Introduction: DIY LED Bar

Purpose and Description:

The purpose of this project was to improve Richard's aquarium. He is planning to have a new fish aquarium and wants a nice light design in the aquarium. The project consists of a box that was 3D printed giving it a slick and stealthy look and electronics (arduino and a breadboard) that would make the leds light up. It has a transparent cover so that we can see how everything works and it is powered with 9v batteries. There is also a remote that has three setting, one for each color and the leds are coded in a way to light up in a certain pattern.

How it is used:

The light bar will be placed behind Richard's aquarium at an angle where is can light up the aquarium as much as possible. The remote is used in order to be able to change colors a lot more efficiently and the batteries allow the light bar to be portable.

How it improves the system:

Now that we have this object, Richard can now have the LED box for his fish aquarium, but the light bar is much more than just a replacement. Instead of just having a plain white light shining into the aquarium, Richard now has three different colors that can light it up and the patterns in which the leds light up makes the tank glow in a cooler way than before.

Step 1: Tools, Material and Files

Tools ans material needed for the project:

-3d printer capable of printing an object of 26 x 9cm in demension

-Solid transparent plastic plaques of 0.3cm in thickness

-Solid plastic plaques of 1.3cm in thickness


-Saw machine

-Screw driver

- 24 5mm LED (Preferably 8 per different color)

- 24 resistors of 560 Ohm

- Cables (preferably arduino cables)

-840 tie point breadboard

- Arduino Uno (you will need a cable in order to plug it to your computer)

- 3 Transistors (74HC595)

- Ir remote sensor for arduino

-9v Battery or wall plug that will be used as a pwer source

-Short end screws


All of the files needed to download are located at their respected step: (3D box design in step 2, code in step 10)

References and Inspiration:`


Step 2: Print a 3D Plastic Box

First thing you need to do is to make a 3D model of a rectangular box. The dimensions for this box are 9cm of width, 26cm of length and 7cm of height. The program that we used for our box is 123 design. For that box, on the side of it you will have to either make 2 holes from the 3D program or make the holes yourself with a drill as seen in the picture in order to connect you arduino to the computer and to plug a power source to the device.

You can always download our version of the box with the link below but you will still have to make the wholes for the the arduino and the power source.

Step 3: The Base Plastic for the Breadboard

In this step, you must find a piece of plastic and cut it length wise 24.8cm, 6.9cm of width and the plastic it self has to be 0.3cm thickness. After all of that is done you will have to drill 8 holes on the sides so that you can connect this piece with another oneusing metal screws later on.

Step 4: Making the Side Plastic Walls

For this step you are going to need a thicker piece of plastic, that you will cut 24.8cm in length and 5.5cm in width.The thickness of this plastic needs to be 1.3cm. Obviously there needs to be two pieces because you will be placing the breadboard and arduino between them.

Step 5: One Side Plastic Wall

From this picture you can see that three cuts need to be done on this piece. One cut needs to be done in the middle, another one at the bottom and the last one right above the bottom one. The reason why you are making these cuts are because each one has a role, the middle cut is for the breadboard, the bottom cut is for the plastic base that has been shown in the first step. The cut right above the bottom one is for the Arduino. The dimensions of these cuts are 1cm in width and 0.3cm in depth for the middle cut, for the bottom cut it is 0.3cm of width and 0.9cm in depth and for the cut in between the two is 0.3cm in width and 0.1cm in depth. All of these cuts mentioned have to be horizontal, to go from one side to the other on the plastic piece.

Step 6: Other Plastic Wall

For the side of the wall, more cuts are going to be needed. First thing is to repeat the process as in the earlier step from the other wall. In addition you will have to do more cuts so that the wires can be hidden on this side of the wall. The cuts that you will have to do are up to you, all you need to remember is that the wires have to go through them so make deeper cuts where the wires will be going through so that it is easier for the wires to go through.

Step 7: Assembling the Base and Wall

For this step, all you must do is connect the walls with the base plastic by first drilling holes in the plastic wall so that we may screw the base and the wall together nice and tightly.

Step 8: Breadboard Setup

For this step the things you will need are 24 5mm LED's of the color you wish, a Breadboard, 24 resistors 560 ohm to be precise, three transistors, the specific model is 74HC595. One last thing you need is a good amount of single wires. I could explain to you how to plug in everything but the schematics will be self explanatory. From this schematic you will have to repeat it three times because there are three sets of LED's on the breadboard.

As you can see in the first picture, three wires go to the arduino (pin 2,3,4) you will have to do the same thing for the two other sets but you will have to use pin 5,6,7 for the second set and 8,9,10 for the third.

Only one wire goes to 5v and there is only one ground wire so they do not need to be replicated for the two other sets. Also the two top wires do not need to be replicated in the two other sets as you can see im the third picture.

Step 9: The Remote

This is the second part of the electronics part of the project. The point of the remote was to able to turn on and off the system and to be able to choose a color with a press of a button ex:(1:green, 2:red, 3:blue). But given the time that we had we were not able to figure out a way to include the remote in the breadboard and in the coding so it is not in the project for now but will be worked on in the future.

Step 10: Coding the Arduino

The coding is probably the most important step of the project. It with was allaws all the electronic to work the way you want. All you need to do in this step is plug in your arduino to your computer, install the arduino software and copy paste the code that is in the link below. If all the wires and everything are in the right place, the leds should start lighting up in a certain pattern as soon as you press the upload button located on the top left of your screen in the software.

The first part of the code is to make the leds works and the second part is to make the remote control the device but since we were not able to figure out how to proprely place the wires for the remote and how to code the remote into the arduino, we were not able to include it in the project for the moment but it will be something that we will work on in the near future.

Step 11: Making Holes on the Walls

In this one, we will need to make holes on the side of the plastic. First of all place the breadboard and the Arduino in their location, the top slot is for the breadboard and the bottom slot is for the Arduino. Now you will mark on the plastic wall for the wires where you want the holes to be going through. You will need a total of nine holes for the breadboard and 9 holes for the Arduino. When you’ve marked all the holes that need to be done, take a drill and pierce the plastic. After that we go to the next step.

Step 12: Connecting All the Wires

Another simple step, all you need to do is place all the wires in their specific holes and connect them to the Arduino and breadboard.

Step 13: Power Cables

Due to the fact that we didn’t make no hole on the other wall, so we will simply make the wire go underneath the breadboard to the Arduino for a nice clean look from above.

Step 14: Cover Case

This piece will be used for the top of the box, it will be protecting the wires from anything and also give it a clean look. So you will take this thin piece of plastic and cut it length wise 24.8cm and 8cm of width. After that you have two option either drill holes so that the LED's can fit exactly in or you can cut a rectangle in the middle of the piece to simplify your project. We did it with holes and is a very long process. In the video, the instructions will be explained on how to make these holes (

Step 15: Final Step

Now with the cover piece, the last thing to do in screw in to the top of the setupwith short screws, to have a nice solid project.

Step 16: Conclusion

Problems we have faced:

Some of the problems we faced during the making of this project were mostly related to the electronic part. We had problems figuring out how many LEDs we could put on the breadboard and we had to figure out how to place all the wires in the correct position. In order order to figure out those problems we got inspired from multiple instructables projects that involved leds and arduinos which helped us learn more about wiring and such.

The main difficulty of the project was trying to firgure out how to code the entire system. With no experience in coding we decided to do something way too complex for us and we had a lot of problems but we were able to overcome them by asking our teacher about how coding works and we based our pattern on one of the arduino circuit examples from abbra electronics which made it easier for us to code what we wanted.

Things that could be improved:

The two main things that we will work on in the future to improve out project are the remote and the leds themselves. We weren't able to figure out a way to include the remote in our project because it was way to complex for our skill level and because we did not have enough time left due to busy recent schedules but it is something that we will prioritize in order to improve the object.

The leds are also something that we will focus on to improve the project because we found out that the ones that we bought were not bright enough to light up the whole aquarium so we will have to go and buy brighter lights to make the light bar more effective.

Step 17: Video

youtube link:



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