino to a professional lighting system, and a lot of things in between.). I will also explain some design decisions we made along the way. We will not be going over how to build a climbing wall; there are some excellent Instructables already on how to build a climbing wall, and I encourage you to look over those for ideas.

To start, all of our code to control the lights and Eagle files for the boards (both open source!) can be found on our github page

Step 1: Gather Materials

Bill of Materials (Holds):
*Note: you will also need a 3/8" bolt and wall with corresponding T-nut to bolt to.
- 1x climbing hold to cast. You can make your own out of foam (not covered in this Instructable, but others exist), or use an existing one (but be aware of copyrights!)
- rubber cement and spare cardboard box to glue the hold to
- silicone for mold making. I used both Oomoo 25 and Rebound 25 for this project. I'll explain pros and cons of both in the next steps.
- polyurethane (or polyester) 2-part resins. I used Smooth-Cast 325/326 (main difference is pot life, which I'll explain shortly).
- 1x circuit board with LEDs to cast in the hold. See below for board BOM.
- 1x 3/8" washer

When mixing the silicone and plastic (polyurethane / polyester) compounds, please do this in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves  to protect your skin. Take time to read the MSDS and Technical Bulletins for any product you use, so you understand any additional risks and understand what to do if you accidentally splash something on you. Polyurethane or polyester compounds can have some nasty long-term health effects associated with either breathing them in or having skin contact, so additional personal protective equipment may be necessary depending on exactly what you're using.

Bill of Materials (Holds Electronics):
*Note #1: The github contains files for regular RGB LEDs and controllable WS2812 RGB LEDs. The holds for our Burning Man project will use the WS2812 boards, but I also have controller boards ready to go for the other two options as well.
*Note #2: I used 0603 packaged passives, but you can modify the board in Eagle to use different sized resistors/caps if you're more comfortable with other sizes. The LEDs are also SMD components; both are 5050 packaged.
- 2x LEDs (RGB or WS2812)
- 4x 28 AWG wires, different colors preferred. Pick your length depending on your wall height (taller wall = longer length).
- 1x 2x2 0.1" pitch Quickie connector (what I used)
- (for WS2812 holds) 2x 150 ohm resistors (what I used)
- (for WS2812 holds) 2x 0.1uF capacitors (what I used)
- (for WS2812 holds) 1x 22 ohm resistor (what I used)
- (optional) a 2-56 machine screw and corresponding nut, at least 3/4" long, to help prevent holds from spinning

Bill of Materials (Controller):
*Check github for BOMs. Controller BOM varies greatly depending on if you're driving regular RGB boards or WS2812 RGB boards.

- gloves
- fine tip soldering iron
- solder
- soldering tip cleaner
- (optional, but extremely helpful) solder wick, flux
- cups to mix silicone and plastic in. It is helpful if the cup is reusable and has volume markings.
- popsicle sticks to mix silicone and plastic with
- (Optional) a scale. Some resins are done by weight, but everything I've listed can be done by volume.
Amazing idea. Taped routes aren't always clear, but this idea leaves no doubt as to what to follow, and looks awesome at the same time!
<p>Excellently done. I actually made these back in 2004! Toyed with the idea of patenting them but never did. I guess thats what I get for sitting on the idea foe 12 years (a friend sent me the link just now). It's confirming to see that the uses for the idea are exactly the same as I imagined: route display, climbing games, music visualisation.</p><p>So nice to see it done so neatly and well. The prototypes I made were slightly less finished in quality. Plus LED tech has had the odd development in the interim!</p><p>I would suggest that people consider the use of some kind of re-inforcing in the resin. Pure resin can shatter under load. Most commercial holds have various resin packers in (such as micro balloons). These make it lighter, stronger, but also opaque. However, I found that you can still use glass fiber &quot;chopped ends&quot;. Once the clear resin is on them they effectively disappear. Thus: stronger holds that are still clear. </p>
<p>What type of resin did you use for you holds? When cured, is the resin clear/semiclear that the light easily travels though the resin? </p>
<p>Have you explored any methods of detecting when someone is using a hold?</p>
<p>Very well done! I want to try this.</p>
<p>These look great and wonderful idea, this must have been a good time!</p>
<p>Awesome ible.Very unique.</p>
If there is no reason with this set up to embed the led in the hold - place it in the wood next to the tnut
<p>climbing games. What great possibilities. </p>
<p>trying to get hold of the guys who made these can you reply with email address please would like to have these made</p>
Nice but how about some led clip draws for leading.....
love it, nice work. <br>
These are beautiful!
I wonder if you could mix in small translucent plastic beads or something to use as a filler in order to use less plastic? <br>If the beads were colored it might make for an interesting effect as well.
I've spent maybe 30 minutes total on a climbing wall - but when I saw this and read your description, the first thing that popped into my head was: &quot;CLIMBING WALL TWISTER!&quot; <br> <br>&quot;Right foot BLUE!&quot;
EDM and climbing. You guys are awesome.
This is just one of those ideas that once someone show you, you're like, &quot;why the hell didn't I think of that?!&quot; I could totally see this being an industry standard for rock climbing gyms
cool. night time climbing!

About This Instructable




More by yuanyu:LED Climbing Holds 
Add instructable to: