Introduction: How to Build a Neopixel Butterfly Nightlight With Instamorph

This was made at the #BUILDNIGHT from Instructables and Instamorph at Hackerspace Charlotte on April 14th!

I wanted to make something with LEDs inside it so i embedded a bar of NEOPIXELS inside!

The heart of this is an Arduino Pro mini(picked for size), and the NEOPIXEL bar and i added a few normal leds and a battery and a bag of instamorph then BOOM, instant nightlight!!

Like most good Maker projects this evolved fairly quickly and new features were added and changed as the build went on, it was a very dynamic build. The INSTAMORPH really helped keep things dynamic because if i didn't like some thing we just heated it back up and reshaped it.

In hindsight i could have made the butterfly less bulky if i had known all the features i was going to add but hey! that can be v2.

Step 1: Parts and Setup and OPTIONAL Planning

here is my bill of materials.

I had most of it on hand so it was fairly easy.

NOTE: if i had planned this out better i could have made it look better. much of the electronics was embedded after the fact. i could have built it in as i went if i knew what i wanted todo.

A note on safety, the instamorph needs water heated to about 140-150f (60-65c) which is a bit hot. Use caution not to burn yourself.

Step 2: Heating the Instamorph

I wont go into too much detail here, as instamorph has instructions here that are great:

just heat it up to 140-150f(60-65c) and let it sit for 2 mins until it has gone clear. we then pulled it out and reformed it into a blob and reheated it again as this smoothed out the texture.

For our build night we used a pancake griddle style hotplate, a cooking thermometer and some baking tins.

this worked really well for multiply people and cleanup was easy.

When i did some changes at home i knew my wife would not be happy if i used her pans (she is very strict on food safety) so i made a tub using 2 layers of foil and folding the corners. I then used my multimeter which had a temp sensor.

NOTE: my tin foil tray leaked :( use a pan.

Use caution as the water is hot and could burn you. the instamorph is hot for a short while and then cools. work fast and reheat it if needed.

INSTAMORPH sticks to many things (it stuck to our tables some) you can use cooking spray to prevent it sticking but it makes it a bit harder to work with.

Step 3: The Circuit and Wiring.

I am putting the circuit part here as it is best to have a working circuit ready before putting anything into the instamorph.

I have attached my code but pls note you will need the ADAFRUIT neopixel library here:

i modified the sample sketch and added a few more feature.

The 9v battery is dropped to 5v by the regulator built into the pro mini.

basically connect up the neopixels to your arduino (mine used pin 6), connect up the 9v battery to the raw pin and the groud pin.

The Neopixels have 3 connections, Data In, V in and Gnd. Data in goes to pin 6 V in is the 5v off the arduino NOT the 9v from the battery and ground is connected to the ground bus.

I then made a ground bus and a 5v bus as the other LEDs were not arduino controlled and i wanted simple connections.

Neopixels are independently controlled RGB leds that are addressable via the arduino.

once the code is uploaded (load the code using the ftdi to the pro mini) test the circuit before covering it with instamorph, this will make things easier.

Step 4: Building the Body

So i made a butterfly but you could make anything really.

i started by testing a few designs before deciding on the coil idea.

so i heated the instamorph up, rolled it into a sausage then reheated it for a minute or so then coiled it around my neopixel bar.

Make sure is it plugged in and that everything works before encasing it.

I used some solid core copper wire to make feet and antenna for decoration.

then i pulled some more instamorph flat and shaped them into wings.

Step 5: Adding the Lights

the next step was to position the lights ,then encased them with instamorph. at times i used the hot air from the gas powered soldering iron to warm the wings up and get better adhesion.

for the arduino i plugged it into the socket, and encased the headers with instamorph then while it was still warm stuck it onto the back of the butterfly. just make sure the arduino can be unplugged.

i did the same with the switch. once that was done i covered all the wires with a thin instamorph layer to keep them from moving.

the battery enclosure was fun, here, you want to use the cooking spray. Spray the battery with cooking oil and wipe it with a cloth then encase it with instamorph. pull it in and out a few times. if it sticks start again.

my 1st attempt didn't have the cooking spray and i had a hot mess on my hands.

now you should have all your wires and parts encased.

the final step was to add a tail/stand and a hanging loop on the top.

Step 6: And Done!

let everything harden up and it is all set!

this was a huge hit with my kids.

I want to say thanks to Instamorph and Instructables for being awesome and letting Hackerspace Charlotte participate in this #BUILDNIGHT

if you have any questions please let me know!