Fiberoptic New York Cityscape Using Neopixel LEDs




Introduction: Fiberoptic New York Cityscape Using Neopixel LEDs

While driving around on trash-day, I found someone chucking a Fiberoptic Cityscape of the Brooklyn Bridge & New York City's skyline. The only thing wrong with it was the 3/8" glass cover was cracked & the sucker weighed about 50 lbs (due to the glass cover). While removing the cover, I figured I'd take a look at what's inside.

These fiberoptic 'scapes are traditionally powered 120V which runs a small incandescent lamp (through a converter) & a motorized color wheel. This design is inherently noisy & inefficient, so I decided to replace it with a quieter 5V microcontroller with an array of individually controlled RGB LEDs, which after completing my Flower project, I upgraded to the more friendly 5050 WS2812B RGB LEDs.

The whole upgrade cost less than $15 for the LEDs, controller, & electrical connectors, $15 for the sheet of Acrylic, and another $6 for the Jewel upgrade:

BOM (Ver 1.0)

  1. LEDs (2x White, 1 RGB)
  2. Proto-board
  3. Resisters
  4. Single headers & jumper wires
  5. Digispark Attiny85 controller
  6. Soldering equipment
  7. 3D Printer & PLA
  8. Sheet of 1/8" Acrylic
  9. Tape (Double-sided mounting tape & electrical tape)

Additional BOM (Ver. 2.0)

  1. Adafruit Jewel
  2. Single Headers & jumper wires

Step 1: Disassembly

I removed the broken glass cover & backplate, then removed the lamp, transformer, & motorized color-wheel. I then cut a new acrylic cover for the front & used double-sided tape to adhere it to the frame.

Step 2: LED Assembly

To replicate the color wheel, I wanted primarily a white shimmering light with a tinge of cycling color. I used two White LEDs & a frosted RGB led, & soldered them to the proto-board, using a pair of current-limiting resisters. I soldered a bundle of jumpers directly to the proto-board for the 5 outputs, ground (Ws) , & +5V (RGB).

I created a light tube from translucent PLC to focus the light towards the fiber bundle, then wrapped the whole thing in electrical tape.

Step 3: Mounting the LEDs & Hooking Up the Controller

I taped the LED assembly to the fiberoptic cluster, leaving about 3/16" (4.8mm) between the LEDs & the fibers.

I then attached the jumper leads to the Digispark controller:

  • Red: RGB Input - +5V
  • Black: White Ground - GND
  • White: White Output - P1
  • Grey: White Output - P2
  • Brown: RGB Output (Red) - P3
  • Blue: RGB Output (Blue) - P4
  • Green: RGB Output (Green) - P5

Step 4: Programming

I modified the program code from this twinkling instructable

I played around with random intervals, but it never looked very natural and there was quite a bit of light loss. I gave up on tweaking it. Seemed like a bummer of a project until...

Step 5: BONUS ROUND: Upgrading to NeoPixel Jewel

My Flower project influenced me to also upgrade the cityscape project as well.

I carefully soldered header pins to IN, PWR, & GND on the back of the Jewel. The LEDs are clustered very close together, so I had to be careful to make sure not to singe the 5050 pixels soldering from the front.
On the controller, I used a combination of straight pin & 90° headers.

I taped the jewel directly to the fiber bundle, but it wasn't very even, so I reused the light tube from before to offset the LEDs 5mm as before. Now the light is tremendously more even & natural in cycling.

Make it Glow Contest 2016

Participated in the
Make it Glow Contest 2016

Trash to Treasure Contest 2017

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest 2017

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    5 years ago

    It's a little amazing that they had fiber optics and were using it for art before they had multicolor LED's. These color wheels were the only way that there was to mimic motion. I remember seeing them in advertising murals in bars and other places. This is a good upgrade for that. I will have to keep it in mind. You can still buy those fiber optic lamps on ebay. As I remember I think Spencers gifts used to sell them a lot.


    5 years ago

    This is beautiful :)