An LED pixel based artwork designed to demonstrate the potential of NLED controllers and software. Built around a scavenged light fixture made of soldered bronze and glass, probably dating to the 70s. Combined with standard APA102 pixel strip, a custom hexagon shaped APA102 pixel LED panel, a Pixel Controller Electron, and a ESP8266 WiFi module with addon card. There is a total of 132x APA102 pixels within the fixture all being controlled interdependently. The color sequences are created in NLED Aurora Control software, and then uploaded to the pixel controller, either over USB or WiFi. The controller can run the stored sequences whenever it is powered up, without a computer connection, in what is called stand-alone mode. The Aurora software allows the different aspects and positions of the pixels to be programmed into the software and used to create the color sequences that the fixture will run. No complicated protocols, transmitters, or additional software required to interface with the controller. And the NLED Aurora Control software is free to anyone with NLED controllers.
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Update: Check out the LED Project Guide for more information on LED and Pixel based projects.
Files such as the Aurora save file, pixel patches, drill files, and art files are found in the ZIP folder on this Step.
Step 1: Tools & Supplies
- Light Fixture - Used here is a scavenged vintage soldered brass hexagon shaped fixture
- 3" diameter white PVC pipe, ~6" long
- Light fixture bracket for ceiling boxes
- 3/8" diameter clear acrylic rod - eBay
- Scrap High Impact Polystyrene
- Rustoleum Frosted Glass Spray Paint - Optional
- Stand-Alone Pixel Controller - Pixel Controller Electron or Pixel Controller Ion
- LED Pixel Strip - APA102-5050 30 Pixels Per Meter, White PCB
- JST-SM Connectors for Pixels
- NLED APA102 Hexagon LED Panel
- Optional WiFi or Bluetooth Module or Add On Card - ESP8266 WiFi Module with ESP8266-01 module.
- 5 Volt Power Supply - 5 Volt, 10 Amp, 2.1mm/5.5mm Barrel, Inline
- Compatible Barrel Receptacle for PSU
Cover Plate & House Wiring: (not really covered)
- 21" square clear acrylic sheet
- Scrap Conduit
- 3.5" square metal electrical box
- 2x single outlet, metal electrical box
- 2x SPDT Wall Rocker Switches
- Knockout clamps for conduit
- Misc. Romex Wire
- Vinyl Decals, 3 colors
- Soldering Iron
- Misc Electrical Tools, strippers, snips, etc
- Acrylic Knife
- Straight Edge
- Rotozip or Dremel for cut outs in acrylic
- Hot glue and Glue Gun
- NLED Aurora Control - Free
Step 2: Light Fixture Preparation
Preparing Fixture: This light fixture was found in a dumpster and salvaged. It is quite sturdy.
- Clean the everything, start with soap and water, then a final clean with a mild solvent such as isopropyl.
- Mask of the exterior glass with painters tape. Trim it perfectly flush with a razor.
- Paint color of your choice, used glossy black.
- Remove masking.
- Clean any paint off the glass with a razor blade.
- If the fixture has clear glass, coat the inside with a diffusing spray. Used Rustoleum Frosted Glass.
- In Adobe Illustrator the fixture's glass sections were mocked up.
- A simple line design was created, only 2 different designs were needed, and they were used 3 times.
- Prepared the artwork for vinyl cutting by merging all paths into single objects.
- Cut the design out of regular black vinyl on a vinyl cutter.
- Carefully trimmed each vinyl sticker to make application easier.
- With the glass perfectly clean, the vinyl decal was applied. Heated with a heat gun for maximum adhesion.
- Removing the white paper(pre-mask) the vinyl decal remains on the glass.
- Carefully trimmed any overlay with a razor.
- Repeated with all 6 sides, 3 panels each.
Step 3: LED Cylinder Preparation
Prepare the LED Pixel Support Structure:
- Cut a length of 3" I.D., 3.5" O.D. white PVC pipe.
- Cleaned up the pipe section with isopropyl.
- Figured out where the mounting bracket needed to sit and cut slots for it.
- Cut a few notches for the pixel wiring to fit through on the top and bottom. That enables the 30 pixel APA102 Hexagon board to be flush to the end of the pipe.
Apply the LED Pixel Strip:
- Used 30 pixels per meter of APA102 strip with white PCB
- Wrapped the PVC pipe and found an optimal layout. The 30 LEDs per meter pixel strip fit the 3" PVC pipe nearly perfectly to form a grid. This project used 102x pixels to wrap the pipe.
- Before adhering the pixel strip to the PVC it was removed and standard 4-pin JST connectors were connected to both ends.
- Then the pixel strip was adhered to the clean PVC pipe.
APA102 LED Panel - 30 Pixel Hexagon: (Shown is a early version that is green, now they are black)
- Soldered on a matching 4-pin JST connector to for the pixel data.
- Soldered on a 2-pin JST connector for the 5 volt power.
- Made a custom 2.1mm x 5.5mm barrel jack to dual 2-pin JST connectors for power input for the pixel tube and pixel panel separately.
Step 4: Hexagon LED Panel Preparation
This is the piece that brings it all together and gets the most attention from people who see it. Not hard to build with the right tools.
- Selected a few over sized pieces of 0.125" thick high impact polystyrene, but any rigid plastic would work.
- Double faced taped two pieces together, so they would be drilled as one piece.
- Positioned the double-layer of plastic in a CNC drilling machine. (Drill file in ZIP on step 1)
- Ran the drilling program, using a small bit. It drilled out a hole for each of the pixels and a hole in each corner of the hexagon the outer dimension could be cut by hand since the CNC machine used couldn't router cut.
- Manually cut the the hexagons out.
- Drilled out the holes the exact size of the acrylic rod used. Tested a few different sizes to get the tightest fit. The rods have to fit tight as possible or they will be crooked.
- Added some spacers to sandwich between the two drilled panels. It helped keep the rods straighter.
- Coated one of the plastic hexagon panels in black vinyl, but then decided to use a rainbow silver vinyl instead.
- Bought lengths of clear acrylic rod online. Used 3/8" here, it fit the panels the best.
- Decided on a rough design of the rods. Chose 4-5 different lengths.
- Setup a manual mitre box with a sharp blade at a 45 degree angle.
- Cut 30 pieces of the 4-5 different lengths, mixture of all sizes. One end is 45 degree, the other end is a 90 degree.
- Careful cutting acrylic chips easily.
- Then sanded and filed the 45 degree mitered ends.
Acrylic Rod Assembly:
- Assembled the two support panels(with spacers between), using a solvent glue.
- Taped on the APA102 LED Panel - 30 Pixel Hexagon from the backside.
- Flipped it over so the face side is up.
- Test fit the acrylic rods into the support structure panels. Played with the arrangement to get a nice design.
- The acrylic rods should seat directly on the pixels.
- Once the design was finalized and all the rods were straight. A very small drop of solvent glue was applied to the bottom 1/8" of the acrylic rod.
- The rod was inserted into the hole and spun to distribute the glue. Then set to its final position.
- Repeated with all the acrylic rod pieces.
- Left to dry for a day or two, solvent welding glue takes a lot more time to fully dry than normal glues.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
This step really depends on how the fixture goes together. This one was fairly difficult because it wasn't made for a standard ceiling box. In addition the fixture itself blocks a lot of access to any mounting methods. Using a combination of standard light fixture brackets and some creativity it gets mounted. The fixture mounts to a modified electrical ceiling box that brings power in from a DC power supply through a hollow threaded pipe. Then the LED tube is fastened to the threaded pipe on to the inside of the glass fixture. Last the acrylic rod panel is placed in the bottom of the glass fixture flush against the LED tube and attached with matching vinyl strips.
Step 6: Programming
This project uses a very specific layout of pixels to create the color effects. There is the interior pixel tube and the bottom acrylic rod panel, having them be able to function independently is important for great effect.
Used here is the Northern Lights Electronic Design product, Pixel Controller Electron. The controller that was selected for its ability to control pixels of many chipsets, and dynamic color sequences can be created in software, uploaded, and stored on the pixel controller. This allows it to play the special color sequences whenever it is powered up, it does not need a computer or software connection to run the stored sequences.
NLED Pixel Controllers are compatible with various WiFi modules, the only requirement is the module must be capable of transparent bridge. That means it does not send AT or similar commands. The sent and received data is sent in raw form, with no formatting or commands.
Any controller that can control APA102 pixels could have been used, such as an Arduino. Or using DMX or other protocol the light fixture could be controlled from a software application like MADRIX or similar.
Programming and Configuration:
- Use the NLED Patcher Software to create a pixel patch/map pixel that replicates how the pixels in your project are arranged. Follow included instructions or see the tutorial video.
- Connect the device to NLED Aurora Control with USB or other method.
- This project utilizes a ESP8266-01 with a transparent bridge firmware to interface to Aurora. Firmware used is ESP-Link by Jeelabs.(no affiliation, it works well). The ESP module is mounted to an addon/carrier card that is compatible with the pinout of NLED pixel controllers. More documentation will be available in the future.
- Once connected setup all the required configurations, like pixel chipset, color swap for non-RGB pixels,etc. See datasheet for details.
- If not already, go to the Live Control menu and test the pixels, see if they are where they should be relative to the pixel map.
- If all is looking good, start creating color sequences. Please watch This Series of Tutorial Videos that help show how NLED Aurora software is used.
- Also check the NLED Aurora Control Webpage for documents and details.
This Youtube video covers the software and color sequence programming for this light fixture. Some topics are covered in the Tutorial video series or in the documentation. Visit the NLED Youtube Channel
Step 7: Cover Plate and Wiring
Cover Plate: This covers up the electrical boxes and the power supply
- Cut a large hexagon out of 1/8" clear acrylic, starting with a 21" square.
- Cut holes for the switches and mounting box.
- Cleaned it up really well.
- Cut vinyl graphics to the correct size. Used black on the one side, and other the side of the acrylic a first layer of a white(hexagon design). Then over top of the white a applied a rainbow silver film that was crumpled up and flattened again. Looks like crumpled tinfoil texture with a rainbow sheet.
Wiring and Power: Not covering this much.
- Used a 5 volt at 10 Amp power supply, but a 5 amp would have sufficed. The power supply has a matching 2.1mm x 5.5mm barrel plug which is run to the inside of the fixture.
- In this case the power supply is on a switched circuit using the regular room light switch.
- The two switches on the cover plate are for toggling between, fixture mode with pixels running, or for selecting warm-white or cool-white lighting. The room has 3 lighting modes, RGB LED fixture, warm-white CFLs, or cool-white CFLs.
Step 8: Completion
A project a long time in the making with many additions and tweaks over that time to make it a beautiful show piece. Many software and hardware features needed to be implemented in order to control the different aspects of the piece with little technical requirements and overhead.
NLED controllers and software are in constantly improved and updated. Contact with any feature requests or bug reports.
Thanks for reading, please visit www.NLEDshop.com for Made In The USA LED Controllers and LED Products.
Or find more projects that utilize NLED products on our Instructables Profile or the Projects Page on our website.
For news, updates, and product listings please visit www.northernlightselectronicdesign.com
Please Contact Us with any questions, comments, or bug reports. NLED is available for embedded programming, firmware design, hardware design, LED projects, product design, and consultation. Please Contact Us to discuss your project.
Updates and More Info Can Be Found On The Project Webpage: www.nledshop.com/projects/glasshexfixture
Runner Up in the