Introduction: Quick and Easy Rugged LED Strip!
In this instructable we show you how to make some cheap LED strip you can install in your home.
With a bit of hunting around eBay or AliExpress, the strip and aluminium extrusion can be bought for £6 per metre.
3-pin connecting clips are quite difficult to find cheaply, so here we show you how to use standard 0.1" female pin headers to make a smart and flush connector. It is then possible to use standard male headers to build a cable, or use cut paperclips or solid core wire to link sections together.
Tools required are:
- Wire cutters/scissors
- Wire strippers (or other method of stripping wire!)
- Soldering iron
Components required are:
- LED strip (3 or 4 pin)
- Aluminium extrusion for strip
- Female 0.1" pin headers
Step 1: Remove Excess Solder From Strip
First, cut your strip into 1m lengths and remove any excess solder from the pads at the ends.
Step 2: Cut Headers to Size
Measure the headers against the extrusion and cut to size. This can be done with a scalpel or saw but we used the wire cutters carefully instead.
Step 3: Bend the Header Leads and Solder to the Back of the Strip
Bend the leads/legs of the header against a hard flat object (a table) and then solder them to the bottomof the strip.
You may need to un-bend them slightly to fit the strip between them and the header body. It is important to try and centre the strip within the header's width as this will cause problems inside the extrusion otherwise. For 3-pin strip, the leads may barely touch the edges of the pads on the strip if this is done properly. However, ensure there is a good solder joint, especially on the power and ground connections.
Also remember to keep the solder joint as flat as possible for the next step.
Step 4: Bend the Header Back and Fit to the Extrusion
Once soldered, bend the header backwards so that it is facing the right way (see photo). Use some pliers to make the bend as small as possible. Be careful not to bend on a via - these can be seen as small circles in the top of the strip near the connecting pads. The best place to bend for our strip was between the pads and the vias - about 1mm back from the pads.
Next, the header and strip can be slid into the extrusion. This is a tight fit, so it is best to file the edge of the extrusion smooth so the tape covering doesn't rip when inserted. If this happens, it will be harder to slide the strip about for the rest of the build.
Step 5: Push Strip in Further to Work on Second End
After sliding the header in , there will be a gap at the other end. The previous steps will need to be repeated at that end to fit the second header. Therefore, slide the first end in a bit further to get better access to to the second end.
Now fit the second header as before.
Step 6: Stick Down the Tape
Once both headers are fitted, align one to the end of the extrusion and position the other so there is sufficient slack in the strip to remove the tape covering. Starting from the aligned end, insert the sticky strip (there is a knack - tuck one side under the shelf and the other side should now fit past) and press firmly down onto the extrusion.
When you get to the other end, you will need to move the header towards the end to take up the slack. If all has gone well then when the strip is completely stuck down, both headers should be aligned with the end of the extrusion.
Step 7: Optional - Install Power Bypass Wires
If you are using 5V strip and not connecting both ends to power, we suggest adding bypass wires to the power supply rails in order to reduce the series resistance of the strip. Without this, the voltage drop along the strip may become noticeable at higher intensities (especially when showing white).
We simply soldered wires between the first uncut pad at each end for both the power and ground connections. By making sure each wire was taught and bent outwards just after the joint, they did not obstruct the LED. However, if your strip is to be mounted with the tape oriented vertically, it may be worth gluing the wires so they don't fall into the LED beam.
Step 8: Enjoy Your LED Strip!
Now you are finished, you can use a wide variety of methods to connect to the standard female headers on your strip!