Introduction: Neopixel Light Up Fire and Ice Wings

Rawr!!! Need wings that light up with flames? Red flames for the hot fiery look or cool blue for well, sparkly cool looks.

It’s not something that has made it to the fashion runway yet so make this wearable so you can be first, foremostest, and fiercest.

This is just some more experimentation into using the FastLED library for neopixels.

Program it with custom color palettes to any color gradient you desire.

Mod your light up wings to be sound reactive, motion, heartbeat, muscle or brainwave responsive, bluetooth IoT controlled, etc, etc.

Step 1: Getting Scrappy...

So I had a strip of rosette textured material left over from making the Hunger Games Neopixel Fire Thermometer Scarf. I liked how the flame effect came out using the FastLED library and Fire sketch. It seemed apropos to implement its use for wearables and can add some impressive light effects to any garment. Well, why not to a set of wings.

I put this together really as a proof of concept prototype so anyone in need of a pair of light up wings should be able to make them easily enough. I didn't even do any sewing on this.

Since I had the hardware from the Hunger Games scarf, I knew for this project things would be a little simpler in that it was only going to require lighting up a few strips of Neopixels.

You can research or dream up what shape your set of wings should be. I just made a simple fixed set of wings. You can look up how to do articulating and motorized versions to build if you need or want them.

I dug up my Adafruit Flora to use as the Arduino controller.

I had a few leftover strips of Neopixels that were 1/2 meter long (30 Neopixels on the strip from 60 Neopixels/meter density strips).

Lay out the strips out to see how big the wings were going to turn out and figured I would need 8 strips, 4 on each wing with the light pattern radiating out from the center. Luckily I had a spool of Neopixels to make up the rest of the needed strips. 4 meters of Neopixels were used in all.

Link to Adafruit Neopixel Uberguide to learn more about using Neopixels.

If you are planning dragon, butterfly, dragonfly, faerie, gossamer, dress, cosplay, fantasy, etc. wings, think about how you want the light patterns to appear. You can make life easier when you go to program the sketch by wiring things up in an organized way. You need to be able to reference which Neopixel is which so it makes sense to configure them in some sort of big matrix.

To save on processing used to generate the Fire matrix, it was easier to mirror the strips on each wing by wiring up two or three strips together to the same data pin. The strips were interspersed between each other when mounted to add to the overall random flame effect.

I wired all the strips back to a central perfboard so I could better manage the power distribution connections and to wire it back to the microcontroller.

Yes, learn to solder to get reliable connections. I used thin wires salvaged from ethernet cable but flexible silicone coated wire is best.

I also looked up how to use different color palettes thus being able to change the normal red-orange flames to purple or blue.

Step 2: A Solid Foundation...

Sure, you can go all out on wood, aluminum, pvc, lasercut or waterjet parts, 3D printed connectors...but just build your supporting wing structure out of cardboard.

1. It's cheap.

2. It won't bother you neighbors when you are gluing this up in the middle of the night.

3. It's cheap.

Cut something out in the shape of your wings.

Reinforce stress areas/mounting points/floppy parts by gluing on another strip of cardboard. Have the internal grain or corrugation go in different directions for increased strength. No need to paper mache the raw exposed edges. If you were making a cool Voronoi pattern subframe, then paper mache for that finished look.

Step 3: Twinkle, Twinkle...

Lay out your Neopixel strips on your wing cutout.

Tape them in place with clear packaging tape. I aligned the strips to where I wanted the lights to shine into so the strips were taped on its side to the board facing left or right.

Continually test your setup since bending and flexing the Neopixel strips can cause one or more LED elements to fail anywhere along the strip. Its easier to fix or replace before everything is buttoned up.

Step 4: To Infinity and Beyond...

I just taped my battery pack - spare iphone charger case that doesn't work with phone anymoar - to the back of the wings. You can make a custom cardboard pocket or holder if desired.

You can see that I also punched some holes to pass through some clothesline cord to use as the wearing straps. You can use anything to make your set of wearing straps. These wings were pretty light so no real need for heavy duty hardware or padding on the straps. You could make them elastic from bungee cords but would have to be some kind of olympic gymnast to put them on.

Now, things get fuzzy.

To nicely diffuse the harsh LED lights, layer over the entire Neopixel side of the wing with fiberfill batting. It's best to get a roll of the flat sheet batting, the kind used for quilt linings and not the one that is just a big pillow mass of fiberfill. Gently pull the fiberfill to wrap around the wing edge and tape on the other side.

Since my scrap rosette textured fabric scrap was rectangular in shape, I was able to just drape it over the wing cutout and tape along the top edge to hold it in place. I left the selvage on as the see-through fabric added a nice "chiffon lacelike" touch to the look. The ragged bottom edge worked out too so I left it alone. Actually, I didn't want to cut the piece since it may be used in something else later on...

And...take it easy when learning to wear wings, you will knock things over within reach or get hung up in doorways...


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