DMX-512 LED Controller With LED Display




Introduction: DMX-512 LED Controller With LED Display

About: Designing electronic creations from microcontrollers, LEDs and anything else I can pull out of a dumpster and make use of. Check my Profile

A compact, easy to assemble, LED Controller outputs TTL PWM signals for Red, Green and Blue LEDs. The PWM signals control LED Drivers (Output Boards, MOSFET/Resistor based regulation or constant current regulators), which are selected based on the configuration(current, voltage, type) of LEDs being controlled. A 3 digit, 7-segment LED display and 2 buttons are on a separate PCB connected with a ribbon cable, so it can be mounted anywhere. The display shows the user the current address or what the current stand alone mode is set to.  The 2 buttons are used to set the DMX address( Up/Down) and to control the stand-alone functions for when DMX input is not used. The user can select weather the device utilizes 3 or 5 channels of DMX data. The device can be set to go into various stand alone modes if it looses DMX signal or no DMX is being used. All user changed preferences are saved to the device and load at start up.

Controller PCB is 2" x 2" x 0.5" tall. It is connected to the display PCB with 13-strand ribbon cable. The display PCB is 1.75" x 1.75" x 3/8" and has mounting holes in each corner for standoffs or screws. Diagrams are on the datasheet.

3 Channel Mode:
  • 1 - Red - Red Value, 0 - 255
  • 2 - Green - Red Value, 0 - 255
  • 3 - Blue - Red Value, 0 - 255
5 Channel Mode: Same Red, Green, Blue Channels, and
  • 4 - Shutter - (Master Brightness) Scales the Red, Green and Blue values proportionality to the shutter value, 255 will produce the actual values that Red, Green or Blue are set to. 128 will divide the RGB values by half.
  • 5 - Strobe - Strobes the colors using the Shutter and RGB values. 0 is off, 5 or more starts at 1hz upto 10hz strobing.

When the device does not have a DMX signal or looses signal, it will fall into user selected stand-alone mode, The mode is selected by the user and saved to the device.

  1. Fade - Cycles through all the colors, with speed control
  2. Flash - Flashes through preset colors, with Speed Control
  3. Hold - Holds the outputs at their previouscolor values, in case of DMX connectivity loss. Waits.
  4. No Data - all outputs turn off
  5. Select - Displays a selected color, stays that color. 0 - 255 Selects color R->G->B

Download the Datasheet Here or Visit the DMX-512 LED Controller w/ LED Display Webpage.

Please contact me if custom or modified DMX Channels or Stand-alone functions are required. Or for bulk purchases or firmware licensing.

I have a work-in-progress tutorial on DMX LED Wash Light Design just the basics right now, but it will be expanded.

Step 1:

Kits can be purchased from Chromation Systems Webstore. Remember XLRs, Headers and Housings are not required, and are purchased as an add-on, look for the check boxes above the Add This To My Cart Button.

  • Printed Circuit Board for the Controller
  • Printed Circuit Board for the LED Display and Buttons
  • PIC16F1828 - Programmed Microcontroller
  • 74HC164 - 8 Channel Serial in Parallel out Shift Register
  • SN17576 - RS-485 Transceiver
  • LTC-4724R - 3 Segment Common Cathode LED Display
  • 20-Pin Socket
  • 14-Pin Socket
  • 8-Pin Socket
  • 2 Board Mount Momentary Push Buttons
  • 3x 3904 TO-92 Package
  • 120 ohm Resistor, black - red - brown
  • 10 ohm Resistor, black - brown - black
  • 3x 10k ohm resistor, brown - black - orange
  • 3x 220ohm resistor, base resistors
  • 8x 220ohm or higher, current limiting resistors for the LED Display
  • 13 Strand Ribbon Cable, varying length kit comes with 8"
  • 1uf Capacitor
  • 10uF Capacitor
  • 2x 0.1uF Capacitor
Full Version Also Includes:
  • Male and Female Panel Mount XLR Connectors, 3 pin, screws
  • 2-pin Header and Housing, for power connection
  • 3-pin Header and Housing, XLR / DMX Connection
  • 4-pin Header and Housing, TTL PWM + GND Output connection
  • 10 crimps, for the housings.
  • 12" 3 strand wire, for XLR connection
  • 10" dual strand red and black wire for Power

Output Board / Breakout Board: There are many options here, shown is for a Common Anode, MOSFET controlled

Common Anode, no Regulation
  • Printed Circuit Board or Perforated Board
  • 3x Logic Level MOSFETs such as FDP8880 or RFP12N10L
  • 3x Gate Resistors, kit uses 220ohm 
  • 3x 10 kohm Resistor Pull Down
  • 4 position Terminal Block, 5.04mm spacing
  • 4 strand wire
  • 2 strand power wire

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Wire Cutter
  • Wire Stripper
  • Xacto style razor blade
  • Hot Glue, not necessary but helps a lot to secure the ribbon cable

Step 2: Sockets and Resistors

  • When placing the sockets, line up the notch on the top-side silkscreen image with the notch on the socket.
  • Make sure all the pins are lined up and press in firmly.
  • Starting with R1, R2 & R3 are all 10kohm(brown - black - orange - gold)
  • Then place R4 which is a 10 ohm(black-brown-black-gold)
  • Next is R5 120ohm(black-red-brown-gold)
  • Then R6-R15 are all 220ohm(red-red-brown-gold)

Step 3: Transistors, Capacitors, and Optional Vreg

  • The silkscreen image shows what direction the transistors go in, you may have to bend the middle lead outwards so it fits into the holes.

  • C1 and C3 are both 0.1uF capacitors, the small yellow ones. They can go in either way, not polarized
  • C2 is a 1uF, the line down the side marks the negative lead, make sure that goes into the correct hole. The silkscreen shows the positon and a + and - sign. Or look at the 2 parallel lines inside the circles, the solid side indicates the negative.
  • C4 value varies, 1uF to 220uF, it is polarized goes in the same way as C2.
Optional VREG: 7805 Linear Regulator, only needed if the input put voltage is more than 5v, otherwise its holes are jumped and the 7805 is not used.
  • If source voltage is greater than 5v - The 7805's placement is indicated on the silkscreen layer, but it should be facing outwards like in the images.
  • If the source voltage will be 5v, bend a piece of wire into a U shape, and use it to jump the 2 outer holes together, leave the middle hole alone.

Step 4: LED Display and Buttons, Wiring

This controller has an external 3 digit LED display and 2 buttons to set the modes and address.

LED Display PCB:
  • Real simple just put it together as shown in the images.
  • 2 buttons and the LED display

The LED display and buttons are wired to the main controller PCB by some ribbon cable. This enables the display and buttons to be mounted away from the main controller.

  • Using a razor blade, start by splitting the cable about 0.5" - 1" long, both ends
  • Strip all 1/8" of insulation of each wire, both ends
  • One wire at a time, carefully solder them one after the next to the controller.
  • Lay it out flat and place the LED display on the un-soldered end, note where the wires should be soldered. The boards are connected to each other the same way they would be if they were lined up next to each other with the holes lining up, face up. See image.

Step 5: Optional Headers

Kits are sold as a base type, Full Kit ncludes all the parts shown, including, Panel Mount XLRs both male and female, Headers, Housings, Crimps,(Interconnects) for the controller PCB and wire  for the XLR(3-pin), PWMOUT(4-pin), and Power input(2-pin)

If assembling the Regular Version, all connections to and from the PCB will be soldered directly onto the controller PCB, no plugs. Solder up all your required connections, view Step 6 if you are unsure how to connect the XLRs, otherwise skip to Step 7.

Or continue this step if assembling the Full Version.

Headers pair up with housings and crimps to make it easy to plug or unplug the PWM outputs and power input connectors. They are optional, if you are not using them you will just solder the wires directly to the PCB so you can skip this step.

Please View This Webpage for details of how to use the crimps and install them in the housings.

Headers: Before soldering them in, note they are polarized and consider any connectors that are already assembled so they will be compatible.
  • PWR, 2-pin header is for the power,  its a tight squeeze with C4 right there, but it fits.
  • XLR-IN, 3-pin is for the DMX connections
  • PWMOUT, 4-pin header is for the 3 PWM outputs and GND reference.

Step 6: DMX Connector Assembly

The optional Panel Mount XLRs kit, comes with one female and one male panel mount XLRs, 12" triple strand wire, and screws for mounting the XLRs.

Wire Up the XLRs: The XLR's pins are labeled in the plastic on the front.
  • Measure out how much wire you will need, try to use as little as possible to reduce interference.
  • Connect the XLR pin 1 on the male to the female.
  • Connect the XLR pin 2 on the male to the female.
  • Connect the XLR pin 3 on the male to the female.
  • Run 3 wires from pins 1 - 3 on either the male or the female
  • If using the option headers and housings, fasten crimps the ends of the 3 wires and place in the housing.
  • Otherwise solder the wires directly onto the PCB as shown in the diagram.

Step 7: Plug It All in & Test

First Look the whole circuit over, check for solder bridges, loose wires, or wrong connections.

Insert ICs and Test:
  • The end with the dot on the IC lines up with the notch on the end of each socket.
  • Line up the pins and press in firmly.
  • Check it over
  • Once the chips are inserted and its looked over, go ahead and apply power. Remember if no 7805 has been installed 5 volt is the maximum input voltage, if the 7805 was installed, minimum 7 volts are required, up to 32 volts, which could be further increased with a different 7805 and heat sink.
  • The display should light up and respond to button commands.
  • Once the display has been tested and working, it is a good idea to hot glue the ribbon cable to the PCBs, otherwise the wires could break or come undone while handling.
  • Optional: connect to a DMX signal, it should switch from stand-alone to DMX mode, and display the address.

Step 8: Utilization - Output Board

All designs, schematics and PCBs, of the various types of output boards are available, check Step 1 for a ZIP or on the website.
There are various ready made current regulators that could be used, Such as BuckPlus 7021/7023 series or the VLD-350/700 constant current regulators.

Output boards will vary depending on batch, but will function the same.

Shown here, is the Common Anode Low-Profile Output/Breakout Board. It uses 3x logic level MOSFETs to control the colors. This board does not limit current, any limiting will have to be done else where, either by wiring a resistor inline with the LED or using pre-assembled modules or strips that have their own resistors. The board is small, 1.5" x 1.5" x 0.5" tall. Inexpensive and should be able to handle up to 30w per channel or so of LEDs. The bottom traces should be tinned if using more than 20 watts total.

Common Anode Low-Profile: The kit comes with the parts shown and wire. Crimps/Housing is optional.
  • R4, R5, R6 - Resistors - 10 kohm 1/4w, they go under the MOSFET leads.
  • R1, R2, R3 - Resistors - 220 ohm 1/6w 
  • Q1, Q2, Q3 - MOSFETs - Logic Level, low resistance such as:
  • Bend the MOSFET's over, line the holes up.
  • Terminal block, make sure the openings face outwards
  • Connect the Red and Black wires either from the bottom(shown) or through the header holes.
  • Connect 4 wires from the TTL Inputs header to the Outputs on the controller.
  • Attach crimps and housing if you are using them, otherwise solder directly onto the controller, remove PIC first!
  • Check over the traces and solder points real well.

Step 9: Utilization - Build a Light

I used an old florescent black light fixture and refitted it with 21 watts of 12v RGB LED Light Strip(6 watts per meter) and this controller to run it. I wanted some versatility with how the connections were located, so it could lay down on either side or stand up and there would be access to the DMX in/out and display/buttons. It has 2 sets of DMX in and outs on each side, they are all in parallel, nothing special.

Remember that an output board is selected based on the configuration of the LEDs, any type of LED can be controlled with this controler. Contact Us for help choosing a Output Board.

I forgot to take pictures of a few steps. When refitting or building custom lights, everyone will do it differently, but take a look at how this one worked out.

- Complete and test the controller, this will use a 12v input, so the controller absolutely needs the 7805 installed.

- After taking the salvaged light apart and gutting it of its old electronics, I test fit the circuit to see where it would fit, the octagon case on the end had plenty of space.

- Decide where the XLRs will go, DC Power Jack, and the button/display PCB.

- The spot I wanted the Display wasn't quite big enough, but I was able to trim the PCB down and made it fit.

- Using the diagram, found on the datasheet or for download, mark the location of where to cut.

- Cut the display hole first, methods vary greatly, I used a razor as the plastic was pretty weak. tried to score and snap the last side and it broke more than I wanted.

- Drill out the button holes with a 5/16" or so bit, then use a razor to trim it so it can fit the square buttons.

- Mark and drill holes for the XLRs, use a 7/8" drill bit, spades do work, but be careful.

- Mark and drill the holes for the XLR's screws.

- Cleaned the area where the LEDs will go with alcohol.

- Applied some aluminum duct tape to the cleaned area, it will reflect light and dissipate some heat.

- Trimmed it with a razor blade.

- Soldered colored 22ga wire to all the contacts on the 3 strands of RGB Light strip.

- Apply the 12v RGB LED Light Strip, I did 3 rows, with the 2 on the outside longer than the inner row, with the inner row offset. All the wired ends are on the end with the controller.

- Connected the Output board PWR and Controller PWR to a panel mount barrel jack.

- Mounted the XLR jacks, and screwed them in.

- Test fit the display, once I knew it fit, I used hot glue to secure it in place.

- Positioned the output board away from the rest, and secured it in place.

- Attached the wires from the RGB light strip to the terminals on the output board.

- The controller was stuffed in where it could fit, Making sure that the solder contacts on the bottom or top can't possible touch anything.

- Test it.

- Cut a 5.25" by 47.75" piece of 50 mil HDPE plastic.

- Positioned it and drilled 1/8" holes for pop rivets.

- Used 5 rivets on one side then did the other side, ensuring I kept it tight.

- Used a small piece of black vinyl to cover up the jaggedness around the display/button holes, and then placed some silver dots on the button locations.

Used a 12v @ 3A inline power supply and had it up and running. Very bright.

Step 10: Finished

Thanks for reading my Instructable, if you have any questions or need any help with this or any of my other kits or Instructables please send me a PM or contact me through My Website

Please check out my Instructables Profile or my Projects Page to view all my posted projects.

Subscribe for future projects. Coming soon is a new Chromation Systems 48 Channel LED Controller, 48 Channels of mono-color LEDs or 16 Channels of RGB LEDs, more than 1 LED can be on each channel, It interfaces to computer software through USB. The custom software, ColorMotion makes it easy to create and upload endless amounts of patterns. With fading, cascading, flashes, sliding effects. Great for RGB LED Infinity Mirrors, accent lights, case lights, anytime where dynamic control of multiple RGB LEDs is required.

Please visit my Chromation Systems Webstore for kits, LEDs, power supplies, and other items.

Make It Glow Challenge

Participated in the
Make It Glow Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Hour of Code Speed Challenge

      Hour of Code Speed Challenge
    • Unusual Uses Contest

      Unusual Uses Contest
    • Reclaimed Materials Contest

      Reclaimed Materials Contest


    soner erol
    soner erol

    2 years ago

    Can we get the hex file


    9 years ago on Step 2

    Hi, are there any way to low down pwm voltaje in one channel? ej. red color


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

    I mean that the max voltaje don`t exced 3 volts in pwm output, I have a 10 red, 10 green and 10 blue leds circuit with a common positive, the blue and green are 3.6 volts and red are 2.4 volts, with 37 volts power source, so I have a over voltaje on reds, I can low down current with a resistor in series with leds but I need a big wattaje resistor, if I low from 255 to 160 in the dmx controller I have the right voltaje, but I need this voltaje with dmx at 255, I try with 13 red leds and is too much red, white color is redish.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

    The output circuit pulse width modulates the color channels on and off really fast, you need to use resistors to vary the current for each color group. The controller itself has no control over the current each channel uses. You need to up the wattage and value for your red resistor.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    hello friend all good! wanted to get the wiring diagram files. and HEX code and schema for recording because I want to mount some spotlights in fact some 120 contacts ok ok wait ....i'm from Brasil


    9 years ago on Step 6

    Even though the wires are short, it'd cautious to use a shielded two or three conductor cable rather than a flat ribbon cable for wiring the XLR connectors.