All posts by @TheRainford

Maker, Joiner, Traditional Woodworker, Instructor, Engineer, Open Source Software and Hardware, Preservation Carpentry, Custom Furniture, Custom Mill work, Instruction, Preservation Masonry. Yep, I like to make stuff.

LED Bridge Lamp Electronics

For me, building the electronics for the LED Bridge Lamp was one of the most fun parts of the project.  It was an opportunity to build upon the skills I learned from earlier/simpler projects and create a really fun display/art project.

Circuit Design

The first step was figuring out the details of the circuit. To do this breadboarded the circuit and worked out the details. The resistors in the circuit are to protect the first LEDs on the strip data lines and the large capacitors help smooth out the power from the power supply.

Testing the bridge section LEDs
Testing the bridge section LEDs

 

You can find the Fritzing generated circuit diagram here:

Circuit Diagram for my LED Bridge Lamp
Circuit Diagram for my LED Bridge Lamp

Here’s what I used to build the electronics for this project:

Parts List (Quantities reflect sets/packages from the related links):

Assembly 

With the design in hand, the next step was assemble the bases and solder everything.  For the purposes of differentiating them in a succinct way I will refer to the base with the Adafruit Feather Huzzah Micro-controller in it as the ‘Smart’ base and I will refer to the base that only has power inject in it as the ‘Dummy’ base.

Here you can see a full assembled base complete with the 90lb strength magnets that will keep the bridge perched in place over my cubicle walls at work. (You can learn more about building this base in my earlier post here)

90lb Strength Magnets integrated into the base
90lb Strength Magnets integrated into the base

For the panel mount connectors I made sure they fit into the printed holes in the side of the base. I put one of the male connectors into the panel mount connector to keep everything lined up as I soldered (the plastic in there melts easily). I also put heat shrink tubing over the connectors.

Use heat shrink tubing to protect the soldered connections. TIP: Put a mail connector in the female connector when soldering to keep the plastic from deforming.
Use heat shrink tubing to protect the soldered connections. TIP: Put a mail connector in the female connector when soldering to keep the plastic from deforming.

 

The “Smart” Base

Next up was translating the bread-boarded circuit to a perma-proto board. I used female headers so I could remove/replace/upgrade the micro-controller in the future if  wanted to.

Adafruit Huzzah 8266 in headers on soldered half size permanently-proto board
Adafruit Huzzah 8266 in headers on soldered half size permanently-proto board

The circuit itself is pretty simple/straightforward.

Underside of assembled half size permanent-proto board which hosts the Huzzah
Underside of assembled half size permanent-proto board which hosts the Huzzah

With the panel mount connection inserted through the top curved section of the base and secured with its included nut, I soldered its wire to the permanent-proto board. I used about a foot of wire so I had plenty of space to work with when the setup is semi-assembled as shown below.

Soldering the power cable to the perm-proto board AFTER it was inserted through the bridge lamp base.
Soldering the power cable to the perm-proto board AFTER it was inserted through the bridge lamp base.

Next up I secured the permanent-proto board to the electronics tray/base. I wrapped the excess wire that around the magnet supports to provide strain relief to the soldered joints. The additional wires below are the wires that least to JST connectors which will provide a modular linking to the LED strips in the bridge.

Wrap excess wire around magnet supports to provide strain relieve and protect your soldered joints.
Wrap excess wire around magnet supports to provide strain relieve and protect your soldered joints.

With everything assembled it should look nice and clean and orderly as shown below:

Underside of completed 'smart' base
Underside of completed ‘smart’ base

For the USB cable I drilled a whole in the side of the riser block with a brad point drill bit and inserted the USB cable. I wrapped that cable around the magnet supports to provide strain relief here as well.

Underside of completed 'smart' base with USB cable routed
Underside of completed ‘smart’ base with USB cable routed]

The completed based is just about done.

Assembled base section (close up)
Assembled base section (close up)

I also inserted M4 Button Top machine screws to secure the top and bottom sections of the base. They self tap a bit into the plastic and hold well. They also allow me to disassemble the setup easily from the outside.

Button head machine screws used to connect top/curved have of base to the electronics tray
Button head machine screws used to connect top/curved have of base to the electronics tray

The “Dummy” Base

The “Dummy” base is largely the same procedure as the “Smart” base with the exception being that this side does not have a micro-controller — it simply injects power at the mid point of the LED light strips — without this it would look like the LED strips brown out about midway across the bridge.  The large capacitors used in this project are to protect the LED strips and smooth out the power they receive.

Dummy base with power injection. Leave extra wire so you can remove the curved section as needed.
Dummy base with power injection. Leave extra wire so you can remove the curved section as needed.

I followed the same methods of assembly, soldering, cable wrapping etc.

Underside of completed 'Dummy' base
Underside of completed ‘Dummy’ base

Cabling

Between each base and the bridge assembly and between each of the 3 bridge sections I used JST connectors for power and data (See photo below). I would build each male and female section, test the connections and then solder them into place.

JST connectors and crimper
JST connectors and crimper

I liked the idea of everything being modular but in hindsight almost feel it was more trouble than it was worth. I found myself still having to debug a bunch of these wire connections as the JSTs seem to have  a little play in the connections so if the wires are bent up — say when trying to cram those connections into the bridge superstructure sometimes the connection would open up.

When soldering my larger panavise was helpful in holding things in place so I could solder the JST connected wires to the LED strips.

Larger pane-vise was helpful in holding the assembly when I had to solder on the wires connected to the JST connectors
Larger pane-vise was helpful in holding the assembly when I had to solder on the wires connected to the JST connectors

Shown below is a completed base with the JST connectors showing.

Assembled base section with taller riser and micro controller. Note the USB cable coming out through a drilled hole in the riser.
Assembled base section with taller riser and micro controller. Note the USB cable coming out through a drilled hole in the riser.

Testing

With everything in place it was time to test the full circuit. This is where the extra wire on the JST cabling in the base came in handy. I could lay the bridge out on my dining room table and test the circuit and work out the software. Also it was nerdy fun to be effectively sitting inside this light ring in a dark room.

  • Testing the bridge flat on the table
    Testing the bridge flat on the table

    Once I got everything working it was time to pack it up and bring it to the office. Given the headaches with the JST connectors I brought the bridge section in as 1 completed piece rather than breaking it down into segments and testing all the connections again.  It filled the whole bed of my pickup truck but survived the ride.

Completed bridge assembly in the back of my pickup truck ready for delivery
Completed bridge assembly in the back of my pickup truck ready for delivery

The next post in this series will be related to the software.

You can navigate back to the Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp Summary here. 

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

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Scary Smart Gothic Lantern

This post captures my entry into the Adafruit Extra Credit / Circuit Playground contest of 2017. I made a fun, interactive ‘Scary Smart’ Gothic Lantern which I will describe in this post.

Intro Video (Showing Two Completed ‘Scary Smart’ Gothic Lanterns):

I bought the Adafruit CircuitPlayground Developer Edition when it first came out and gave it a try — it was a fun little board and was something I’d tinker with on a long flight and recommend to friends starting out, but I didn’t have a solid use for it, in terms of a project as by the time I got it I had progressed in my electronics/maker projects to the point where I was designing my own boards etc. Then I saw the folks at Adafruit post about building this great looking Gothic Lantern and added a small enclosure to house a circuit playground to light it up and it really resonated with me.

Lantern running Flickering Candle Demonstration
Lantern running Flickering Candle Demonstration

Once I built the lantern and enclosure I decided to build a lid for that electronics enclosure as I didn’t like seeing some light showing through from the space between the enclosure and the base of the lantern. My lid fits snugly into the electronics enclosure and blocks any light from coming out of the base.

3D Printing Details:

I printed my lantern from Polymaker PolyLite PLA (Black and White). I used M4 x 30mm flat head machine screws and nuts (Qty 4 each) to attach the electronics enclosure and lid to the base of the lantern.

I found the lid (via how the lantern model was designed) to be a bit too loose for my liking so I added a piece of black electrical tape to the male pins on the top of the lantern and it did a great job filling space and adding friction so the lid stays on the lantern if you want to hang it.

Models:

All the models used can be found on Thingiverse:

Gothic Lantern

Circuit Playground Electronics Enclosure

Lid for Circuit Playground (I designed and shared this part out)

Looks even better in the dark
Looks even better in the dark

To take things a step further from just the build I decided to write a series of animation/demoes for the lantern to add some fun interactivity to the project and to use as many of the sensors as I could work into a lantern project.

Demo Video:

The above video walks through all of the animations and using the accelerometer to navigate them. (Details below)

Code: 

You can find all of my source code for this project on GitHub here:

https://github.com/BillRainford/Gothic-Lantern

 

Two candles
Two candles

Animations:

The animations/demoes can be advanced by using the X-axis accelerometer which is in line with the USB port. By quickly shaking the lamp in that direction the system will go dark for 2s and then cycle into the next demo. If the demo supports alternative modes a quick shake in the Y-axis will cycle through the modes. (The code also supports using the on board buttons to do the same navigation, but when the lantern is assembled the accelerometer is a lot more fun to use)

  • Flickering Candle — custom modified algorithm to simulate what to me looks like a fairly realistic approximation of a candle. (Flickers, goes dark in places etc.
    • Alternative Modes (Y-Axis) — Can cycle through several alternative colors of flicker
    • Hardware Used — NeoPixels
  • Bug Zapper — simulates an old fashioned electric bug zapper, complete with strobing flashes and satisfying bug zapping sound
    • Alternative Modes (Y-Axis) — None
    • Hardware Used — NeoPizxels and Piezo Buzzer/Speaker
  • VU Meter — like an old stereo this system will light up green, then yellow then red to represent the amount of sound it is hearing, and slowly fade back down to green if things get quiet again. All pixels light up the same color — works great for a room with lots of music playing
    • Alternative Modes (y-Axis) — None
    • Hardware Used: NeoPixels, Microphone
  • Rainbow Cycle — looping animation of rainbow colors swirling around (on video it looks white, but in person is perceptible)
    • Alternative Modes (y-Axis) — Loop speed can be varied
    • Hardware Used: NeoPixels
  • Temperature — Cycles through an animation of Blue -> Cyan -> Green -> Yellow -> Orange -> Red (simulating the range of colors used to represent the temperature in this demo), then strobes white 3 times and then shows the ‘color’ of the current temperature reading. (Blues are cold, Green room temp (68F +/- 4 degrees), Yellow a bit warmer, Orange getting warm and Red is HOT.
    • Alternative Modes (y-Axis) — None
    • Hardware Used: NeoPixels, Thermometer
  • Lamp — default is an animation that quickly cycles through several pre-selected colors. If you use an alternative mode you can keep a given color on for as long as you like
    • Alternative Modes (y-Axis) — Solid colors then back to demo cycling of colors
    • Hardware Used: NeoPixels
Two different animations running
Two different animations running

It was a lot of fun to build this project. If you build one of your own, please leave me a comment or share a make on Thingiverse or similar.

-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

 

 

Pi Zero W + Joy Bonnet Case

When I first saw the Adafruit Joy Bonnet for the Raspberry Pi Zero I know I had to get one and try it out. 🙂 I liked the idea of having a small RetroPie rig I could keep in my pocket.

Raspberry Pi Zero W + Adafruit Game Bonnet in custom case by Bill Rainford @TinWhiskerzBlog @TheRainford
Raspberry Pi Zero W + Adafruit Game Bonnet in custom case by Bill Rainford @TinWhiskerzBlog @TheRainford (note the SD card for scale)

As if I needed another reason to buy it, the back of the bonnet (aka hat or phat) says “It’s Dangerous To Go Alone! Take This.” — which harkened many fond memories of playing The Legend of Zelda.

"It's dangerous to go alone! Take this."
“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”

 

Why did you design your own case instead of using something out there already? 

From poking around online, on Thingiverse.com etc. I saw a couple of  cases for the Joy Bonnet but didn’t see any I really liked. I did try printing this model which looked like it might be fun, bit I can see why the two ‘makes’ only show the prints and not the assembled unit. The fit and finish, even when printed on my well tuned printer was not what I wanted. I didn’t like how the top and bottom mated leaving a gap and didn’t like how the buttons felt/moved and tried post processing them by hand to improve things. I liked it in concept but not execution.

A while back I designed and built this RedHat Shadowman Sign and I was quite happy with how that case turned out so I decided to use similar techniques to build a case for this Pi Zero W + Joy Bonnet setup.

Completed Case
Completed Case

The Build Process

The first thing was to solder the headers onto the bonnet. I took the regular headers and installed them upside down — meaning the short end of the pins is what I wanted to preserve and the long ends went through the PCB and were clipped short after soldering. This worked great and was the perfect length for use with the low profile female headers on the bonnet.

"It's dangerous to go alone! Take this."
“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”

On Adafruit.com I didn’t see any spacers of the correct height for this project ( The brass standoffs for Pi Hats they had were sized for full height headers) so I decided to print my own. You should be able to use an M2.5mm or #4-40 screw to secure the standoffs to the bonnet. I used #4-40 5/16″ long screws as that is what I had on hand and it worked out great.

3D Printed Spacers in place
3D Printed Spacers in place

With the standoffs in place I was able to assemble this rig and test things out. I installed the RetroPie OS (For Pi 0/1) image onto the 16GB class 10 micro USB card via ApplePi-Baker and used the HDMI and 2.5A micro USB power supply I had on my workbench.

Assembled electronics (Pi Zero W + Joy Bonnet + Micro SD card)
Assembled electronics (Pi Zero W + Joy Bonnet + Micro SD card)

Next up I designed a case using similar design details as I’ve used in the past. (2mm thick walls, tabs that can print in place without supports and chamfered holes for the screws etc.) This was also the first time I baked my name into the model as a designer — I hope folks don’t mind that too much, plus once assembled you’ll need see that again.

3D Printed Case Bottom with screws inserted
3D Printed Case Bottom with screws inserted

ASSEMBLY TIPS: Test fit your screws ahead of time and make sure your screw heads are flush with the bottom of the case. If you had some sagging, now is the time to clean that up with an X-acto knife or similar. I used 18-8 Stanless Steel #4-40 screws that were 3/8″ long to attach the Pi Zero W to the case.

Make sure your screws are flush with the underside of the case
Make sure your screws are flush with the underside of the case

Next up was designing a lid for the case and buttons that lined up with the buttons on the Joy Bonnet. I made two or three test prints of the lid and some buttons until I got a layout and movement that felt and looked right to me.

You’ll want 6 of the 5.5mm buttons and 2 of the 3mm buttons. They print in a couple of minutes so printing all the colors below was not too arduous a task.  I also included STLs for buttons of a few other sizes I tested in case it is helpful to folks with printers that are tuned differently.

Printed Buttons
Printed Buttons

I test fit each button to make sure there were no bits or sags or anything that would impede button movement. Make sure they move smoothly.

Next test fit the lid to make sure it snaps into the case properly and is not bowed. If it is bowed make sure your print was clean and file the tabs and/or clean out the pockets/mortises (where the tabs lock into) until you have a nice clean fit.

Also make sure to remove the button on the D-pad before trying to fit the case lid.

I also filed to top of each button so they have a nice smooth feel when in use.

Test fit all of your buttons ahead of time. Place them into the lid as shown and snap the case on while oriented this way.
Test fit all of your buttons ahead of time. Place them into the lid as shown and snap the case on while oriented this way.

Additional Design Notes:

The area of the lid under the D-pad button is very thin — 1mm — so that the D-pad button can slide cleanly over it. ( I don’t like the cases that leave the metal and plastic guts of the D-pad exposed)

The front wall of the case (where the USB and HDMI ports are exposed) are 0.5mm thinner than the rest of the case so that the USB and HDMI cables fit securely into the ports. The two PCBs are pressed up against the interior of this wall and help maintain case rigidity on par with the rest of the case which is a full 2mm thick.

I printed the A,B,X and Y buttons in old school Non-USA SNES colors and I am happy with the results.

Completed case ready for playing games
Completed case ready for playing games

Print Details

Printed on a Lulzbot TAZ 6 printer using ColorFabb nGen Red, Dark Blue, Light Green, Yellow and Black filament at 230 degrees C. I’ve found nGen to have minimal warping and got away with not having to print a brim. The only part that needed supports was the case bottom this way the top of the port opening was nice and clean/straight. When removing the support material be careful not to clip out the vertical support between the two USB ports as I did on one of my cases.

You can find the models for the above case on Thingiverse here.

If you make a print of this case for yourself or remix it please be sure to comment here or on Thingiverse as I’d love to see what folks do with this project.

Happy Retro Gaming!

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog

 

LED Bridge Lamp Shades

The lamp shades were a part of this project I agonized over. In the end it was a fun engineering challenge.

Challenge #1 Color

The first challenge was to figure out what color to make the shades.  I printed out a few sample shades that I tested out with a simple rig on a breadboard that would run through a series of animations on a small NeoPixel stick from Adafruit. This allowed me to see how each of those sample shades would look as the colors on the strip changed.

Test rig to see how various colors and materials would look as a lamp shade/diffuser on this project
Test rig to see how various colors and materials would look as a lamp shade/diffuser on this project

First I tried Village Plastics and PolyLite White PLA — it was not bad but seemed to look like a warmer color (See photo below) which while not bad was not the look I wanted.

Testing Village Plastics White PLA
Testing Village Plastics White PLA

Next I tried PolyLite PLA Translucent Blue (the same as the the bridge superstructure) but I felt that color skewed everything blue. (Left side of image below)

Testing Translucent Blue and White PLA shades
Testing Translucent Blue and White PLA shades

Next up I tried nGen clear filament — which prints a lot slower than PLA but also is more resistant to heat —  and I really liked the results.  The colors were clearly transmitted through that material and could be seen from the sides. For me this lamp is not really used for downlighting, it’s more of a novelty to been seen from all angles so I thought this was the best solution.

NOTE: My friend and co-worker Chris also printed out test shades in  PolyLite Translucent Red, Yellow and T-Glase Red — and much like my experiments seemed to skew the colors too much to look like whatever color the filament was.

I had the demo rig below on my desk for a few weeks and solicited feedback from friends and we all seemed to land on the clear nGen

Translucent Blue PLA, White PLA, and nGen Clear shades
Translucent Blue PLA, White PLA, and nGen Clear shades

 

Challenge #2 Glare and Drooping

In the original LED Bridge Lamp (Universal Segment) by my friend Janis Jakaitis (Opossums) I noticed in one of the photos the LED strip was sagging a bit (See below).  This is a common problem as the adhesive on the back of these LED strips is not all that good or strong and doesn’t stick well to plastic. If you go with a more aggressive glue it makes it harder to repair/move/replace anything that fails in the future.

Original LED Bridge Lamp (Universal Segment) by Janis Jakaitis (Opossums)
Original LED Bridge Lamp (Universal Segment) by Janis Jakaitis (Opossums)

After working with my test rig I also found that these LEDs can cause glare and be rough on the eyes if you look directly at them so I figured some sort of diffuser would be a worthwhile addition.

I spent some time trying to come up with an elegant solution — maybe printing each shade vertically and creating a channel for the LED strips — but I felt that orientation would weaken the shades and likely result in rougher prints. Other ideas were too complex — such as screwing on diffusers etc.

In the end I came up with a solution I am happy with — I modified the light channels to be deep enough to enclose the LED light strips and created a dovetailed channel that would capture a flat printed thin diffusers. (See photo below)

My Enhanced Lamp Shade/Light Diffuser Model Rendering (Straight Section)
My Enhanced Lamp Shade/Light Diffuser Model Rendering (Straight Section)

3D Printing Tips 

I printed these light channels WITHOUT any sorts of brim as the object is flat with a lot of surface area and didn’t require any real cleanup.

I printed my lamp shades with 20% infill.

You’ll want to make sure your printer is really dialed in and well calibrated. If you find the diffuser cover is too tight, I provided a ‘loose’ cover LightChannelDiffuserCoverLoose.stl which is the same diffuser cover but 2% narrower.  I believe this is what I used as the basis of the covers included in the curved shade sections — so those already include a loose diffuser cover. If after printing you find yours are still too tight you can break up any of the diffuser sets and scale the diffuser cover another percent or two narrower.

Straight section of lamp shade
Straight section of lamp shade

Assembly Notes: 

When trying to slide the diffuser covers into the diffuser I found it was sometimes easier to slide in if I spread the diffuser a bit in my hands as I slid in the cover.

Make sure the diffuser cover is oriented the right way (the same way it was printed)– with the tapered side down before trying to insert it into the diffuser channel.

For the curved sections of bridge lamp there are two sections — an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ section each with a diffuser channel and a cover. All parts print with a letter in/on them. The ‘A’ in the cover should be oriented the same as the ‘A’ in the diffuser channel. The same logic applies to the B section. Section A and B are not identical mirror images, just like the original channels.

My Enhanced Lamp Shade/Light Diffuser Model Rendering (Curved Section) NOTE: Sections A and B have matching raised letters in shade and in diffuser covers
My Enhanced Lamp Shade/Light Diffuser Model Rendering (Curved Section) NOTE: Sections A and B have matching raised letters in shade and in diffuser covers

After removing the lamp shade prints from the printer I would assemble the lamp shade section (slide in the cover) and file the ends flat with a flat mill file. They didn’t need much filing but I wanted nice smooth mating surfaces. I would have an assembled super structure assembly in hand and could use that to test and make sure the ends were co-planer with the ends of the bridge superstructure section.

I would assemble the 3 blue superstructure sections using the nice glue up jig provided by Janis’ original model. I didn’t bother to modify the jig to fit the lamp shade diffusers — as my shades have a deeper channel. Instead I would take the assembled (and dried) superstructure, line the edges with a small bead of LocTite 401 CA glue and then slide in the shade  (Above the glue lip and then slide it down into place to not disturb the glue and more than needed. This allowed me to squish/twist the superstructure if needed to really square up the now fully assembled section. You’ll want to take extra care to make sure the channels of one section really line up well with the next one.

For curved sections I’d glue the A and B sections to each other (make sure to file and test fit that A and B mate cleanly). With an assembled A and B section I’d then follow the process described in the paragraph above to glue it into a completed curved superstructure assembly.

A and B Sections in completed bridge
A and B Sections in completed bridge

In the image above you can see how the A and B sections are mated in a curved section of the completed bridge lamp.

My bridge lamp is broken up into 3 assembled sections — 90 degrees of the arc, 2 straight sections to support the billboard and another 90s degrees of arc.  I built my lamp in a modular fashion so it would be easier to change if I have a different job or workspace in the future and don’t want to rebuild this lamp from scratch.

With a completed section of bridge (superstructure + lamp shade/diffuser) in hand I would test fit it with the next piece of the bridge. This meant testing to make sure the tabs locked well into each other — usually filing meant flattening any edges/corners that were rounded and likely squaring up the clips a bit to fit tightly. Squaring up the clips meant filing out a bit of the underside the tab which was triangular in profile to better mate with the square edge of the adjoining piece of superstructure.

With all the individual bridge sections completed I would glue each of the fitted sections of bridge to the other to add additional rigidity to the lamp. (If you don’t do this each of the sections can twist a bit which makes it even harder to fish the LED strip through the diffuser channels.)

The photo below shows one of the 90 degree assembled sections. In order to fish the LED strip through the channel I soldered a long piece of wire (longer than the assembled section) to one of the pads on the LED strip and then used electrical tape to further secure the wire to the LED strip and protect the pad — as they are really easy to pull off — and likely after this you’ll want to sacrifice/cut off that first LED. I then pushed the wire through the channel. Now for the dancing….

Assembled light diffusers and bridge sections ready for the LED light strips
Assembled light diffusers and bridge sections ready for the LED light strips

Getting the LED strip through the channels was a time consuming and sometimes quite frustrating ordeal. I would push the strip in from one side and GENTLY pull the wire from the other side. This is where the pains taken to keep things aligned will hopefully pay off for you. Keep feeling where things get stuck (usually an LED on a junction between sections). Usually I could press the thin diffuser cover a bit and push or pull to get it past that catch point and keep feeding the LED strip into the assembled section. This dance will take a fair amount of time and patience — but the result is worth the trouble.

NOTE: Wire Cutouts

If you plan to make sure bridge lamp in modular sections as I did you’ll want to use the diffuser section ‘A’ with wire cutouts (shown below) for any place where you want to mate two sections of lamp.  These sections have a place for wires to get out of the channel and allow for modular wire connectors — I used JST connectors — to be placed inside of the bridge superstructure.

Curved section lamp shade diffuser with reliefs for wire connections
Curved section lamp shade diffuser with reliefs for wire connections

In the post on electronics I’ll talk about the JST connections etc.

You can navigate back to the Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp Summary here. 

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

LED Bridge Lamp Base

As I worked out the details of my version of the LED Bridge Lamp by my friend Janis (Opossums) Jakaitis, one of the things I wanted to tweak was the base.

The modifications I focused on were:

  1. Lower the risk — the original base was a very large piece that would take about 25 hours to print and if something failed that would be a lot of time and material to lose so I broke my version of the model into pieces
  2. The slots/vents were slightly asymmetrical so I made my own variant of that so I could print on the side and keep the lines clean compared to printing them vertically
  3. I needed a way to handle height differences in the surface where I’d install the light * *

** The location in my cubicle at work where I wanted to to install this light has two different heights — the metal wall is about 1.5 inches higher than the top of bookcase so I needed a way to compensate for that. My solution will allow you to handle any reasonable height difference you want to tackle.

Here is a finished and an exploded view of the bases: 

Figure 1: All the parts that make up an Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp base
Figure 1: All the parts that make up an Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp base

While my bases look very similar to Janis’ models they were created from scratch but designed to emulate the originals and add a few new features you’ll see as we walk through this post. I also eliminated a few design details like the screw holes (replaced by my magnet solution) and the transition to the cap piece.

Print Details

What did you wind up printing? (Quantities are for what I built, you may need to change them to meet your needs) 

  • Qty 2: Side (side.stl)
  • Qty 2: Side with Power Outlet (SideWithPowerOutlet.stl)
  • Qty 2: Electronics Tray (Electronics_Tray.stl)
  • Qty 1: Base Height Spacer (Base_Height_SpacerV2.stl)
  • Qty 1: Base Height Spacer Tall  (Base_Height_Spacer_TallV2.stl)
  • Qty 2: Magnet Space Filler Block (Magnet_Space_Filler_Block.stl)
  • Qty 2: Center — the core of the base (Center.stl)
  • Qty 2: Cap (cap.stl)
  • Qty 2: Baseplates (BasePlateMamaWithCableHoleV2.stl)
  • Qty 3: Clips (ClipV2Loose.stl)
  • Qty 2: Foot Height Extensions (This STL can be found in Janis’ lamp here)

Material Used: Polymaker Polylite PLA in ‘True Grey’ 

Print Settings:

  • I printed all the side parts with a brim to decrease the likelihood of warping
  • 20% infill, 0.25mm layer height
  • 210C Nozzle Temp

Additional Supplies: 

  • Qty 4: 90lb Neodymium Cup Magnets
  • Qty 4: M4 Flathead Machine Screws
  • Qty 8: M4 Machine Screws (double up the nuts so they don’t back off — or add a lock nut)
  • Qty 8: Hex Button Head Machine Screws to secure base sections to each other
  • Loctite 401 Glue

Build Details / Notes: 

Printing a side of the base
Printing a side of the base

When printing the pieces called out in the print details section above I printed all my pieces with a brim to help reduce or eliminate warping.

Printing the electronics tray with a brim
Printing the electronics tray with a brim

The elements of an assembled base (1 regular side, 1 side with power outlet hole, center, cap, riser and base plate) are designed to fit inside/on top of this electronics tray. The tray is designed to also secure an Adafruit 1/2 size Perma-Proto board which is what I used to house the electronics that control this project. (More details on that in an upcoming post) The tray also provides supports for the height spacer which keeps the magnets in the proper location.

NOTE: You may want to print the tray 1-2% larger in the X and Y dimensions. Otherwise you may find yourself using a fixed belt sander to thin things out a bit. Guess how I know that? 😉 And my machine is really pretty well dialed in.

Electronics Tray Rendering
Electronics Tray Rendering

The height spacers below were designed to align themselves under the electronics tray via the little standoffs you can see in the image below. The height spacer also keeps the magnets secured as the base gets moved around.

Height Spacer
Height Spacer

The height spacer can be extruded to make it as tall or short as you want.  The spacer above is the minimum height as it is the same thickness as the 90lb strength magnets.

Height Spacer (Tall)
Height Spacer (Tall)

As you can see above, extruding this model to make it taller is straightforward. (You can do it by editing the model or in a pinch you can scale the z axis as needed and trim the alignment tabs if they get too tall as a result of the Z scaling)

Magnet Spacer
Magnet Spacer

For taller spacers I also designed a filler block to make up the space between the magnet and the bottom of the electronics tray. The model can also be scaled in the Z axis to adjust the height.

Assembling the base
Assembling the base

The electronics tray also makes a helpful aligner as you glue up the base pieces. I used some small clamps to hold the sides and center together as the glue dries — only takes about 1 minute to dry enough.

NOTE: Be careful that you don’t glue your base into the electronics tray.

In the lower half of the picture above you’ll see the baseplate sitting upside down in the height riser so that I could glue the blue clips in place. Once the clips are secure I flipped the plate over and glued it on top of the height riser block.

Base plate with clips glued in place and glued to the height riser block
Base plate with clips glued in place and glued to the height riser block

NOTE: The base plate on one side does NOT require the clips.

Be sure to test fit your bridge section and the two plates and file as needed to make sure you have a good snug fit. Filing usually meant squaring up the underside of the clip to make sure it squarely engages with the bridge superstructure section.

Testing out the base
Testing out the base

The base plate is glued to the top of the height riser. That assembly is glued to the cap piece (it has a nice indent in there to make alignment easy) and that second assembly is glued to the top of the base (center, side and side with power outlet hole)

Completed base pieces (angle)
Completed base pieces (angle)

You can insert M3 button head screws into the holes shown below to secure the top section of the base to the electronics tray. The screws tap themselves into the plastic and hold well.

Completed base pieces (side)
Completed base pieces (side)

Examining the underside of an assembled base section you can see how well the magnets fit.

NOTE: Use two nuts on top of the screw securing each magnet so they don’t get loose.

I installed the electronics into the taller of the bases and drilled a small hole to allow the USB cable to pass through so I could flash new firmware onto the micro controller after the lamp was installed.

Assembled base with button head screws installed and testing the wiring
Assembled base with button head screws installed and testing the wiring

If you have any questions about building the base, please let me know in the comments section  below.

You can navigate back to the Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp Summary here. 

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

 

LED Bridge Lamp Summary

As an engineer I love all things that are shiny and blinky. Like many other engineers I am a cubicle dweller. I wanted to create something in my cube that would brighten up my workspace and make me smile whenever I’m working there. What follows is a series of posts that will guide you through how I designed and built my version of the LED Bridge Lamp which is based off of the LED Bridge Lamp (Universal Segment) by my friend Janis (Opossums) Jakaitis on Thingiverse here. It was a great looking project and would be the perfect addition to any cubicle in need of some blinky.

Side view of my LED Bridge Lamp running a rainbow animation.
Side view of my LED Bridge Lamp running a rainbow animation.

High Level Summary of Changes:

  • Universal Segment Bridge Lamp with 2 horizontal (straight) sections
  • Custom mini light up billboard at the top of the bridge
  • Custom light shades with enclosed channels
  • Custom designed bases with integrated 90lb magnets and adjustable heights for uneven surfaces
  • Custom wifi enabled electronics to control the display
  • Custom power supply with enclosure
  • Each LED strip (2 in the bridge and 1 in the sign) an be controlled independently

 

LED Bridge Lamp Animations Video on Vimeo

LED Bridge Lamp Animations Video on YouTube

3D Models

You can find the 3D models I used to build this project on Thingiverse here. They are free to download, use and modify.

How long did this take to build?

  • Base Height Spacer Tall (Qty 1) 6:40 min (PLA)
  • Base Height Spacer (Qty 1) 2:07 min (PLA)
  • Base Side (Qty 2) 4:15 min each (PLA)
  • Base Side With Power Outlet (Qty 2) 4:15 min each (PLA)
  • Base Center (Qty 2) 5:09 min each (PLA)
  • Base Plate Mama with Cable Hole (Qty 2) 49 min each (PLA)
  • Base Cap Plate (Qty 2) 1:12 min each (PLA)
  • Clips (Qty 3) 10 min each (PLA)
  • Base Height Extension (Qty 2) 3:07 min each (PLA)
  • Electronics Tray (Qty 2) 4:06min (PLA)
  • Magnet Space Filler Block (Qty 2) 1:06 min each (PLA)
  • Sign Holder (Qty 1) 54 min (PLA)
  • LED Light Channel Segment A (Qty 14) 1:33 min each (nGen)
  • LED Light Channel Segment A with Wire Cutout (Qty 2) 1:32 min each (nGen)
  • LED Light Channel Segment B (Qty 16) 1:33 min each (nGen)
  • Straight LED Light Channel with Cover  (Qty 2) 2:47 min each (nGen)
  • Universal Segment Curved Superstructure Set (Qty 16) 2:42 min each (PLA)
  • Universal Segment Straight Superstructure Set (Qty 2) 2:25 min each (PLA) — light channel from set deleted for this print

Total Number of Pieces: 74
Total Print Time: 145 hours!

Estimated 3D Modeling/Design Time: 50 hrs 
Estimated Assembly Time: 12 hrs
Estimated Coding Time: 4 hrs
Estimated Testing Time: 12 hrs

Total Time:  223 hours 

NOTE: The above does not include printing another 25 segments of straight superstructure and light shades, misprints, having 8 segments of assembled PLA superstructure melt by being too close to a radiator, test prints and re-prints. I estimate that I have something around 300 hours into this project.

Build Details (This section will be updated as I publish more related posts):

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzblog

For additional posts related to this project check out this the ‘LED Bridge Lamp’ tag. I’ll be adding more posts giving details on how I built my version of the LED Bridge Lamp.

LED Bridge Lamp Superstructure

The superstructure of the LED Bridge Lamp is one of its most prominent features. I printed mine using Polymaker Polylite Translucent Blue filament.

I started off by printing the standard set of flat printing models from Janis’ universal segment version of the lamp here. I also printed a set of the aligner/clamping rings that aid in assembly.

Printing a single set of the original bridge superstructure along with the aligners/clamps
Printing a single set of the original bridge superstructure along with the aligners/clamps

When I started working on this project it was the middle of winter and I think a combination of room temp and small surface areas caused some issues with pieces warping and even popping off the heated bed plate.

Printing two straight sections of bridge superstructure
Printing two straight sections of bridge superstructure

To remedy this I started printing the superstructure sections with a brim. Around this time I also started to eliminate the printing of the original shade. In Cura I broke the model (which was a group of pieces) into its pieces and would delete the shade. This also allowed me to fit a few more pieces on the build plate. I decided to make my own lamp shade/diffuser which I will cover in another post.

Printing two sets of bridge superstructure with a brim and without the shade
Printing two sets of bridge superstructure with a brim and without the shade

I would clean up the prints with an X-acto knife and square mill file. Each section didn’t need much cleanup. Most of the work was spent testing the tabs on each section and making sure it fit securely onto another section. The focus usually was making sure the corners were flat and that the tabs squarely locked over the end of the next section by filing the underside of the tab. Next I would dry fit the pieces in the assembly rings.

Once dry fit I would slide the top of the superstructure out a bit, apply a drop or two of LocTite 401 to the assembly tabs and slide the piece back into place. I would then remove the lampshade, run a bead of glue down the retaining lip on each side the superstructure and then slide the shade back in so the glue could set. After a minute or so the alignment rings could be removed and you can move on to the next section. By the time the next piece was filed and ready the last one was dry so I only needed one set of the rings.

Completed bridge section drying in the clamps
Completed bridge section drying in the clamps

Below you can see me testing a dry fitted piece against a completed straight section of bridge.

Testing to make sure each section fits well into the next
Testing to make sure each section fits well into the next

The above sample pieces have a translucent blue light shade from the original model, but as you’ll see in the upcoming post on the shades I went with an remix that I think you may also like.

Accumulating bridge sections to assemble
Accumulating bridge sections to assemble

As things got up and running I had a little production line going — churning out bridge sections and and assembling as I could find the time.

I wanted to get a feel for how big the lamp would be, beyond the calculated dimensions so I assembled 2/3 of an arc — just the assembled bridge sections without the shades.

Test assembly of the bridge superstructure sections
Test assembly of the bridge superstructure
sections

It was fun to see the project coming together. The above assembly I put to the side in the spare bedroom where I have my 3D printer etc. It was near a window and a baseboard radiator. Given that the PLA is extruded at 210C and at most my sealed baseboard radiator is putting out 100C I wasn’t worried about melting. After a few weeks I thought one of my young kids got to it, but as it turned out the PLA was softened by the sun and/or radiator and 9 assembled sections of the bridge lamp were warped/bent beyond what I was willing to accept so that was a big set back. After another 40 hours or so of printing I eventually replaced all those pieces and was careful to keep the lamp sections away from even that modest source of heat.

I started to stockpile the assembled bridge superstructure sections as I worked on the shades which will be covered in another post.

You can navigate back to the Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp Summary here. 

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

LED Bridge Lamp Power Supply

Next up in my series on building my own interpretation of Janis’ LED Bridge Lamp I wanted to share out my re-mix of his power supply cover/case.

3/4 view of completed power supply and case
3/4 view of completed power supply and case

In the original case, from the photos and models on Thingiverse it looked like Janis cut off the front of the case to attach the various plugs and switches. I also couldn’t find the exact same switch and plug so I decided to re-mix my over version.

Test print this sample to make sure it properly fits around your power supply. If it doesn't fit you can scale and re-print until you get it right.
Test print this sample to make sure it properly fits around your power supply. If it doesn’t fit you can scale and re-print until you get it right.

I started off with Janis’ solid bottom of the PSU cover. I bought the same 5V/20A power supply from AliExpress and printed the bottom. It fit great. I then imported his model into SketchUp and copied the outline/profile of his case. I extruded it 2mm and printed it as a test sample. This is useful for folks trying to scale the case up or down to get that tight friction fit — change your settings then print that test piece until you get the size you want — then use the same settings for the actual parts.

1jDEJGwmRMOCfFt+w2%ULg_thumb_194c9
Printed parts ready to go.

I extruded that test print model to be 80mm tall — this forms the majority of the cover. I also added a depth stop at 40mm and a carefully laid out two holes to receive the screws that secure the custom faceplate. This long extruded part with a stop gives me a positive depth stop and a reasonable amount of space in the enclosure to house all the wires, connections and backs of the connectors.

I also designed a separate faceplate with nice form fitting cutouts for the plugs, power inlet and switch. Print the cover face down as shown below:

Underside of Faceplate
Underside of Faceplate

The face of the above cover also has a nice recessed ‘5V’ to let potential users know what voltage we are outputting with this unit. The 110V/220V power inlet is secured with two M3 x 10mm screws and 2 nuts on each screw. The power button snaps into place with tabs. The metal barrel jacks are secured via a lock washer and nut that threads onto the barrel/body of the outlet. Make sure the PSU unit’s slide switch is set to the 110V or 220V input voltage you plan to provide.

All wires soldered in place and covered with heat shrink tubing
All wires soldered in place and covered with heat shrink tubing

All of the output port wires were 6″ long 22 gauge wire. The power inlet hot and neutral are routed through the power switch and the ground goes from the inlet to the ground on the PSU unit. I also used heat shrink tubing on each connection to protect the connections.

Attaching all the wires to the appropriate terminals
Attaching all the wires to the appropriate terminals

Route the wires through the extruded cover and attach them to the proper terminals, then slide the cover down until you hit the depth stop.

Testing the power supply. Notice plug inserted into a jack being tested with my multi-meter
Testing the power supply. Notice plug inserted into a jack being tested with my multi-meter

Now test your PSU using a multi-meter. I inserted an appropriately sized barrel top plug without its protective jacket to make it easier to attach the multi-meter probes. The output was exactly what I expected — a tiny bit above 5V. If you are under 5V you can adjust the output using a trim potentiometer on the PSU board to the right of the screw terminals. With the testing complete it was time to gently bend the wires and secure the faceplate with two M3 x 6mm machine screws.

Completed power supply with power on
Completed power supply with power on

With the PSU assembled and powered on it’s time to get back to working on the bridge lamp itself.

Side view of completed power supply case in black PLA
Side view of completed power supply case in black PLA

The Gray printed PSU cover from earlier in this post will live in my cubicle at work and power the main LED Bridge lamp I am making, but the secondary (smaller) LED bridge lamp I am making for home would look better in black PLA — as I think that will blend better with my black metal MakerBench.

Completed power supply in black PLA
Completed power supply in black PLA

If you’d like to make one of these PSU covers based on my remix you can find the models on Thingiverse here.

The inlets, outlets and supplies I used can be found here:

5V / 20A power supply

Copper DC Socket Jack

Panel Mounted Inlet Socket

Red Rocker Button Switch

DC Power Barrel Tip Plugs

Metric Machine Screws

If you build your own version of this project, please leave a comment or send me a note.

Take care,
-Bill
@TheRainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog

Trinket Powered LED RedHat Sign

My day job is working as a software developer for Redhat which is the world’s largest Open-Source software company. It’s a fun place to work with a vibrant culture — kinda like a geek summer camp at times — as many of us like to decorate our cubes with various nerdy projects, toys, artwork etc. I love to design and build things — check out my long running woodworking blog here for some of my designs and work with wood. As an engineer I also love to tinker with tech.

Early in 2016 I bought a Lulzbot TAZ6 for home and have been having fun getting involved in the Open-Source 3D printing, electronics and maker world. I also setup and run a 3D printing lab at work in the office.

A few months ago I designed and 3D printed a small Redhat logo which you can find on Thingiverse here.

Since then I have embarked on a more audacious building campaign to build my own interpretation of Janis’ LED Bridge Lamp. I want my bridge lamp to span from one wall of my cube to my bookcase  and incorporate some fun additions that I will reveal in upcoming posts.

On the road to this large design/print/build project I wanted to make neat mini billboard with the Redhat Shadowman logo that lights up and had some simple animations. The result of that work can be seen here:

Redhat Logo Sign Animated Rainbow Color
Redhat Logo Sign Animated Rainbow Color

I tripled the size of my original Redhat Shadowman logo in the x and y dimensions and printed the background in clear Colorfabb nGen filament. The letters, fedora and case are in black and red nGen filament. Every 2.01mm of z-axis height I would pause the print, swap, purge and resume the print which resulted in a nice 3 color print for the logo.

Remove supports so you can add the trinket
Remove supports so you can add the trinket

I designed the case so that it can be printed without any supports. Use a pair of nippers to remove the small bit of supports I added to the model (see photo above) which will allow you to easily access the USB port on the Adafruit Trinket which controls the LED strip.

The 3 color sign has 4 holes that snap nicely onto posts located on the inside of the bezel of the case. I don’t know why so many designers make the holes and posts the exact same size — it makes for unnecessary fussing with the print. I made my posts a few tenths of a millimeter narrower so I could snap on the logo without any fussing.

Back of case with negative image of Redhat logo
Back of case with negative image of Redhat logo

The back of the case also has a nice negative image of the Redhat Shadowman logo. The back also snaps nicely into the front section for clean lines and no need for additional hardware. nGen has enough flex in it that you can bend the case if you need to open it again in the future.

The circuit design is quite simple/straightforward:

Redhat Logo Sign -- Circuit Diagram -- Adafruit Trinket 5V + NeoPixels
Redhat Logo Sign — Circuit Diagram — Adafruit Trinket 5V + NeoPixels

Basically you are driving 10 NeoPixel RGB leds via an Adafruit Trinket 5V tiny arduino. I included the JST connection below in case I ever want to re-purpose bits from this project and because these LEDs were from the start of a new roll, so I figured I might as well use the cabling it came with in this case.

Completed circuit
Completed circuit

I used some 3M double sided tape to keep the wires secured and some M3 x 6mm screws to keep the Trinket mounted to the back of the case. The LED strip comes with some adhesive tape on the back to keep the strip in place. I find that tape on the strip to be a little fussy so make sure you clean/alcohol the inside of the case and firmly press/rub the strip to make sure it is well adhered.

Redhat Logo Sign in white
Redhat Logo Sign in white

The animations for this little prototype sign are pretty straight forward. The system comes up, does a wipe to make the sign glow white. After ~30 seconds it wipes to dark and then cuts over to 30 seconds of a pleasing rainbow animation. Then the loop repeats over and over again.

You can find the source code for this project on my GitHub account here. The animations could be easily augmented. You can create your own or re-use some of the animations from my earlier Adafruit Feather BLE + NeoPixel ring lamp.

Note that he regulator on a Trinket is only 500 milliamps so I make sure to limit the maximum brightness of the LED strip to make sure I don’t overload the system when the background is set to white.

If you’d like to download the STL models for the  Redhat Logo sign and case you can find them on Thingiverse here. If you build your own version of this project, I’d love to hear about it via a comment or contact page note.

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

Adabot Solder Dispenser

I had a bunch of solder floating around on my bench and figured I’d print out a solder dispenser and lo and behold I came across a new model for an Adabot Solder Dispenser and finally had a reason to print out my own little Adabot. Adabot is the main character in Adafruit’s Circuit Playground series of videos that teach kids and the young at heart about the basics of electronics through a mix of animation and cute muppet style puppetry.

Adabot Solder Dispenser
Adabot Solder Dispenser

I always wonder what the ‘official’ color of Adabot is supposed to be as in some Adafruit material it looks like he’s teal. In others, like the puppet, it looks like he’s a light blue. If anyone has the official answer, let me know. I printed mine from light blue n-Gen filament and in the featured image at the top of the page it looks blue, when washed out with a little more light it looks more teal (like the image immediately above) so I am going to call that a win.

Printing in light blue n-gen filament
Printing in light blue n-gen filament

After printing out all the parts I painted the antenna/ears and ring around the eyes with testers blue acrylic and the pupils with testers black acrylic paint. Assembly was straight forward with the eyes and mouth glued in place with CA glue and the ears glued to the ear connector pins. I inserted the pin and then glued the ear to the connector pins/studs.

In assembling this project I did run into a problem with the ear connectors (seen below)

Broken ear connectors (blue) and one that is 20% longer in the Z direction (white)
Broken ear connectors (blue) and one that is 20% longer in the Z direction (white)

I tried printing them at 20% fill and 85% fill and both times the pins cracked off when trying to insert them per the video instructions. I just don’t think there is enough clearance in there or enough give in the pins to make it work. The holes would need to have a relief chamfer in there to work. I thought about filing down the tabs on the pins, but figured that would make them even more likely to snap off. Since I already had the head printed I decided to instead extrude another set of ear connector pins that were 20% longer in the Z axis. (I first tried 25% but they were too long) . I also gently filed the ear holes on the head with a mill file  (only a pass or two) to make sure they were nice and flat so the ears would line up perfectly with the head. Once glued to the connectors the ears have the right amount of tension on them and can be rotated if you like.

Solder dispenser loaded up
Solder dispenser loaded up

The only drawback to my fix for the ears is that the connectors are now in the box cavity rather than wedged inside the holes for the ear connectors. So if I were to do this again I’d make sure the space in the pins was horizontal as in the pin on the right in the photo above as the way I have it the pin on the left puts a little pressure on the bottom reel of solder. But I can just use two of the green reels and be fine.

Adabot Solder Dispenser
Adabot Solder Dispenser

It was a fun little project and a nice addition to my bench. I think I am going to velcro it to my shelf so when I pull on the solder the friction doesn’t have me dragging the head all over the desk. If you’d like to build your old Adabot Solder Dispenser you can find the plans for here here on the Adafruit learning system.

-Bill Rainford
@TheRainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog