I've had a hardcore affinity for LEDs of all sorts. It began with a journey to make my own grow lights and evolved into so much more than I expected. Since than, I have experimented with many of the usual LED wearable forms such as a sound reactive tie, an LED Belt, and several iterations of LED goggles; All to run around and confuse the living daylights out of people. But now my neurons have decided to create a crazy mashup. I think of it as a light theremin, thus the name of Lighthemin.
Now I will be the first to admit I am only controlling LEDs with a fun piece of kit by SpikenzieLabs called "The Rainbow Lightshow." That piece of kit has 3 IR sensors employed as distance sensors. Which allows me to "play" light as kind of an instrument. So no sounds are being generated by my build. I am only attempting to "move" the lights to the music as best as I can. My orignal idea was to attempt to tie in a DAW studio driven by an Raspberry PI to produce sound as well as control the LEDs. But I noticed this contest less than 20 days ago. So naturally I had to scale back to try and meet the deadline. ((Which I almost didnt...))
But now to on to the build!
Step 1: Safety Note and Supplies
This isn't a high amperage project. But if you are just getting started with electronics it wouldn't hurt to look over the basics, mainly so that you do not incur any damage to yourself. Most you will end up doing on a project such as this is burn out some LEDs. I used to keep a count, but than gave up not long after. Meaning that you too will burn out many LEDs. Which is perfectly normal as it is part of the learning process. There is a small chance you might explode the battery in use by being careless. But that would have to be a pretty catastrophic incident.
Tools & Supplies:
1x 1 1/2" x 36" acrylic tube
1x 1 1/2" Acrylic half sphere
2x 36" strips of 30 per meter Neopixels
1x 1 pice of 1/8" x 3/4" x 36" aluminum barstock
1x Acrylic cement
1x USB battery backup
2X 6" USB cables
1x SpikenzieLabs Rainbow Lightshow
Varied PVC plumbing pieces to make a handle of your choice. (Google "DIY LIghtsaber Hilt" for ideas on what to chose, or just go shopping on a whim like I did. Just make sure you remember the size of the acrylic tube correctly.)
Plenty of wire and solder to make all necessary connections.
Other random bits tools such as drills, drill bits, dremel and tools, hot glue and gun.
Step 2: Lighthemin First Steps.
After having gathered all your supplies, your first step would be to determine what pieces need to be bonded together. I began by using the acrylic cement to seal off one side of the acrylic tube with the acrylic half sphere. Follow directions on the acrylic cement you find to get a proper bond.
I than moved on to the PVC. I determined where I would drill a few holes for my wires to come out from. I than bonded a cap to the PVC piping I chose to make up the handle, further here upon known as the hilt. After the PVC cement cures you can move on to spray painting the hilt with your color of choice.
While all that cures and dries you can apply your NeoPixels strips to the aluminum bar stock; The aluminum will provide a rigid backing while also helping dissipate some of the heat created by the LEDs. Once you have placed the LED strips on both sides of the bar stock, you can move on to soldering some wires to the power, ground, and data lines on the NeoPixels. I soldered a 2" piece of wire bent in half so I could solder to each corresponding solder point on the strips. I also stripped a small portion of insulation at the bend of the wires so I could solder longer leads to connect to the Rainbow Light Show from there. I did this so I could control both strips simultaneously with just one data signal. Make sure to add some tape at and around the solder points to provide some strain relief from the wires moving about. Trust me, itll save you time soldering once you are joining your hilt to the "saber" part.
Once your paint is dry, you can move back to your hilt and place your battery backup of choice within. I secured mine with a bit of hot glue. Than run your usb cables into the hilt hole drilled earlier and connect to both the charge and discharge ports.
Step 3: LightSaber
For the following part I built a small stand with a few size appropriate holes for the acrylic tubes to fit in. This was mainly to hold things upright while putting things together. Once things were in place I proceeded to add a bead of acrylic cement to the end of the neopixel strips/ bar stock combo that does not have wires. This is to secure one end of the LED bar within the acrylic tube. Once in place I held it in place with some handy dandy third hands.
So this is where I mention that like me you'll likely mess something up. Soon enough you too will learn to buy things in multiples when you are building a concept from scratch. My original intention was to fill the acrylic tube with clear resin and glow in the dark powder to fill the empty space left in the acrylic tube. First try was a bust. Not sure if the exothermic reaction from the resin curing process cooked things or what. But only a few of the LEDs lit up after the resin cured. My second attempt involved clear silicone caulking but that was bit of a fail as I was only able to get the caulking about 3" into the acrylic tube. Probably my fault for using an older tube first... But at least it stabilized the LED bar. Anyhow the second one worked after letting the caulking cure.
At the very least I have another glow in the dark saber to tinker around with later.
Step 4: Hilt + Saber = Lightsaber = Lighthemin
Now that all the rest is behind us, we can combine our hilt with our saber. Run the wires from the LED bar thru the other hole you drilled from the inside of your hilt. Do so in order for the wires to not pinch to much while joining your hilt and sabers. You will want to add some acrylic cement here as well. That way you know the saber wont fly off if you decide to get wild and spin your Lighthemin once you light it up. Now you can run both the power USB cable and the rest of the wires to the Rainbow Lightshow and connect properly. And you are well on your way to wowing people around you.
Step 5: Have Fun Lighting Up the Night!
This is of course not the only form factor this project can take. What other ways can you think of making a rainbow light show different?? Let me know and enjoy the shiny lights!
Step 6: Update! Got the Glow in the Dark Saber Working!
After some further inspection I noticed that a couple of my solder points had been pulled off from too much stress. Thankfully these strips can be soldered to from the backside. So I was able to salvage my glow in the dark saber after all! Learn from me, if you think you've added enough strain relief on your cables. Guess again and add just a bit more reinforcement. I keep telling myself I'll learn that trick sometime too. haha