Introduction: DIY 3D Printed LED Sign Board

About: The Green Energy Harvester, loves to make things related to Arduino, Solar Energy, and Crafts from used stuff.

Recently, I have upgraded my studio set up with a new workbench and tools. I was badly missing some colorful lights. Initially, I thought to buy some readymade light with the controller from the market. But as you know I am a big fan of DIY projects and when I have the option to make a DIY or Buy, then most of the time I prefer DIY. I have finalized to make a LED Signboard with a text display of “I Love DIY" that will motivate me to make more DIY projects instead of buying readymade products from the market. In this process, I will continue my learning process and upgrade my skill.

My goal was to make the LED sign in such a way that I can change the color and option to play with different effects by using addressable RGB LEDs. After some Google search, I found a nice 3D printed design which was my inspiration to make this project. I have struggled a lot during the building process due to a lack of proper documentation. So I have documented everything during my building and will share it here.

In this Instructable, I will show you how to make a customized 3D printed LED sign board by using WS2812b addressable RGB LEDs. I will also guide you to configure WLED with your PC and Smartphone. Here, I have used an ES32 module to control the sign board. But you can use ESP8266 instead of ESP32 board.

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Parts Used:

1.WS2812B RGB Led (Amazon )

2.ESP32 (Amazon )

3.30AWG Wires (Amazon )

4. DC adapter 5V (Amazon )

5. Heatshrink Tubing (Amazon )

6. DC Jack -Female (Amazon )

7. Black Filament (Amazon )

8. White Filament (Amazon )

Tools Used:

1.3D Printer (Amazon / Amazon )

2. Soldering Iron (Amazon )

3. Wire Stripper (Amazon )

4. Nipper (Amazon )

5. Hot Air Blower (Amazon )

Step 1: 3D Printing of Alphabets

The first step is to download the STL files from the printables. These awesome designs are made by Satellietje.

Then 3D print the alphabet and shapes by using dark color filament ( black or grey ). I have used eSun black PLA filament to print the parts.

The settings that I have used are as given below:

Print Speed: 60 mm/s

Layer height: 0.2mm ( 0.3 also works well)

Fill Density: 25%

Extruder Temperature: 210 deg C

Bed Temp: 65 deg C

For your convenience, I have attached the STL files that I have used to make this LED sign.

Step 2: Remove the Support Structure

After printing the alphabet and shape, you have to remove the support structure. The support structure is present at the slots for mounting LEDs.I have used a screwdriver to remove the excess materials from the 3D printed parts.

Step 3: Prepare the WS2812B LEDs

I have purchased 3 modules of WS2812b LEDs, each module contains 10 addressable LEDs. They are very small, the typical size is 10 x 3 mm. You can daisy chain multiple of these LEDs together and control each LED individually.

First, we have to separate the individual LEDs from the PCB. You can easily break them by applying little pressure at the joining points.

These LED features a cascading port transmission mechanism that needs only a single line. This means that multiple WS2812B can be cascaded and individually controlled by a single connection for data transmission. Therefore, cascading many WS2812B modules requires only wiring for VCC, GND, and the data transmission.

The LED pixel has only three input pins ( 5V, Data, GND ). The arrow mark on the PCB indicates the direction of the current flow.

Step 4: Install the LEDs

Each alphabet has a few numbers of slots for mounting the LED PCB. First, you have to align the LED to match the square holes in the 3D printed parts. Then secure it by applying little pressure with your finger.

The total number of LEDs required for the entire project is 22. The part-wise details are below:

  1. Letter " I " - 2 x2 = 4
  2. Shape " Heart " - 9
  3. Letter " D " - 5
  4. Letter " Y " - 4

Step 5: Prepare the Connecting Wires

After installing the LEDs into the 3D printed parts, we have to connect the LEDs electrically by using wires. I have used 24 AWG wires, but I will recommend using 30 AWG wires for easier installation of the back cover.

Measure the distance between the consecutive LEDs, and cut the wire accordingly. Then strip out the insulation by using a wire stripper.

For easier soldering, you may tin the bare conductor by using a small amount of solder.

Step 6: Connect the LEDs

The LED has 3 terminals ( 5V, Data, GND), one is for input and the other one is for output. I have used 3 different wire colors to easily identify the pins. Red is used for 5V, black is used for GND, and blue is used for data connection.

We have to connect the output of the first LED to the input of the next LED. You may also follow the arrow mark on the LED PCB. Before soldering the wires, tin the solder pads. Now place the tip of the soldering iron, and place the wire over the soldering pad. The solder will flow all around and it will make a perfect joint.

Step 7: Join the 3D Printed Parts

In this step, we will join the 3D printed parts physically. To join them together there are slots are provided in all the parts for mounting the connector.

In our LED sign there are 5 different parts, so we have 4 joints and we need 4 connectors.

I have printed some extra connectors for keeping it as a spare.

The STL file for the connector is attached below. Use 100% fill Density for printing the connectors, it will provide more strength.

As per my experience, after connecting the connector, the joint is not so rigid. So I applied a small amount of glue to all the joints. Now the joint is super solid and I really like it.

Step 8: Connect the LEDs in Between the Two Parts

In the earlier step, we have joined the parts physically but now we will join them electrically. I use a thump rule to connect the LEDs between two parts, and connect the last led of one part to the first led of the next part. You have maintained the sequence either from the left to right or right to left. You may watch my video tutorial for a better understanding. For making the LED connection easier, I have used a 3pin JST connector to the end terminal.

After soldering the wires, I applied a small amount of hot glue on the back side of all LEDs.

Step 9: Install the Back Cover

After connecting the wires between all the LEDs, it looks really messy. We have to cover up these wires by using the back cover. The back cover has slots to pass the wires.

Apply a small amount of super glue gel, align the back cover and fix it properly.

After installing the back cover the LED sign looks pretty clean.

The STL files are attached below

Step 10: Install the Diffuser

If you look at the bare LED, the light will be concentrated at the central part, to diffuse the light uniformly all around the alphabet/ shape, we need a diffuser ( lens).

I have printed the diffusers by using white color PLA filament.

Align the lens with the slot in the alphabet and press it into it. If the lens cover is not fixed firmly, you may secure it with help of glue.

The STL files are attached below

Step 11: Upload the Firmware

We will upload the firmware to the ESP32 board by using ESPHome Flasher. You can download it from the following link:

Then download the firmware from the following link:

Open the ESPHome flasher, select the correct COM port and browse the firmware, then click on "Flash ESP".

After successful upload, you will see the message, " Done! Flashing is Complete! "

Step 12: Power Supply

We need a 5V power supply to provide power to the led sign board and ESP32. The current rating depends on the number of LEDs that you are using in your project. I always recommended always taking some margin for considering the worst case.

In my case, I have measured the maximum current drawn at full brightness is 550mA. So I have used a 5V 2A DC adapter to provide the power supply.

A female DC jack is used to split the power from the dc adapter to the LED sign board and ESP32.

Step 13: Configuring WLED

WLED is an awesome open source application created to control addressable LEDs like WS2812b from your iOS or Android smartphone, or literally any device which can send a command via http/https over a network!

Plugin the DC adapter to the AC outlet and search for the WLED-AP WiFi Network, then connect it. You will redirect to the WLED home page.

Now you have to configure the WiFi Settings, enter the SSID and Password of your network, and save it.

Install the smartphone application by downloading it from the following link.

Download the android app

Download the ios app

Open the app and click on "+" sign to add a new device. After some time, you will notice a new device in the name WLED.

Now open the device and configure the LED as per your requirement. The most important parameter is the number of LEDs. In this project, it is 22 but it may vary in your case if you make something different.

Now you control the LED from your smartphone. There are so many awesome effects on WLED, that you may play with it.

I found a nice YouTube video to set up the WLED.

Step 14: Pairing It With Amazon Alexa

Click on the Config ( gear icon at the corner) then open Sync Interfaces.

Then scroll down to Alexa Voice Assistant. Tick on Emulate Alexa device and give a suitable name.

Now save it and you are done.

Step 15: Wiring Diagram

The connection between the LED sign board, ESP32, and the power supply is very straightforward. Connect the 5V and GND from the female DC jack to the LED sign board and ESP Vin and GND pin.

Connect the D2 pin of ESP32 to the data pin of the LED sign board.For better undestanding you may see the schematic diagram.

Step 16: ESP32 Enclosure

I have placed the ESP32 board inside a nice 3D printed case. You can download the STL file from Thingiverse.

Step 17: Concluding

Finally, my LED signboard is ready to place in my studio. I have placed it on a floating shelf and it looks really awesome.

Now I can control the color and effects of the LED sign board from my smartphone.

I hope you like this Instructable, if you like it, please share it.


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