Introduction: Volcom RGB Desktop Light Box

Greetings! I'm Russell Petersen. I'm an engineer, inventor, designer, fabricator, and dreamer. I'm a junior Electrical Engineer by trade, located and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

I love playing with Solid State Lighting, and came up with this idea one night. Simply stated, It's a custom built light box with a logo adhered to the front, and lit by a RGB LED module. This project is easily adaptable to whatever image or logo you desire to create.

Difficulty:          Novice (No previous DIY experience)
                  >>> Easy(Some fabrication and electrical experience)
                         Intermediate (Fabrication, electrical, and programming experience)
                         Hard (Much fabrication, electrical, and programming experience)

Supplies Required:
- Blink M (includes color sequencing software)
- Arduino
- Computer
- 3 AAA battery holder & batteries
- Perf board (prototyping PCB)
- Small On/Off switch (STDP slide or rocker switch)
- Wire
- 40% or 60% translucent acrylic (depending on what look you want)
- Thin, light-weight scrap wood
- Wood dowels
- Vinyl Decal (bought or home-made)
- Spray paint (White for interior, outside color of your choice)
- 5 min. Epoxy

Tools:
- Soldering Iron
- Solder
- Radial Arm Saw (or table saw)
- Jigsaw
- Table Belt sander (or sanding block)
- Drill / bits
- Screwdriver

Disclaimer: 'Volcom Stone' logo is a registered trademark of Volcom, Inc. All rights and use of the logo for product distribution belong exclusively to Volcom or their respective owners. I did not create this device with the intent of selling, have not sold it, nor do I plan on mass producing this device for the market.

Step 1: Design & Inspiration

Light boxes have to be designed with the light source in mind. Depending on what type of LED fixture you're using as a light source, the distance between the source and lit surface is important if you want full and even lighting. I printed out the Volcom Logo in the size I wanted in the final piece and experimented with the lighting distance until I was satisfied.

Always start a project on the drawing board. Get all your ideas on paper, then work from there. Once I had the lighting distance established, I made a rough drawing of the dimensions of the box. You can really customize the size of your light box, but you may need more light sources. I designed this light box to be small for a desk surface.

I first cut the Acrylic to the desired size and shape of the logo, and came up with rough dimensions of the wood pieces. It's easier to mess up on cheap wood than the acrylic.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do Not uncover the acrylic until later on, otherwise you will scratch it. Any scratches on plastics you edge light or back light will show up clear as day! I

Once I knew how far back the LED needed to be mounted, I cut the wood pieces out with a radial arm saw. I was not shooting for perfection in this project as I usually do, so I was ready to sand every edge of each piece to get them all to fit together. Many of the pieces required steep angles sanded into the edges so that the outside edges all lined up flush. This is important for a clean, professional end result.

Step 2: Fitment & Gluing

After your lightbox pieces are cut, test fit them together if they are a unique shape. Sand any edges that aren't fitting together right. I used a table belt sander for this and it got the job done quickly. I taped these pieces together due to the complexity of the shape, and then used some bricks as a form for gluing. I cut pieces of wood dowels to create a support structure. They will also later provide mounting locations for the acrylic and back plate. If you need one for your lightbox, have the dowels pre-cut and test fit. Then mix together 5 min. epoxy and glue in the wood dowels.

5 min epoxy is one of the most useful supplies. I constantly find uses for it and the set up time is perfect for projects or repairs. Make sure you get epoxy that is compatible with the materials you are working with.

Step 3: Faceplate and Back Cover

As you can see, not all of my pieces aligned perfectly, but you can use the glue to fill gaps and sand it later. After the glue is dry and your box is somewhat formed, create mounting holes for the acrylic and back plate in the wood dowels that were cut. The dowels need to be flush with the mounting surface so that the acrylic faceplate and back cover seal the box up when mounted, otherwise light from the LED module will leak out of the box and create unwanted patterns on neighboring objects and surfaces.

I was originally going to have many mounting holes, but only create as many as necessary for the weight of the cover. In my case, 3 for the acrylic and 2 for the back cover were fine. For the acrylic piece, make sure you account for the logo you will be applying on the front and that the mounting holes don't interfere with the decal and your desired look. I recommend drilling the holes into the box and covers at the same time, so there is less change of miss-aligned holes.

The back cover will house the electronics. I created mounting locations and supports for the battery pack and the BlinkM LED module, and a hole for the On/Off Switch.

Step 4: Paint!

Once you're happy with the shape of the box, it's time to paint it. Make sure all of your sanding and drilling are done first so that the paint isn't ruined later on. Take off all components that you have mounted and any mounting harware (unless you want the screws to match the box). Mask off everywhere but the inside, and paint it a flat or gloss white. This will help greatly with reflectance so that the maximum amount of light is hitting the acrylic for a nice, even glow.

I had limited time on this project, and just used paper for the decal and painted it for a thicker, even black color. I later replaced it with a vinyl decal I made myself based on another instructable by GoodAsh03. I recommend making your own decal, having a local shop print you one, or buying one already made with nice material. The paper came unglued after a few weeks.

Step 5: Assembly

Now we're approaching a completed light box! Once the paint is nice and dry, mount the electronics onto the back plate. The BlinkM only requires power to the board after it has been programmed with an Arduino. Since I wanted to allow for reprogramming, I left the header pins on the BlinkM Module (small block of wood on the back cover compensates for the height of the pins) so I could later remove the module and use it with an Arduino again.

Carefully remove the covering on the acrylic and stick/glue your decal onto the fresh, clean surface. Then mount the acrylic to the front side of the box. For my setup, I could see the edge of the wood through the acrylic with messy paint lines, so I painted that black to create focus on the center of the logo and light.

Step 6: Programming

Once the light box is complete, follow the links and instructions provided by ThingM for their BlinkM. They offer a nice, easy to use GUI (graphical user interface) to create decent light and color patterns. You may leave your connections intact when reprogramming the BlinkM, just make sure the power is OFF from the batteries when you plug it into the Arduino. 

[I will update this later with more help and details on the programming.]

Once the programming is done, mount it back into your back cover, and mount the back cover onto the box. Then turn on the power switch for a colorful light show of your favorite decal/logo!

Comments

author
choppedupcoconut made it!(author)2013-09-06

Very cool, I'm thinking about going to school for electronic engineer myself. Any pointers?

author
rpetersen made it!(author)2014-02-14

Sorry for the late reply! You should definitely go to school for engineering. The generation of engineers before us are slowly phasing out. There will always be engineering job opportunities as our technology advances and brings us to new levels of understanding. Plan early and always talk to counselors and advisers to make sure you are on track. If you get a a degree that isn't very specific, you will have more job options (I got an Electrical Engineering B.S. rather than a Robotic Engineering B.S. for example). Take classes that broaden your skills; they will help you be versatile and understand important aspects of engineering that will help you in your job even if you don't end up in that field. I took a lot of computer engineering classes that have helped me tremendously. Take circuit design, PCB layout, programming classes, classes required for the major, and any other electives that intrigue you. Once you start learning about what interests you, you will quickly discover if you love it or need to switch your focus to a different area. Electrical engineering is a vast field and there are many different focuses you could end up working in. Hope this helps!

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