Intro: SpectrumLED- an INSANELY Bright 200 WATT Variable Spectrum LED Panel
Dimming and changing the color spectrum of LED's? IMPOSSIBLE! Nope... Now Not!
As this is my 50th Instructable, I've decided to upload a super "special edition" Instructable:
How To Make Your Own INSANELY Bright 200 WATT Variable Spectrum LED Panel- For under $25!
I decided to call it "SpectrumLED"
I will use SpectrumLED for many different purposes such as: Photography Light (for filming my 'Ibles), Reading Light for Books (in my bed), Extra Lighting for My Projects (on my table) And a lot More!
Did you know that The light output of SpectrumLED is equivalent to a ~2,000 Watt Incandescent Bulb!?!
This means that SpectrumLED will give about 50 times more light than an average incandescent light bulb that you have in your room*, while only consuming about 5 times more power at full brightness!
But, What does "Variable Spectrum" mean?
If you look closely at the picture above, You might be able to see that some of the LED's look white, And some look yellow.
Each color (white or yellow) is controlled by a separate dimmer, This means that I can choose any color that ranges between white-ish blue-ish -and- yellow-ish orange-ish. That is A LOT of different colors.
Don't forget to visit my Instructables page for more electronics projects!
*Average of 40 watts
Step 1: Any Inspirations for Making SpectrumLED?
Ever since I joined Instructables, I've been wanting to make a really bright LED panel that I can use for taking picture for my Instructables.
But even before finding about Instructables, I built myself an LED light that was mounted on a tripod, It had a few other features, But I used it mostly as an extra light, This was actually one of my first electronics projects!
I called this invention the "LEDPOD". You can see my Instructable about the "LEDPOD" here
A couple months after making the "LEDPOD", I decided that I want another light that would have a warmer "daylight" spectrum.
Right at that time, Our building decided to replace all of the fluorescent lights in our underground parking lot with LED tubes (These look exactly like fluorescent bulbs, But are more efficient and live longer), While installing the lights, One of them broke. Later that day, I found the broken bulb in our garbage room, And I knew it would be perfect because it had exactly the LED's that I needed for my project!
I used its LED's to make the "LED-timate Light", You can see my Instructable about my "LED-timate Light" here
After making both of these lights, I thought that NOTHING could get better than this!
Less than two months later, I happily proved myself wrong...
I decided that I wanted to make some kind of "Variable Spectrum LED Light" And this Instructable is what it's all about!
By the way, If you want to buy an LED photography panel, Be prepared to pay at least $1000 to $10,000. Don't believe me? See for yourself- And that's ~$1000 for only 40 Watts! "SpectrumLED" is 200 WATTS!
But why are these already built panels so expensive? The real answer is that when photographers need them, They buy them, So the company can sell them at any price that they want! The parts barely cost the company anything and they sell them for so high, In this Instructable, I'll show you how to make one at the price of the parts, which are way cheaper! And by "way" I mean HUNDREDS of times cheaper!
The two videos that you can see below are videos that I watched almost ten times before making "SpectrumLED"
If you want to make "SpectrumLED" I would definitely recommend watching both of these videos AT LEAST once.
Can you agree with me that if you mix both of these projects together, You get something similar to "SpectrumLED" (except for the variable spectrum part...)
Link for mobile viewers: DIY Perks: How to make a super bright LED light panel (for video work etc)
You might know Matt from YouTube, He also has an Instructables page.
He built a Dimmable 100W LED Panel for filming his YouTube videos, He has tons of other awesome projects, I recommend checking out his YouTube channel!
Rulof used the same LED's that I used for SpectrumLED, Only without warm LED's
I can also assure you that the pan he used as a heat-sink can not dissipate the heat from the LED's
Step 2: Everything You'll Need to Make SpectrumLED
For this project you are going to need A LOT of components, Here we go:
All links below lead to eBay, And are in U.S. Dollars
12V 17+A Power Supply
If You Use An ATX Power Supply: 10-Ohm 5W Pull-Up-Resistor
12V 10W Cool LED's-Buy 10 for ~$3.50
12V 10W WarmLED's-Buy 10 for $5.50 (Choose: "Warm White", "10pcs"- You'll use only 7)
A HUGE Heat-Sink- This one was salvaged from an old stereo, "What's Inside" Coming Soon!
Tripod- Buy Mine Here $13- It was priced ~$8, When I bought it
12V Dimmers- Buy 2 For ~$4.50-(Choose: "Quantity=2")
1/4" Hex Nut- Buy 2 for ~$2.80 (Hardware stores will probably be cheaper, and you need only 1)
Heat-Shrink Tubing- Buy A Box Of More Than You'll Need ~$5.50
8mm=1/32" Drill Bit- Buy it for ~$2
4mm=1/64" Drill Bit- Buy it for $1
1/4" Female to 1/4" Male Screw- I used a leg of an old coffee machine, Buy something similar for $1 (You need 2)
Old/Empty Solder Spool
Some Rough Sandpaper
Wire (A lot of different gauges)
Epoxy Putty- Buy something similar for $1.50
1 Small Zip-Tie (Recommended color: Black)
5.5mm Male Connectors - Buy them for $1 (Choose: "2 Pcs Male")
5.5mm Female Connectors- Buy them for $1 (Choose: "2 Pcs Female")
A Handle From An Old Hand-Held Radio(Salvaged), You can probably 3D print this if you want!
Metal Rod (Salvaged from an old printer)
I Used A Silicone Adhesive- Buy Something Similar: 58 Grams For ~$1.50, You can also use Sugru (which is made of silicone too)
Soldering Iron +Solder
Heat Gun (Recommended- I don't have one)
Small Wire Cutters (aka Snips)- Buy The Kind I Use Here ~$2
Multi-Meter (Must Have Features: Volts & Continuity)
A Drill (Corded/Cordless, It doesn't matter)
Helping Hands (I used my "DIY Magnetic Helping Hands")
Solder Dispenser (Recommended- I used my "DIY Solder Dispenser")
Solder Fume Extractor (Recommended- I used my "DIY Retractable Solder Fume Extractor")
C-Clamp - (Any size will work)
A Pair Of Latex Gloves
Flat Screwdriver- The easiest way to mix 2-Component Thermal Adhesive
Ruler- (Any size will work)
You can also view all of these components that are needed through this eBay collection
Step 3: Adding a Pull Up-Resistor (ATX Power Supplies Only)
If you are using an "ATX Power Supply" you must add a 10-Ohm resistor.
I learned this while reading Jason Poel Smith's guide on "Computer Power Supply to Bench Power Supply Adapter", I thought it would help me, And IT DID! I recommend checking out his Instructable if you're not, or weren't sure how to do this (like me)
How do I connect the pull up resistor?
As you can see in the picture Connect a 10-Ohm resistor* between the green wire (PWR ON) to any black wire (GROUND) of the 20-PIN male connector (I tried to un-solder a 20 PIN female connector from an old motherboard, But I wasn't able to remove it)
You might also want to tape it down on to the connector so it won't fall off.
After you connect a pull-up-resistor, You should hear the fan turn on, This means the power supply has turned on.
You can skip this step if you aren't using an ATX Power Supply
*And as always with resistors, Polarity doesn't matter
Step 4: Looking for (And Finding) 12V in My ATX Power Supply
As I mentioned earlier, The LED's that I chose for SpectrumLED work on 12V, This means that I need to look for 12V in my ATX power supply.
In all ATX power supplies the yellow wire (+12V) and the black wire (GROUND) give 12V
I've seen many ATX power supply projects, And in all of them people get access to 12V power through the main 20/24 PIN Male Connector.
I decided NOT to do it that way because of two reasons:
1. I wasn't able to salvage a 20 PIN Female Connector
2. It's a big connector, A lot of outputs = Bigger chance of making an error
After playing with my power supply I found out another connector that has only a black wire, and a yellow wire, I decided to use that one. (Picture #1)
If my ATX power supply: Burns out, Isn't strong enough, Or doesn't work for any other reason, I can easily replace it with another one because all ATX power supplies have this connector that has an output 12V.
You can skip this step if you aren't using an ATX Power Supply
Step 5: Modifying the 12V Connector
First, Cut the connector with wire cutters (picture #1) You should end up having eight wires (4 yellow + 4 black)
Splice all of the wires at your preferred length (picture #2)
Twist the remaining wires together, This form a thicker wire which will be able to deliver more current (Very Important)
This is also the time to plug in your soldering iron, You'll be using it in the next step
You can skip this step if you aren't using an ATX Power Supply
Step 6: Solder a Long Wire to Your Connector
First, Open your chosen tripod to the highest setting (picture #2)
You want to choose a wire that is:
1. Is thick enough and can deliver high current
2. Is longer that the highest point on your tripod (picture #2)
Now solder the Red Wire (+) to the Yellow Wire of the Connector (+), And the Black Wire (-) to the Black Wire of the Connector (-). (As seen in Picture #1)
Don't forget to add Heat-Shrink Tubing to protect against shorts!
Step 7: Hack Your 5.5mm Male Connector
Right before starting to solder a 5.5 mm Male Connector, I was thinking that It makes no sense to use thick wires on all of the parts of SpectrumLED, When the connector has such thin wires!
If you're still wondering what I'm doing, I'm modifying the connector to be able to deliver more current (Amps)
You might be able to call what I'm doing a "hack" or a "mod", But it doesn't matter, Let's start!
First, I found 2 identical5.5mm Male Connectors in in my pile of 5.5mm connectors, I believe you won't do this, You'll probably just buy these connectors... You obviously won't have to do this step if you have these connectors
I used snips to Cut of the rubber that surrounds the metal part of the connector (Picture #2)
After being left with only the metal connector, Solder a thick red wire to the middle connection (+) of the connector, Don't forget to insulate it with shrink tubing (Picture #3)
Solder a black wire to the outer part of the connector (Picture #4), And insulate it with shrink tubing, You might also might to check continuity of everything with your multi-meter.
After finishing everything, Make another one!
Step 8: Solder Your Hacked 5.5mm Connector to the Main 12V Power Wire
As shown in picture #2 I soldered both of the connector's wires in "parallel", And after that, I soldered them to the 12V power wire
You'll probably want to check for continuity with you multimeter
Step 9: Make Sure Your Dimmers Work
After finishing all of the steps that were before this one, I wanted to make sure that my dimmers work, I did this by connecting them to the LED strips that I have over my table. You can see in picture #1 that they work!
Step 10: Attaching the 1/4 Inch Screw to the Heat-Sink
I wanted to mount the heat-sink on the tripod's head, To do that I had to use a Female 1/4" Screw (similar to a Hex Nut [I salvaged it from an old coffee machine]), And a Hex Nut.
First, I used my snips to cut away the aluminum (Or alumin"i"um, However you prefer to call it...) because there wasn't enough space for the hex nut, This is pretty easy because aluminum is a very soft metal. (picture #2)
To finish everything, I held the nut with Needle-Nose Pliers, And screwed in the screw, Make sure that everything fits as it is supposed, And you're done.
Bonus:Strengthen Everything with Epoxy Putty:
I covered the connection (Where the Hex Nut was) with epoxy putty, This keeps it from spinning around in its place.
I also did the same thing to the tripod itself*:
You might have seen in the parts list that this tripod is pretty cheap.
Usually, You get what you pay for, This is true, And especially in tripods...
The 1/4" Screw that was located on the tripod's head was really short and couldn't really hold anything, I used another screw,I Screwed it on, And made sure that it would stay strong in place with Epoxy Putty.
I recommend doing something similar to this if you have a cheap tripod
*In the beginning made this as a separate step, But after seeing that this Instructable is ~30 Steps, I changed it because my computer started lagging (yours might too)... This also isn't really a part of the Instructable, It's just a small tip
Step 11: Arranging the LED's on the Heat-Sink
I wanted to put the LED's in a checker-board pattern so the color would be equal to what I was projecting it at, It might be easier for you to understand if I say "I wanted both sides to be symmetrical"
The easiest way to do this is by taking a picture with another phone so you won't forget how you organized them
In the end, I chose 10 Cool LED's and 7 Warm LED's (Which are none of the pictures above, They are just random options)
But how many watts are the LED's?: While I was experimenting with the LED's, I wanted to measure how many watts they used (even though the seller lists it, But I didn't believe him).
So I used the current measurement function on my multi-meter, I measured the LED's current consumption, At 11.5V and to my surprise, The LED used ~1.1Amps! That's more than 12 WATTS for each LED!
Step 12: Remove the Black Paint With Sandpaper
This step is optional, But I do recommend doing it:
I decided to remove the black paint from the heat-sink, I'm sure that this paint doesn't conduct heat as well as bare aluminum...
This took me about an hour, But with the right tools, It should take less than 5 minutes
Another quick tip is to scratch/score the heat-sink with a utility knife, It makes it easier to sand
Don't forget to do this in a Ventilated area, And preferably with a mask, If you don't want this to happen to you (scroll down to: "symptoms")
Step 13: Mounting the LED's to the Heat-Sink With Thermal Adhesive
This is a VERY important step, Gluing the LED's on to the heat-sink with Thermal Adhesive
You might not know this, But while gluing them down, I found out that it is a lot harder to use thermal glue compared to regular thermal paste.
Another thing I learned is that you should take your time while doing this, And if you use the same kind as me (Arctic Alumina hardens in less that 5 minutes), Just make several small batches of mixed adhesive (Because it's 2-Components)
And to make the soldering process easier, I glued all of the LED's with the negative (-) facing down
If you don't know how to use thermal paste (or Adhesive), You might want to watch these two videos that I've added below, They will explain how to spread it
And here are the video links for mobile viewers:
Step 14: Solder the LED's
Here comes the hardest part: Start soldering the LED's...
As you can see in picture #1, I cut some wire to a short length (~7 cm / ~2.75 inch), And started soldering each column in parallel (-to-, +to+), It is very important to first solder only the LED's in each column in parallel. If you solder all of the LED's in together parallel, They won't work well because the wire can't deliver enough current, And it's way to hard to solder thick wires to the LED's. This might remind you somehow of putting jumper wires on a bread-board
Obviously, To let the dimmers control the different colors of the LED's, You have to solder cool-white and warm-white separately...
After soldering ALL of the cool LED's columns, I soldered all of the columns together in parallel (Picture #2)
Now repeat everything you did with the Warm-White LED's, Do your best not to die of boredom ;), Because it takes a very long time!
After you're done with both, Check for continuity between the LED's, They should all be "Continuit-ized", Or if I explain it a bit better: Each different polarity of the LED's should be "continuit-ized" with all of the other same colored LED's
Make sure that none of the LED's touch the heat-sink, Do this with your multi-meter too
Step 15: Solder the Main Power Wires to the LED's
After soldering all of the LED's (cooI and warm) I found some 14 gauge wires.
I used these wires to Solder the main power connection, You MUST use thick wire that can deliver ~10 Amps, 14 Gauge wire can deliver a lot more that 10A
Now repeat what you've done on the other side
Step 16: Solder the Dimmer to the LED's
In the beginning of this step, I didn't solder the dimmer directly to the LED's, I soldered a 5.5mm Female Connector to the main 12V power wires of the LED's, And plugged it in to the dimmer, And IT DIDN'T WORK
For over half an hour I was investigating and trying to find out what went wrong, Bad Solder Connections? I Killed the Dimmer? NO! Eventually I found out that the middle pin of the female connector (+) was narrow-er than the middle part of the male connector! So I un-soldered the female connector from the LED's and started thinking again... For this reason, You might want to use XT-60 Connectors
So I un-soldered everything (one female connector counts as "everything") and started again.
Remove the outer black sheathing from the dimmer's wire, And splice the wires
After that, Solder the dimmer to the LED's (picture #3), Don't forget that you'll have to repeat this with the other side (warm), SpectrumLED should light up when you turn on your power supply
I just want to let you know that the dimmer's wires heat up because they're thin, And act as a small resistor, But it's okay...
Step 17: Mounting the Dimmers to the Heat-Sink With Thermal Adhesive
I don't really like these dimmers. I also don't really like the fact that they get pretty hot (I might be drawing too much current from them ***oops*** :) )
I did the same thing in this step, And the step that I glued down the LED's.
I applied Thermal Adhesive to the dimmer and Clamped it on to the heat-sink with a teeny-tiny clamp(picture #3)
I did this to:
1. Help cool down the dimmer
2. It's easier to use like this
Step 18: Adding a Handle- Drill
A couple days after finishing SpectrumLED, I wanted to add a handle, Here's how I did it:
After struggling on finding a way to do it (Making it have a 0% chance of breaking and falling to the ground), I noticed that there was a hole in the heat-sink, This helped me find a way to reach the solution!
I found an old handheld radio in my "Take Apart Pile" and decided to use its handle.
I also found a perfectly sized metal rod** (salvaged from a printer) in my "Scrap Metal Rods" box. It's length was only a bit longer than the handle and the diameter was just slightly smaller than the diameter of the heat-sink's hole, PERFECT!
I drilled two holes with my drill into the handle, I recommend doing this with a 6-8 mm drill bit. You can probably see in the picture that I drilled in to my hand. That was not fun, Learn from my mistakes and use gloves.
You might still not understand why all I did all of this, Picture #3 will probably make it clearer
Step 19: Adding a Handle- Glue
After drilling holes in to each side of the handle, I used silicone adhesive to glue the handle and the metal rod in place
Make sure that the distance between the handle and the heat-sink is symmetrical on both sides, You can do this with a ruler
I chose to use silicone and not epoxy putty because of three reasons:
1. I though it would adhere better
2. I wanted the handle to be flexible
3. The main reason: I ran out of epoxy putty!
Step 20: Improvised Spool to Store the Wire (Wire Dispenser)
This step is optional:
I decided to use an old solder spool, Free and easy to use...
I drilled a hole (picture #2) in to the spool and zip-tied it to the heat-sink with a zip tie, After that, I just wrapped the wire around the spool. It's that easy!
Step 21: Future Ideas/Additions/Upgrades
These are some ideas that I'm thinking of adding to SpectrumLED:
Make It Portable: Add 12V 7 AMP Lead-Acid Battery (+Charger)
Help Cool Down The Heat-Sink: Add a 12V Fan- Even better: Controlled by an Arduino, The arduino will turn on the fan when the heat-sink passes a specific temperature (This can only happen after I learn how to program an Arduino, Unless there is a code that somebody already made, You can probably see I know nothing about this) I could also make something like Andrea Biffi's "silent fan with thermal controller"
Watt Meter: I also want to add a watt meter capable of measuring high current at 12V (not an amp meter) to each separate dimmer, Just out of interest, To see how much each one uses.
Improve The Dimmer: I want to replace these dimmers with dimmers that change the brightness using voltage, Not pulse width modulation, But because my dimmer flickers really quickly, My camera can capture the annoying lines only on the lowest brightness, Which is pretty impressive! I might be able to find a dimmer that can be controlled by a remote, Or use a "Remote Controlled Relay"
Improving the Tripod: I recently bought a really small tripod on eBay and it's supposed to arrive soon, This will be easier to use on my table!
Step 22: Even More Pictures of SpectrumLED!
Here are a couple more pictures of SpectrumLED, I find them slightly addicting to look at!
Step 23: Thanks for Watching!
I hope you enjoyed my Instructable!
Don't forget to visit my Instructables Page! I'm sure that you'll find at least a couple projects that will interest you!
Subscribe for TONS of more upcoming Instructables, I think I have around a BILLION different ideas for more projects that I'm sure you'll like!
Check out my collection of all of the LED gadgets I've built until this day, I'm sure you'll like it if you liked SpectrumLED
Help support more "yonatan24" projects by clicking that big orange "VOTE" button in the top right corner of your screen! THANK YOU!
If you build or have already built something similar to SpectrumLED, Make sure to post a picture in the comments to show everyone! I'll also put your picture in this Instructable!
I'm almost done with an "FAQ" guide, I will be putting the link here when I'm done
What I would like you to write in the comments below:
Overall, Did you like SpectrumLED? Hate it? FREAKIN' LOVE IT? I DO!
Any ideas on ways I can improve SpectrumLED itself?
Any ideas on ways I can improve this Instructable? Did I make any mistakes? Is anything unclear?
Do you have an Idea of another project that I can make with these LED's?
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Make It Glow! Contest