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Thread: And before we did lasers...we did Light Boxes...

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasermaster1977 View Post
    I haven't decided what I want to achieve other than programmable lights. SP106E looks like something that would be fun to play with (and I'll probably buy one just to have) but I'm tending toward individual or individual groups within the string of LEDs to be independently programmable. Like I said earlier, I started investigating various ways to upgrade this old light box, time passes, memory fades, so I'm re-visiting this. I've download the WS28xx datasheet, now this is exactly the kind of thing what I want as a light source.

    I have an Arduino Nano that I will need to re-familiarize myself with. My inclination is toward being able to program light sequences to specific pieces of music and easily upload different routines.

    Just watched this YT tutorial on LED strip comparisons and found it terrifically enlightening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnvircC22hU

    Thanks again for the suggestions and insights...feel free to hijack this thread as much as you want, too.
    I just watched the video. He nailed it! Glad you are inspired to do some LED design. It's a lot of fun.
    Keep us updated on your progress on the light box.

    You may want to look at getting an SP105E controller too. They are more for manual control, but may be usable for some of your future applications.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Bluetooth-S...EAAOSw-V1b-wy7

    Chris


    Let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. #12
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    Default ...then got inspired to do LED Light Boxes

    Thus far, I've played around with the SP106E enough to know that it makes a good place to start but I do not plan to stop there. Having multiple sections of programmable LED strings just begs for far more "magic". The Arduino Uno is a great test bed for serial LED programming and makes one lust for "uno mas" such as a Rasberry Pi.

    (Edit: I had to correct image downloads of these next four)
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    Almost ready to add the LED strips into each Light Box V2 sections.
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    more later
    Last edited by lasermaster1977; 09-30-2021 at 21:37.
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  3. #13
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    Very cool! I'm assuming that you've reprogrammed the SP106e so that a single "pixel" is actually a sequence of LEDs just long enough to go around the inside of each section in the light box, right? That way when they are set to pulse to the music, each section will be a different color?

    I played around with this idea back in the spring, but now I'm torn... I can't decide if I want to just take the easy route and use the SP106e (or another, similar controller), or if I want to hook up an Arduino and use that to control the LEDs. The Arduino option is attractive to me because it will force me to learn more about C++, which is a language that I'm not all that familiar with, but it will also take up a lot more of my free time. Decisions, decisions...

    By the way, love the vintage Apple IIe computer in the background!

    Adam

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    Quote Originally Posted by buffo View Post
    Very cool! I'm assuming that you've reprogrammed the SP106e so that a single "pixel" is actually a sequence of LEDs just long enough to go around the inside of each section in the light box, right? That way when they are set to pulse to the music, each section will be a different color?

    I played around with this idea back in the spring, but now I'm torn... I can't decide if I want to just take the easy route and use the SP106e (or another, similar controller), or if I want to hook up an Arduino and use that to control the LEDs. The Arduino option is attractive to me because it will force me to learn more about C++, which is a language that I'm not all that familiar with, but it will also take up a lot more of my free time. Decisions, decisions...

    By the way, love the vintage Apple IIe computer in the background!

    Adam
    Thanks Adam, I'm glad to be heading toward "something". I wouldn't even know how to go about reprogramming whatever is used in the SP106E. None of the chips have ANY identification marks. My first test will be simply to series-connect each LED string from partition-to-partition and attach the SP106E to a long "input" lead that will stick out of the back of the box so the controller can be out from behind the box near some audio speakers. I've made a number of design variations for how many LED nodes are on a given partition string but first I'm just going with the KISS principle, then try variations from there. Like you, getting more experience with C++ sounds like fun, but my primary long-term focus is to be able to choose a piece of music and program the "LED Magic Box" results to complement what is happening in the music.

    Ah yes, ye ol' Apple IIe. It's my other time-task involving creating new graphics along with some of my old library of laser images to choreograph, animate and video new stuff that highlights its RGB capabilities.

    Here is the inside of the SP106E:
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  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasermaster1977 View Post
    I wouldn't even know how to go about reprogramming whatever is used in the SP106E.
    Sorry - poor choice of words on my part. By "reprogramming", I meant the configuration profile for the "LED Chord" app on your phone that can be used to control the SP106e. That's where you tell it the specifics of the LED string that is connected to the controller.

    One of the settings in the configuration section deals with how many LEDs constitute one "pixel". (It's where you set the total number of LEDs per string.) On the first set of LEDs I bought, you could not change the color of every LED individually, because each color chip was wired to drive three LEDs. So you had to remember to set the number of LEDs per pixel to 3 or else it wouldn't work correctly. But you could also INCREASE this setting if you wanted, and by doing so you could make larger segments of the string act in unison.

    My thought was to adjust this setting so that I had all of the LEDs in a given section of the light box set up to be a single pixel. That way they would all be the same color.

    Adam

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by buffo View Post
    Sorry - poor choice of words on my part. By "reprogramming", I meant the configuration profile for the "LED Chord" app on your phone that can be used to control the SP106e. That's where you tell it the specifics of the LED string that is connected to the controller.

    One of the settings in the configuration section deals with how many LEDs constitute one "pixel". (It's where you set the total number of LEDs per string.) On the first set of LEDs I bought, you could not change the color of every LED individually, because each color chip was wired to drive three LEDs. So you had to remember to set the number of LEDs per pixel to 3 or else it wouldn't work correctly. But you could also INCREASE this setting if you wanted, and by doing so you could make larger segments of the string act in unison.

    My thought was to adjust this setting so that I had all of the LEDs in a given section of the light box set up to be a single pixel. That way they would all be the same color.

    Adam
    I'm like whuh? An LED app I can use on my phone? Thanks for clueing me in. So the native SP106E RF remote is Bluetooth based? Edit: Nay, the SP105E is though. Is this the LED Chord app by spledapps? I'll definitely check it out.
    Last edited by lasermaster1977; 10-01-2021 at 20:26.
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  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasermaster1977 View Post
    So the native SP106E RF remote is Bluetooth based? Edit: Nay, the SP105E is though.
    I bought several controllers in that series, including the 105, the 106, the 107, and the 108. Some supported Bluetooth, some supported WiFi, and some supported both protocols, but I don't remember the details of each one. I'm pretty sure I had settled on using the 107 controller though - at least up to the point where I started looking into the Arduino. Once I started thinking about using the Arduino, it opened up a ton of new possibilities, and as a result the whole project just sort of stalled...

    The prototype build is still sitting on a shelf in the garage. It's not painted, and the LED strips aren't even mounted permanently (just held in with the sticky-back tape), but I was able to get it to work as intended, so I know that the core concept is sound. I just need to get off my ass, make a decision about control, finish the prototype, and then build another one using nicer materials. (Already have the wood for the final version sitting in the garage.)

    Once thing I was considering was to add some sort of diffuser to the LED strips to smooth out the light a bit. But so far all of the commercial plastic diffusers I've tried (the ones you can buy for fluorescent light fixtures) don't seem to work very well.

    I'm also on the fence about how to construct the box. Since you need to be able to remove the top (or the bottom) to assemble everything, I had originally thought about mitering the edges on a 45 degree angle using my table saw, but looking at your build with the notched edge on the top plate is making me reconsider things.

    Finally, I'm torn between two basic design options: do I build this as a light fixture only, or should I include a speaker? Adding a speaker makes it more practical, and it also simplifies the audio-input to the controller, but now I have to worry about vibration. Sigh. I guess I'm suffering from analysis paralysis...

    Is this the LED Chord app by spledapps? I'll definitely check it out.
    Yes, LED Chord by spledapps is the app I was using on my phone. I know it works with the 107 controller, but I don't know if it supports any of the others. One caveat: you must give the app permission to know your location, or else it will lock up. And if you want to use the audio from your phone as the source for the sound-reactive effects, you have to give the app permission to control phone calls and to access files on your SD card. But once you enable all the permissions, the app works pretty well.

    There is another app that also works with at least some of these controllers. It's called LED Shop, and it's also from splendapps. I think this is the first app I tried, so it's probably the one that was originally designed for the 105 or 106 controller. Not sure if it will work with any of the later controllers in the series or not, but it's probably worth trying. Remember to set the permissions when you first launch it, or it will lock up just like the LED Chord app.

    Adam

  8. #18
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    I bought several controllers in that series, including the 105, the 106, the 107, and the 108. Some supported Bluetooth, some supported WiFi, and some supported both protocols,
    Thanks for your information sharing. I've looked at those as well (but like a year ago), bought the 106, played with it, know how it works and forgot about the others until I reviewed them again last night.

    Personally, I very much dislike and distrust 3rd party smartphone apps because of the liberal (imho) permissions they require. That is why I'm drawn to using an Arduino or even the Apple IIe as a programmable LED strip controller. I downloaded the LED Chord and installed it last night but have decided not to use it. I want what is controlling the LEDs to be hardwired to the box since it is just a serial communications line, GND and +5 or +12v.


    I was considering was to add some sort of diffuser to the LED strips to smooth out the light a bit.
    I found the waterproof WS2811 or 12's strips provide some light diffusion although using them makes it a hassle cutting strips to length and re-soldering connector leads on both ends. I haven't completely worked out how I'm mounting the strips...I just know they will be removable, changeable.


    I'm also on the fence about how to construct the box.
    I found a wooden (plywood, particle board, etc.) four sided cube with sides attached via rabbeted and glued edges, with the top side press fitted and removable made it the most utilitarian. I couldn't find the fine, 3/8" particle board like I used in the early '70s so I went with 3/8" birch plywood this time around, except these days all the lumber we buy is thinner than advertised. This birch ply is .35" thick, but has a nice fine grain for an easy, smooth finish. I did the rabbet cuts on my table saw with rip fence, using dado blades that my dad bought back in the late '50s, but had long debates on whether to use my DIY CNC machine. I created the CAM and Gerber machining files for the entire box and partitions including different partition geometric cut-out shapes. In the end I went with the table saw since I could do ALL the box and blank partition cutting in less than 2 hours which was far faster than the CNC machine could do. I made the partition slots on the inside edges using the dado blades and the rip fence. These new partitions are mostly clear .095" polycarbonate with one Acrylic partition from scrap. The circle cut-outs I'm doing on the CNC in the next few days, then will spray paint them flat white on both sides.

    I believe I mentioned in this original post that I used 1/8" white illustration board for the partitions, cutting them each out of the 36" x 36" cardboard with a mat knife. It was quick and easy and required no painting since they were white on one side and a very light green on the other. Since the inside of the completed box was spray painted flat white that provided ample light diffusing along with each partition's white side.

    From the start, I wanted the partitions to be "slide-in" so I could easily change them out, slightly oversized dado slots did the trick. An easier way to accomplish this if making dados is not practical is to use small parallel strips of 1/4" wood (or anything) and tack or glue onto each side to create the "slots". Its labor intensive but doesn't require dado blades or CNC machining.

    Finally, I'm torn between two basic design options: do I build this as a light fixture only, or should I include a speaker?
    My take is that as a light fixture only, I can set the box "in concert with" any speaker setup I may choose, large or small.


    ...Then I keep wondering, will I ever get to starting much less finishing my DIY 1W DT40 RGB laser projector w/Lumia and diffraction wheel effects???

    EDIT: Did I mention in the earlier post that I originally used an adjustable, radial-arm hole cutter attachment for my drill press to cut out the holes in the illustration board? In fact, I believe the smallest hole size the cutter could be adjusted to determined the last and smallest partition hole size. The other holes where proportionally larger from that. I'm glad I don't have those limitations today ;-)
    Last edited by lasermaster1977; 10-02-2021 at 12:18.
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  9. #19
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    Default LightMagic V2 Box

    Here is a top view of the V2 box showing the polycarbonate partitions sitting in their dado slots. The protective skin is still on each partition but will come off when I machine their centered holes. I really prefer using Acrylic sheets for the partitions but I found them hard to find during the pandemic. I still paid a premium for the small amount of polycarbonate material having instead to buy it from a local plastic sign fabricator's scrap pile.

    I've abandoned entirely the idea of using DMX and it may be obvious in these most recent threads. My choice is the WS2812B 60" strips purchased from BTF-Lighting that I'll cut down into sections and series wire them together w/female-to-male connectors connecting the section LED strips.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Next, I'm doing some CNC milling on the plastic partitions, then add the lights.
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  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasermaster1977 View Post
    I very much dislike and distrust 3rd party smartphone apps because of the liberal (imho) permissions they require. That is why I'm drawn to using an Arduino.
    Yup. 100% agree.

    I haven't completely worked out how I'm mounting the strips.
    I was considering mounting the strips in some aluminum U-channel, and then attaching the channel to the box... That way when you pulled the lid (or the base) off, you would still have something supporting the strip that was spanning the gap. I figured I could easily add a strip of frosted plastic to the top of the U-channel to help diffuse the light...

    I found a wooden (plywood, particle board, etc.) four sided cube with sides attached via rabbeted and glued edges, with the top side press fitted and removable made it the most utilitarian.
    Did not even consider a press-fit lid. Interesting idea! Hmmm...

    I did the rabbet cuts on my table saw with rip fence
    I also used my table saw to cut the slots in the wood frame for my prototype, but since I don't have a dado blade I just made multiple side-by-side cuts to get the kerf wide enough to slide the panels in place. It sucked having to make tiny adjustments to the rip fence though. (My table saw is really cheap!) Also, I used 1/10th inch thick plywood for the panels, rather than the plastic ones you did. As for the holes in the panels, the originals were cut with a jigsaw, but I hated the results, so I bought a complete set of large-diameter hole-saws (up to 6" diameter), and I plan to use those for the next version. (Well, except for the largest hole - that one will probably still need to be cut by hand with the jigsaw.)

    I originally used an adjustable, radial-arm hole cutter attachment for my drill press to cut out the holes in the illustration board
    Huh... I've never even heard of such a thing! Got pics?

    My drill press is tiny (it's a Harbor Freight special), so I don't think I'd have enough clearance from the center of the chuck to the support stand at the rear to be able to cut anything larger than ~ a 4 inch radius. But I might be able to pull it off using a handheld drill...

    Adam

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