Introduction: Super Bright USB Powered LED Lamp

About: I'm a mechanical and mechatronics engineer with a PhD in robotics. In my spare time I love playing soccer and tinkering with electronics!

Hi everyone! After reading many instructables and making several projects of my own I have finally got around to making my very own first instructable. This project is the design and manufacture of a '3 link manipulator' type LED lamp. These lamps are really popular in stores these days but they come in at well over $150. This project is great in that the parts are cheap and it's really easy to put together, plus it's good fun! Hope you all enjoy the project! Here goes...

Step 1: Gather Your Materials!

First things first, here are the tools and materials you are going to need for the project:

Drill and drill bits
Phillips head screwdriver
Hobby knife
Soldering iron
Rolling pin

Wooden slats - to cut to size for each of the manipulator links
Wooden base plate
LED PCB - I bought mine from eBay for a few dollars
M6 nuts and bolts
Male A to male A USB cable
Female USB A connector
Electrical wire
M6 wood screw
SPST switch
Thin MDF board (3mm)
Super glue
Polymorph pellets

Step 2: Cut the Manipulator Links to Size and Sand the Surfaces

Here is where you are going to cut the lengths for each of the manipulator links. Make sure that you keep the width of the wooden links constant as it looks nice and neat compared to varied width. You can see the dimensions of the links I cut in the images, but to repeat, I cut link 1 to 45x300x20mm, link 2 to 45x200x20mm and link 3 to 45x150x20mm. After cutting, make sure you sand the faces of the links to make them nice and smooth.

Step 3: Mark and Drill the Holes for Connecting the Links Together

Next, mark out the holes you are going to drill through the wood for bolting the links together and bolting link 1 to the base plate. I offset my holes by 20mm from each edge as shown in the photos from the previous step. Make sure the holes are centred about the links' vertical axis of symmetry, again for appearance. Remember that link 2 is the only link that needs holes drilled at both ends of the link. Link 1 and 3 have a single hole drilled at one end of the link. Link 1 also has a hole drilled at the base (centred) as shown in the pictures. Drill the holes out with an M6 drill bit.

Step 4: Cut the Base Plate to Size and Drill the Mounting Hole

Take your piece of base plate wood and cut it to a suitable size. I cut mine to 120x125x20mm which was sufficient to keep the lamp base stable. Again, give all surfaces a good sanding over to remove the splinters and make all the surfaces are smooth. Next, on the bottom of the base plate, mark out and drill a hole in the centre of the base plate. Make it countersunk wide enough so that you can tighten and loosen the bolt with a wrench as required. The fastener I used was a hex head bolt for wood, this required a countersunk hole on the base plate to make sure that the bolt head didn't protrude from the base plate.

Step 5: Assemble the Wooden Components!

This one is simple - take your M6 bolts and feed them through the links of the lamp, securing with the nuts on the opposite side. Bolt link 1 to the base plate using an M6 wood screw. Be careful to screw this one in straight, otherwise your lamp will be wonky and unstable.

Step 6: Connect and Test the Led PCB

The LED board I bought from eBay had mounting holes for a female USB connector and a space for a resistor. I'm not sure what the current draw of the board is, as there were minimal specs... So I used a relatively high wattage 150 ohm resistor which was fine. Unfortunately, the connector was aligned on the reverse side of the board so it wasn't very useful for this project. Nonetheless, I soldered a female USB connector on the board and plugged a male USB cable in just to test that the LEDs worked (see picture).

Step 7: Solder the Switching Circuit and Mount to Mdf Board

After testing that the LED board works, desolder that female USB connector and solder it onto the veroboard instead. You need to do this so its easy to connect the switch for turning the lamp on and off. Cut the MDF board to an appropriate size for mounting your veroboard and LED PCB. Solder the wires in to connect the LED pcb ground with the female USB connector. Also solder your power leads to the LED pcb and the veroboard but don't solder the other end to the power switch just yet. Use screws or pcb offsets to mount the boards to the MDF. Drill a hole which you can feed the loose wires through as shown in the pictures. Connect the switch in series with the power lead of the female USB connector and the LED PCB as shown in the pictures. Plug in the USB cable and make sure your soldering has been good to enable the switch to work.

Step 8: Make the LED PCB Cover With Polymorph

Next I used some polymorph to make a casing for the MDF board. Heat up some polymorph pellets in hot water and roll it out flat with a rolling pin. While it's still warm and pliable, mold it around the MDF board and cut as necessary. Make sure that the switch is hanging out from the board so that you can mount it later to the casing.

Step 9: Glue the LED PCB Cover to the Final Manipulator Link

Take some superglue and glue the MDF board with the polymorph cover to the base of the third manipulator link. Make sure that the USB connector faces towards the bolted connection between links 2 and 3.

Step 10: Mount the Switch to the LED PCB Cover With Sugru

Finally, you'll need to mount the switch to the lamp somehow. I left this for a couple of weeks while I though of a good way to do this. I finally settled on using some sugru I had just bought. Simply position the switch in a nice position behind the third link so it's hidden, take some sugru and press it into place. It takes a while for the rubber to cure so be careful with switching the lamp on and off within the first few hours of using the sugru.

Step 11: Switch on the Light and Admire the Glow!

So that's it, you're all done!

Admittedly, there are some things I would change in this design to make it a bit easier to assemble/disassemble:
1. Use butterfly/wing bolts and wing nuts instead of the Phillips head nut and bolt combination
2. Use a wood screw that has a Phillips head or anything other than a hex head as this is too difficult to access to tighten or loosen on the base plate of the lamp.

I'm open to any thoughts or suggestions on the project, hope you all enjoyed reading/making it!

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