RGB+W/UV LED Strip Wash Light With LED Display


Introduction: RGB+W/UV LED Strip Wash Light With LED Display

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This project features the NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller with LED Display. Perfect for building your own DIY LED Wash/Flood Light. The controller has many features including an external 3-digit blue LED display for adjusting the configurations(No DIP switches and charts), DMX reception, serial reception, and a dynamic stand-alone color sequences using the NLED Aurora Control software. Shown in these instructions is a retrofit of a fluorescent fixture into a RGBW LED wash light.

This DMX connected LED controller from Northern Lights Electronic Design, is designed for DIY LED wash/flood light construction. With numerous features including 8-bit and 16-bit DMX reception modes, serial reception mode, stand-alone sequences, and an external LED display for adjusting the configurations and options. No more reading and setting DIP switches, the configurations such as DMX address and reception modes can be adjusted easily. Serial reception allows many other TTL serial devices, such as Arduino, FTDI adapters, and wireless Xbees to control the device. And for when a data signal is not available or required, there are several stand-alone sequences that the device can run, with the option to upload customized sequences through specialized software. With four, high current sinking outputs, many different LED configurations can be utilized, such as LED strip, high wattage LEDs or LED arrays. RGB+W or RGB+U.V. Or any combination of single color LEDs can be utilized.

Find More Information at http://www.nledshop.com/4chandmx/

Or download the data sheet at http://www.nledshop.com/downloads/datasheets/nled-4-channel-dmx-controller.pdf

The controller featured in this instructable is the NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller, but the NLED 16-Bit RGBW Lamp Controller could also be used, which is less focused on DMX-512 usage. But fully supports 16-bit color sequences, which makes smoother transitions and a wider array of colors.

Step 1: Supplies

Parts and Supplies:


  • Solder Iron and Solder
  • Diagonal Cutters
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Misc Screw Drivers

The NLED DMX Wash Light Controller comes with different connector options for different uses. Shown on this step's image, is a connector option A, which uses polarized headers/housings for DMX connections. But for this light the connectors got in the way, and the DMX jacks were positioned far from the controller. So using a NLED DMX Wash Light Controller with connector option D was the best choice, as it fit the case better and made wiring the DMX XLRs a bit easier. Also shown is a 10cm ribbon cable for the NLED External LED Display, but a 30cm cable was used instead due to controller position. And the External Display is using a straight 2x5 header instead of the standard right angle 2x5 header, due to space constraints. Contact if you require a straight header rather than the stock right angle type.

Step 2: Case Considerations and Prep Work

Cases, frames or enclosures will all be different, but the basic methods for converting it for use is shown here.

Case Tear Down:

  • Completely dissemble the case and remove any electronics or un-needed parts. In this case the fluorescent bulb plugs, the transformer, and wires/cord were removed.
  • Thoroughly clean the surface(s) the LED strip will be applied to using some solvent. Such as Acetone or Isopropyl

Position and Make Cutout for LED Display:

  • For this case, it worked out to put the LED display on one end and the data and power on the other end. Luckily the LED display fit perfectly onto one of the end caps.
  • Printed the LED display cut-out-template on the datasheet(without scaling, actual size) If you have a CNC cutter of some sort, the vectors for the cutouts are available on the LED display webpage www.NLEDshop.com/extdisplay
  • Cut out and positioned the printed template onto the end cap piece. Affixed it with some tape.
  • Used a sharp razor blade to cut out the rectangle for the LED display.
  • Drilled out both buttons with a 1/8" drill bit, the buttons don't fit through in this case, since the end caps are not flat, but are sloped. A tiny bolt will be inserted into the holes to press the buttons. If the case area for the LED display was flat, the holes for the buttons could be drilled large enough to fit the buttons entirely. So they could be pressed directly.
  • Test fit it and make any adjustments.

Position For Data and Power Connectors:

  • Data and power go on the other end cap. See Image. It would be preferable to place the Power connector away from the data connectors, but there is no other choice with this case.
  • XLRs are panel mount and fit into a 7/8" hole, spade bits do work but forestner would work better on most plastics.
  • The XLRs require two holes for mounting in addition to the 7/8" hole, use one of the XLRs to position the holes for the mounting screws.
  • The panel mount DC jack that is optional with the power supply, fits a 9/16" hole.

Step 3: Install Electronics and LED Strip

Position the LED Strip:

  • Decide how much LED strip is going to be used. And of what type and density.
  • Decide how it should be laid out. In this design, 2 strips of 60 LEDs per meter RGB LED strip is run down the center. And 2 strips of 60 LEDs per meter RGBW is run down each side, offset to each other. For a total of 2 strips of RGB and 4 strips of RGBW.
  • The RGBW strips were offset to each other since this RGBW LED strip can only be cut every 6 LEDs, so the lengths were a bit shorter than the space that they are being applied to, offsetting them spreads the light out.
  • Once their positions are figured, remove the adhesive protective backing and apply the LED strips to the clean surface. Rub them down good, but don't scrape or scratch the LEDs.

Position the LED Controller:

  • LED Controller positioning depends on many factors, for this design, it is mounted on center.
  • The LED controller has a 100mil or so, plastic card fixed onto the bottom, to prevent the the bottom solder joints from touching the aluminum frame. Then it was screwed in securely.

LED Strip Cathode Wiring: Cathodes are connected to the controller Output Channel terminal positions.

  • The RGB strips have connection pads for Red, Green, and Blue. The RGBW strip has an additional connection pad for White. Each of the colors needs to be wired in parallel and connected to the Output Channel terminals of the LED controller.
  • To do that, some 22AWG 3-strand twisted wire or 22AWG 4-strand ribbon cable could be used. The controller's terminals can hold 4 strands of 22AWG max, and it may be tricky to get the 4th in. So some LED strips can be wired to another LED strip(then that strip wired to the controller) to lower the amount of wires that will be connected to the controller.
  • Start by soldering the wire to the connection pads on the LED strip. Make sure they are clean and there are no bridges from pad to pad.
  • Run the wire to the controller and leave 3" - 4" of slack and cut it.
  • Finish connecting wires from the LED strip(s) to the controller position, always leaving some slack in the wire. And remember that only about 4 strands of 22AWG wire can be connected to a single terminal so some strips may need to be wired together.

LED Strip Anode Wiring: LED Anodes are connected to +12 volts

  • The LED strip anodes are wired separately from the cathodes.
  • Each LED strip has a connection pad for V+/+12v, these have to be connected to the positive voltage from the power supply. There are a few methods, either the anode(+12v) wires can be connected to one of the Supply Voltage+ terminals or can be wired directly to the power supply using a bus bar or similar.
  • For this design, a few of the LED strips anodes were wired directly together, and the rest wired directly to the controller. Shown in the images is some red and black twisted wire, the black wire connects the White LED cathode, while the red wire connects the LED strip anodes(+12v). This was done since it was convenient and the wire was available. Otherwise separate single strands of wire could be used.
  • The set of RGBW strips, on either side of the middle, were wired together and the two center RGB LED strips were wired together, creating 3 zones, each were wired directly to the controller.

Step 4: Wire Up the Controller

Power Wiring:

  • Measure the length the power wires will need to be. Make sure to leave some extra.Cut the power wire to length. 16AWG red and black wire was used in this design. Solder the DC barrel jack, to one end of the wires. As pictured.
  • See device diagram for terminal pin out information.
  • Ground is the outside most terminal, connect the black 16AWG wire to it and screw down tight.
  • The two Supply Voltage+ terminals are connected together and either one can be used to connect the red power wire. But the one next to the Ground terminal would be best.

Connect LED Strip:

  • With all the wires now ran to the controller, they need to be inserted. See the device datasheet or attached image for pin out diagram.
  • Carefully install the wires into their terminal position, remember to watch for frayed wires that could short to an adjacent terminal. And make sure the wires are all the way in, and screw them down tight once installed.
  • Wires for Red LEDs go to Output Channel 1
  • Wires for Green LEDs go to Output Channel 2
  • Wires for Blue LEDs go to Output Channel 3
  • Wires for White LEDs go to Output Channel 4
  • Finally if wiring the Anodes to the controller, connect all the Anode wires to the other Supply Voltage+ terminal positions.

Step 5: Route Wires and Final Assembly

Mounting Jacks:

  • Mount the XLRs into the end cap as discussed on Step 2.
  • Connect the XLR wires to the controller. Ensuring they are in the correct order.
  • Insert panel mount barrel jack, and install bolt and washer. Do not forget the washer or it will come loose.

Mount External LED Display:

  • First if the buttons don't sit flush with the outside of the case they will need a extension of some sort to press the buttons. In this case some tiny screws, with a v-head, are used. The bolt will get a thread-locked nut on the end later.
  • Insert the LED display into the cut out. Done on Step 2.
  • Test the button usage, listen and feel for them to click.
  • Secure the LED display to the end cap, using some glue or VHB tape.
  • Connect the 2x5 ribbon cable from the controller to External LED Display, ensuring proper polarity.

Route and Secure the Wires:

  • Before routing the wires, look for any sharp edges that may catch or rub on the wires. This aluminum extrusion frame, had a sharp edge that was covered in a few layers of electrical tape to prevent it damaging the wire insulation.
  • Arrange the wires neatly in the case and secure them down with aluminum or similar permanent tape.(Do not use electrical, masking, or duct tape) But leave the DMX data wires separate.
  • Arrange and route the DMX data wires away from the LED and power wires as best as possible. And again, tape with a permanent tape such as aluminum duct tape.

Test It Out and Close It Up:

  • With all the wires connected correctly and arranged neatly, look it over once more for any bad connections, loose wires, or anything else that is not correct.
  • Apply 12 volts at the proper amperage for your LED amount, the LED display should turn on right away, followed a second or two later by the stand-alone sequences starting to run(if the device was configured to run them if no DMX signal is present, see device datasheet)
  • While running a stand-alone sequence the LED display will animate "- - -", if your LED display is connected and does not light up on power up. Turn off the power right away and recheck your connections.
  • Otherwise if it is all working, test your DMX connections, then you are ready to close it up.
  • Put it back together and close it up.

Step 6: Software and Data Connection


The NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller is compatible with the NLED Aurora Control Software. The software allows a user to create custom color sequences on a computer and upload them to the controller, for it to run by itself without a computer connection. The device can be set up to run the stand-alone color sequences when there is no control data signal or when control is not required. The software is compatible with other NLED controllers, all with different features and capabilities, please see the website for details.

The software, manual, and other details can be found at http://www.nledshop.com/nledaurora/

The controller's configurations, such as DMX address, can be altered using the NLED Aurora Control Software or through commands. To communicate with NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller the user must go through the menu and select the "Upload" option, then connect a FTDI USB to Serial adapter or similar to the RX-TX-GND header. Then either open the software or start sending commands using RealTerm or similar.

DMX-512 Data Communication:

To utilize DMX-512 select a DMX address (the device's default address is 1) using the External LED Display or the NLED Aurora Control Software. Select your DMX reception mode(3, 4, 5, 8, or 10 channel) Connect your device to your choice of DMX transmitter.

Serial Data Communication:

TTL serial communication allows other devices such as Arduino, FTDI, X-Bee, and other serial devices to communicate with the NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller. Using the External LED Display or the NLED Aurora Control Software or commands, the user must select the desired baud rate, select 8-bit or 16-bit mode, and enable or disable the RS-485 hardware for communication. For RS-485(DMX-1 or DMX-2 header in differential) usage, select Enable or if the RX-TX-GND header will be used for direct TTL communication, disable the RS-485 hardware. In addition to configuring the hardware, the user must configure the device to receive serial instead of DMX, by selecting Enabled on the Serial menu through the LED display, software, or commands. Full instructions can be found on page 5 of The Datasheet.

Once serial usage is setup, using a custom user created program or serial terminal, such as RealTerm, send packets of 4(for 8-bit mode) or 8(16-bit mode) of bytes to the device and it should immediately display the values on the outputs. Remember to leave a 5mS time between packets and less than 5mS between bytes. Again see Page 5 of The Datasheet for details.

Step 7: Simplified Usage

The NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller is extremely easy to use. All the user needs is the controller, a 12 volt power supply, and 1 - 4 colors/groups/channels of most any type or configuration of LEDs. 12 volt RGB LED Strip is the most common, but RGBW LED strip is also available. Or the user can use multiple strips of single color LEDs, whatever is required.

The External LED Display is optional, as all configurations can be altered through software, or a single External LED Display can be swapped between controllers. To enter the device into Upload/Command mode, select it through the menu(page 2 of the datasheet) or read page 6 of the datasheet to configure the device without an External LED Display

Connection is simple enough, power ground is connected to the terminal block, then the +V is connected to one of the Supply Voltage+ terminals, then the LED anode(s) are connected to the other Supply Voltage+, and finally the LED cathode(s) are connected to Output Chan 1 - 4.

The device defaults to auto-detect mode, where if no DMX signal is available, it will automatically start stand-alone sequences and will change back to DMX when a signal is present. Default DMX channel is 1.

Please Contact Us with any questions at all, all questions will help improve future documentation.

Step 8: Final Thoughts

While this Instructable covered making a fairly generic wash light, that could be purchased in many forms ready to use, this is just one example of what the NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller can do. It could be better utilized building a custom wash light, stage prop, bar light, or any other thing that needs some RGB+W/UV color, that would otherwise be unattainable. The controller is small, versatile, easy to use, and powerful, so there are many projects that it would be perfect for.

We pride ourselves on competent support, please Contact Us with any question at all or to let us know if any information needs updating.

The controller featured in this Instructable is the NLED 4 Channel DMX Wash Controller, but the NLED 16-Bit RGBW Lamp Controller could also be used, but is less focused on DMX-512 usage.

And please visit the website at http://www.northernlightselectronicdesign.com/ or http://www.nledshop.com/ for more products, software, and information.



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