Introduction: RGB LED Sculpture

About: I am not an engineer, student, or do I work in the field. I just love this kind of stuff!!

I decided to post this project to enter the Instructable Design Competition and the Make It Glow Contest. This is a logo that my friend designed for his band (Rhyme & Reason). He gave me the opportunity to bring his band logo to life. The logo is made out of plywood covered with black vinyl, 380 RGB LEDs, 28 feet of EL Wire, and 16 feet of RGB LED strip. This LED sculpture is controlled via a wireless controller and will sit on stage just behind the drummer.

Step 1: Getting the Measurements

To get the correct dimensions I sketched the design using Google Sketchup then I transferred the measurements to the plywood. I used a jigsaw to cut the design out, then drilled out the holes for the 5mm LEDs. After a good sanding to smooth out the edges, I spray painted it black and covered the front face with vinyl using adhesive spray.

Step 2: Making the Boards

I have more time than money so I decided to make my own WS2801 boards. I used Seeed Studio pcb service and Eagle to design the board. I panelized 10 sub-boards to one 5cm x 10cm board and I purchased 40 boards for less than 100$ plus shipping. I got the WS2801 chips and the RGB LEDs from Ebay, the resistors and capacitors were purchased from Mouser. All 40 boards were hand soldered then cut with a band saw and finally sanded down smooth. After a full day I ended up with 400 boards. There is nothing special about my boards I just wanted to save money and get experience using Eagle and a pcb service. I have supplied the schematics and board files if you want to check them out.

Step 3: Adding the Boards to the Sign

Since I glued vinyl to the face of the wooden logo I had to cut out the holes for the LEDs.

Step 4: Cutting & Soldering the Wire

Cutting and soldering all that wire turned out to be very time consuming. I had to cut over 15 hundred pieces of wire to the length of 3 inches, then I had to strip both ends of all 15 hundred wires. I had lots of wire around from previous projects so that saved me some money. I soldered the wire to 30 boards at a time and then tested the chain of LEDs before going any further. The testing was done by connecting an Arduino Deuemilanove and running the strandtest sketch from Adafruit.
Here is a video that I made to show my buddy a preview of the project.

Step 5: Connecting the Logo Together

I had to figure out how to connect the two partial circles to the R&R together without having any visual connectors. After a few designs I decided to go with this one. I used a band saw to cut out some acrylic brackets then I connected the pieces together using brass screws. It turned out better than expected you can't even see any connections unless you're looking for them.

Step 6: EL Wire & More LEDs

I used hot glue to attach around 28 feet of blue EL Wire to the edge of the logo. I also added around 10 feet of RGB LED strip to the backside of the R&R section (this gives it a back glow effect).

Step 7: Stand to Mount the Logo

The stand is made out of two studs (8x2x4). The studs are bolted on a plywood box. I made the box in this shape so that the drummer can sit right under the logo. The box also contains a pair of computer power supplies (I purchased a box of 12 power supplies from a yard sale for 2$). I use one of the power supplies to powers the inverter and the RBG LED strip. The other power supply powers the WS2801 chips and the micro controllers. The box will have a lid to cover the power supplies and cable, then I will tape LED strip to the top part of the cover. The logo mounts on the stand with aluminum frame hangers that I found at Lowes

Step 8: Electronics

Everything will be controlled with a wireless controller using a pair of XBee radios. The main controller has an Arduino MEGA, an Adafruit RGB LCD display that changes color based on the back glow of the logo, and 5 buttons to control the LCD menu. I connected the LCD and buttons to an i2c I/O port expander using Adafruit’s schematics. I'm using the MEGA because I am going to add about 20 arcade buttons, slider pots, LEDs and other stuff that we have in mind.
The receiver contains four Atmega328 chips with the Arduino bootloader also four N-Channel Mosfets to help control the RGB LEDs and the inverter. The four 328s can transfer information using the  i2c bus.
A1(atmega1) -  receives the wireless data from the main controller and executes the commands given. A1 turns on the RGB LED strip behind the logo and the strip taped on top of the box cover (these LEDs are connected to PWM pins). This chip also turns on and off the inverter to control the EL Wire. A1 also acts as a master of the i2c bus. It sends commands to 3 slaves A2, A3, and A4 based on the commands received by the main controller.
A2 - currently controls only the inside portion of the logo (R&R).
A3 - controls the top partial circle.
A4 - controls the bottom partial circle.
I know that at the moment this is overkill but we are planning to add lots of sensors, more EL Wire, and a lot MORE LEDs to the stage. I have added the code for anyone that wants to check it out. Currently it only turns on and off the RGB colors of the LEDs but I will update the code as I add to it.

Make It Glow

First Prize in the
Make It Glow

Instructables Design Competition

Participated in the
Instructables Design Competition