Introduction: The Universal Multicolour Torch (flashlight)

Picture of The Universal Multicolour Torch (flashlight)

I like LEDs. And I like torches. I have always been looking for a torch that combines all LED colours that I want, including infrared and ultraviolet. As this combination is hard to come by, or extremely sumptuous, I chose to build one myself using a cheap torch bought on eBay and some inexpensive parts.

Do not underestimate the effort of desoldering and soldering, though. It took me about a day altogether to finish the project.

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

I tried to make the project as inexpensive as possible and so I came up with the following parts:
• 1 torch with 52 white LEDs, bought from eBay for 12 Euros, shipping included. I tried to get one with as much unused space inside as possible, and I was lucky. Maybe you can get a cheap one at your local electronics store and have it disassembled before buying.
• Given a 52 LED setting, I chose the following combination (all LEDs are of 5 mm diameter):
  - 10 white LEDs (already included)
  - 8 red LEDs
  - 8 green LEDs
  - 8 blue LEDs
  - 9 infrared LEDs
  - 9 ultraviolet LEDs
• With the chosen LEDs, I calculated the resistors needed (see next step) and bought:
  - 4 resistors 1 Ohm, 0.5 Watts
  - 1 resistor 12 Ohm, 0.5 Watts
  - 1 resistor 5.6 Ohm, 0.5 Watts
  - 9 resistors 27 Ohm, 0.5 Watts
• A rotary switch with 12 positions. You may get another one with less positions or use a totally different switch altogether.
• Isolated wire
• A small piece of circuit board for the 9 27 Ohm resistors

For tools I used:
• A 6.5 mm steel drill
• A dremel
• A soldering iron and some solder
• A glue gun

Step 2: Circuit Diagrams

Picture of Circuit Diagrams

The torch was a real cheap model, probably built in China. The wiring did not include any resistors, which is considered a deadly sin in LED circuit design. They simply slapped 52 LEDs in parallel and connected them to the battery via a switch.

As I intend to use the torch mainly with rechargeable batteries, I calculated the following circuit for 3.6 Volts, which is the typical voltage of three NiMH batteries.

Most LEDs could be set in parallel and driven with a single resistor, as they only use 20 mA current. My green LEDs need 30 mA, so I split them up in two groups with one resistor each. The infrared LEDs need a whopping 100 mA each, so I used a resistor for each of them.

Depending on the types and amounts of LEDs you are using, you may need different resistors. This LED resistor calculator may help you on your way.

Step 3: Inspecting the Torch

Picture of Inspecting the Torch

The torch could be opened easily by unscrewing the parts. Fortunately there was enough space in the head to store the switch and the resistors.

The circuit was laid out pretty simple and could easily be modified by cutting circuit paths and soldering additional wires.

Step 4: Preparing the Torch

Picture of Preparing the Torch

In order to operate the switch, the shaft has to go through the torch head. With a shaft diameter of 6 mm, I used a 6.5 mm drill to create a hole that was placed directly below the screw thread of the head cover.

With the shaft's position thus defined, the circuit would barely fit on top. To fit the switch inside low enough I had to carve away some of the plastic with a dremel.

Step 5: Unsoldering the White LEDs

Picture of Unsoldering the White LEDs

To make space for the new LEDs, 42 white ones had to go. It turned out easier to tilt them while heating the contacts than to use an unsoldering pump.

Don't forget to leave some white LEDs on the circuit if you need them!

Step 6: Preparing the Circuit Board and Adding the LEDs

Picture of Preparing the Circuit Board and Adding the LEDs

When I created the LED layout (see step 1) I chose to group the LEDs of each kind close together to make the wiring more convenient. I left the circuits lines of the common ground connected and cut the plus lines according to the layout scheme in step 2 using a standard cutter. Always check the contacts that you just separated with a voltmeter to make sure that you really disconnected them.

That done, I soldered the LEDs in. Except for the infrared LEDs, which are darker, all my LEDs have a clear housing so they look pretty much the same. Double-check the layout and the LEDs to avoid confusion here. Also remember to solder the LEDs in the correct polarity (flat side of the housing is ground).

As I had to cut a lot of plus lines, I finally had to solder some short pieces of wire to connect the plus lines within each group where needed.

Step 7: Adding the Switch and the Resistors

Picture of Adding the Switch and the Resistors

There was not very much space left in the head of my torch, so I soldered the single resistors directly to the contacts of the switch. Because the infrared LEDs need a separate resistor each, I put them on a small circuit board to keep the chaos limited.

The 12 position switch has a small ring attached with a pin that can be placed into a series of holes, allowing to limit the switching positions. I used this to set the switch to the 6 positions that I needed.

To fix the switch within the torch head I used a glue gun which worked suprisingly well. Just be careful not to glue the shaft.

Finally I soldered the wires to the LED circuit board.

After reassembling the torch it showed that all LEDs were working perfectly!

Step 8: We're Done!

Picture of We're Done!

Now there is hardly a situation that cannot be mastered with this torch: Finding lost crap in the cellar, signalling at sea, testing money bills, illuminating scenery for infrared photography - you name it, the torch does it.

Of course your very own torch can differ in colours or design. You could use push-button switches to light multiple LED colours at once. You could even use RGB LEDs to save space. Let your imagination run wild.

Have fun and thank you for reading.


didgitalpunk (author)2011-10-27

please note that your "ultraviolet" light is nothing else than what is commonly called black light. black light makes text surfer glow and most of the orange,white,and flashy yellow colors. and invisible ink markers.

cwest11 (author)2011-09-22

Why didnt you just use a multi lead/color led that has three colors in one ^^^^

PINKmonster325 (author)2011-08-20

Hmm... split them with me

arbita2 (author)2011-06-04

ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok

techno guy (author)2011-04-30

If you dont want those LEDs then can I have them?

legendx (author)2010-11-12

i just want to know what would happen if there was no resistor

duesentrieb (author)legendx2010-11-14

That would be easy, wouldn't it? That's why the makers of the original cheap torch did not care to use one.
In fact, two things would happen: Your batteries will drain much more quickly and the lifespan of the LEDs will be reduced drastically. So I would strongly recommend using the resistors.

legendx (author)duesentrieb2010-11-17

so, its better

Kryptonite (author)legendx2011-02-01

They stop the LEDs getting too much voltage through them, which would of course only over heat each one and break it.

legendx (author)Kryptonite2011-02-02

o so that's why thanks dude

aboelyous (author)2010-08-21

wonderful and easy ..... thank you

daffster13 (author)2010-08-13

Thanks for the idea, my CAP cadets are going to love this.

MichaelTrimm (author)2010-08-05

Great idea! :) I wish I could find a pcb for that many LEDs.

gabe15 (author)2010-07-28

do you think its possible to make the center white a laser?

Project_Nightmare (author)gabe152010-07-30

Depending on the output of the laser, you also have to consider temperature and heatsinking it since they might dissipate a lot of heat.

duesentrieb (author)gabe152010-07-29

I'm sure that there are laser diodes that are small enough to fit in the space of one or more LEDs. With the proper voltage, you could add a laser pointer if you want to.

Darkwizzard (author)2010-07-23

hey can some1 send me a link to download the PDF for this? i really want to show my friend at school and he doesn't have the internet.... (and Instructables is blocked at school). :D plz!

krodami (author)Darkwizzard2010-07-28

Just so you know for next time, the link is near the top of the instructable, just under the title, and another to the right, under the facebook and twitter links. It says "print pdf" but you can just save it to your hard drive instead and then show your friend. Here's the link copy/pasted though: Great instructable - I may try this, looks fun!

duesentrieb (author)2010-07-27

Sorry, I got the resistors for the blue and red LEDs wrong. Instead of 100 Ohm it should read 12 Ohm for the red LEDs and instead of 47 Ohm it should read 5.6 Ohm for the blue ones. I already uploaded the corrected circuit diagram.

Thav (author)2010-07-22

Since it's a large number of LEDs, you might be able to save some battery life by using a switching converter to limit the current instead of resistors. Buckpuck is an easy to use device that you can get at ledsupply or dealextreme (I think). I believe there are versions with multiple outputs so you can have different set points for each LED string. That would be a bulky and expensive option for what you're doing though, but if someone's going for a single color torch or using high output LEDs, that's what I would recommend (unless you're comfortable making switching regulators on your own).

XOIIO (author)2010-07-20

It's desoldering, not unsoldering.

bustedit (author)XOIIO2010-07-22

does it matter? or doth it matter, not?

SinAmos (author)2010-07-21

I appreciate this kind of project for motel photo shoots. haha. Nice work.

depotdevoid (author)2010-07-21

Nice, thanks for sharing!

TechDante (author)2010-07-21

very nice

texabyte (author)2010-07-20

I think RGB LEDs would work better for the colours :P

duesentrieb (author)texabyte2010-07-20

I was suggesting this in the last step of my instructable. I however had a couple of reasons not to use these: I already had most of the LEDs lying around already, the RGB connectors mostly don't fit to the holes in the circuit board and you have to add some additional circuitry to drive them.

SeamusDubh (author)2010-07-20

Grouping and going with a premade board do make of easier installation of the leds, but in my opinion evenly distributing them would look better.

Kryptonite (author)SeamusDubh2010-07-20

I was thinking that, but honestly; it would make it a lot harder to wire it all up!

phephq (author)2010-07-20

For Infrared LEDs, id suggest going to the optoelectronics section of Vishay electronics. you can get free samples of 180mw IR leds - theyre fantastically bright. same thing with red leds, though their green and blue selection is limited, and UV is nonexistent.

miphz (author)2010-07-20

nice work mates,,,

bowmaster (author)2010-07-20

Cool instructable.

rocketman221 (author)2010-07-20

This is cool. Did you think about using rgb leds for the colors.

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