A Very Simple Remote Control Flashing LED Light




Introduction: A Very Simple Remote Control Flashing LED Light

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The idea of this Instructable is to show you how to make a very simple and small, entertaining , enchanting, peculiarly flashing LED light underneath the decoration of your choice, that flashes by any Infrared Remote Control signal it receives!

Whether it is from the RC of a TV, DVD player, surround system, alarm dongle, light dimmer or any other IR RC appliance in your living room, the LED light will flash to the rhythm of the signal and strength of any Remote Control operated in vicinity.

The beauty is in the fact that it takes just a few components and basic DIY skills and leaves all the room for your creative thoughts to apply and build it into a decoration of your liking.

The outline of this Instructable (version 1.01)

After explaining the basic operating principle of the design, hints & caveats, steps describe how to make the basic thing work, all illustrated with photos from various creations of the same type. As long as you understand the basic principle you can apply the idea to any LED light-suitable creation you have in mind, so don’t be confused if you see different creations throughout this Instructable.

I shall also attempt to inspire you by making a polystyrene Valentine heart to lit up, be it in the not-so-romantic colour of Icey Blue (I have no bright red LED’s at the moment so I suppose I’ll be alone at Valentine’s Day) and I’ll demonstrate the use of some other semi-translucent materials like a small piece of mineral called Selenite and plexiglass. The sweet hearted design, finishing touch and presentation is left to you – I am just the designer, inspirer and instructor.

Here is how I did the whole thing.

( original design 2015, qwertypat)

Step 1: Tools, Materials and Time

Tools and materials needed

  • small wire cutter, small flat pliers, soldering iron, set of small screwdrivers
  • a very bright LED, 3-5V, white or blue are typically brightest
  • IR receiver diode similar to an ‘1838’ like the OS1838 I used
  • recommendable: readily available LED lights for quick start: 3V to max 5Volt battery operated, small, cheap LED decoration for example tea LED lights or mini christmas tree ball as depicted
  • (semi-) transparent or half-opague material for your own overlay decoration, polystyrene foam, plexiglass, thin cloth, transparant minerals or any other material you want to use for overlay decoration.

Time and money

  • Cost estimation: 3 Euros
  • Time estimation: 1 hour to make the RC flashy light for the first time, excluding time to read this Instructable, excluding time for your own external decoration you’d like to fit the new gadget into

Step 2: Working Principle

The design we are going to build works as follows.

A LED light connected to an IR (InfraRed) component will briefly flash if the IR component catches any and all IR signal ‘from the air’. IR light, in general, is all around us by means of sun and heat and lots of electronic equipment, but humans can’t see it.

The Remote Control (RC) of your TV for instance, uses this invisible light to signal to the TV. These signals are codes in the form of flashes (‘patterns’) to tell the TV what to do: on-off, channel, volume etc. Most vendors, models and types of equipment use different codes. That’s why you have a drawer full of them. These patterns will be shown as corresponding flashes by our gadget.

Because the IR diode we use is luckily not very critical in what it receives it reacts to many sorts of IR waves in the air, whether or not they are meaningful signals from a Remote Control. It flashes in the same pattern as would be an RC code or any other IR pattern. It gets brighter when a signal get stronger, and dims when it gets weaker accordigly. Continuous IR waves don't trigger the IR diode, however. For instance, when you keep it close to an energy saving light bulb which is a markable source of IR, our gadget will only flash when you move it in front of the bulb, not or very faintly when holding it still.

TIP: when you’ve build this Instructable, experiment a little and you’ll see the difference between various RCs and how distance and pointing direction matter. I’ll make another Instructable for more Remote Control Magic in the near future.

The best visual effect of the gadget is when indoors with dimmed room light or in dark and at not too great of a distance (< 5 meters) between the RC and your gadget. Also, the IR diode has a sense of direction, so mind where you point it during your build. The material you use on the outside (for example a polystyrene Valentine’s heart or whatever) best be no larger than 10cm (4 inches) and not too thick or too opague 'cause then the flashing light won’t be visible well enough on the outside.

Step 3: The Design (you May Skip This Reading)

The design we build has 4 critical components: a bright LED light, an IR receiving diode , a battery and an on/off switch to switch it entirely off. It operates on min 3volt to max 5.5 volt, typically provided by batteries. Beware of using 5V adapters since many of them provide more power than the 5V for your tiny setup due to the limited ‘load’ you put on the adapter. I’ve fried some components in the early process. See my Instructable on "low power Power Supply" if you consider to obtain a better power source.

My first creation was to build the IR diode in an existing 3V flashlight, it became the working prototype still in existence. However, to detail this Instructable I took some cheap LED light decoration of which I took just the battery compartment and switch and removed the existing flimsy LED in it. These tiny gadgets often operate on 3x button cells and last about 24 hours continous standby.

Apart from battery power, the brightness class and colour of your LED also matter to how sparkling and visible the effect will be. When you obtain LEDs, go for the brightest LEDs that will operate on 3 button cells or generally said, 3V-5Volt. Rule of thumb is Blue and Blu-ish White is easier for effect than green and red… just what we need for Valentine… I know… blame physics..

The IR diode I used is the 1838 type. I bought a couple of OS1838’s and they work fine. Other similar types may be better or worse or have slightly different performance, may use more or less power or perhaps are more or less selective of ‘catching’ IR waves . Best is to obtain the IR diode 1838 or at least one that works on 3V-5V and has similar pin layout. Other types may require different soldering of your connections.

Step 4: Make the Design (a Very Simple Step !)

The diagram on the photo explains all. The following photos show the result. The end. ;-)

But of course I recommend to read on for better understanding and some practical considerations

The LED 'plus' (+) connection is permanently connected to + of the battery, the LED minus (-) is connected to the OUT of the IR diode. The IR diode PLUS (often called Vcc or Vs) is also permanently connected to the batteries on + or in any case should best be connected via existing on/off switch, depending of the current LED decorative light you use as foundation. The IR diode GND (ground) is connected to the MINUS of the batteries. See the diagram.

If you use an existing LED light gadget such as the miniature christmas tree ball you see on the photo, open the thing and understand how the existing LED is wired. Find out what plus is (most likely that is via a tiny on/off switch on the bottom) and what minus is. When in doubt, use a multimeter.

Hint: LEDs have a flat side on the rim of the transparent head, marking that is MINUS. Hard to see, but it is there. If you need better vision check my Instructable for Zoom Head Lens :-)

Envision how you are going to position the LED and IR diode in/on the compartment after removing the existing LED. Keep in mind the limited space when re-using existing gadgets shapes, envision the space and thickness and how to attach materials you plan to use as decorative cover over the gadget, mind the sensing direction of the IR diode and the desired direction for your LED to shine in.

Take the flat pliers to gently pre-bend the pins of the components to as close to the final shape they need to be in when you are going to solder it.

When soldering the parts together, don’t use an Industrial Strength Spotwelder but a regular modest soldering iron. The components typically can handle several seconds of 250 degrees C elsisus at 1 cm distance of the body, but overheating happens before you know it… be precise and don’t hesisitate. Blow some air on it to cool it, that helps a little.

Step 5: Freeform Step: Create Your Own Overlay Decoration

Ok Romeo, Juliette, this former Valentinean Instructable was all about your likings, and now it is up to you to create some artful, stylish decoration with your sentiment as an overlay decoration of the gadget you just made. All I am left to do is provide you a little inspiration by means of the photos and a quick-n-dirty video on how to melt a heart (out of polystyrene foam, that is) and demonstrate how it shines by the LED.

"Flashy... and not even remotely difficult "

cheers, Qwertypat february 12th, 2016

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    2 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Waaaaaay cool! I love projects that involve lights, but I'm no brain trust, so the instructions have me a tad intimidated. I've saved the file for when I have some time to really look at it. Thanks for posting it and triggering my imagination!


    Reply 4 years ago

    Hi Barb, yes I hear what you say - may be it helps when I say that more than half of this Instructable is background info ;-) The only thing you really need are the 2 components and solder them together and attach them to batteries.

    Indeed it is a little different thing than baking a pie (which -I- might find intimidating ) hahahaha

    cheers, qp