have you ever wanted your name in lights?
LED signs are nothing new. I understand this project isn’t exactly pushing any boundaries. But for me, this project will serve as a learning experience in both designing for 3D printing, electrical/electronics wiring, and programming microcontrollers. I’m a complete beginner when it comes to these three things but I’m a quick learner. My history of software development definitely helps with the programming portion. I’ll just need to apply that knowledge to microcontrollers and LEDs.
This project was inspired by the many LED sign videos that just happened to pop up in my Youtube recommended feed. The algorithm strikes again! A future project will be a 500 LED Matrix board and this project will be the learning experience I need before taking on that much larger (electrically) project.
design and iterations
This LED sign will be entirely 3D printed and feature addressable RGB LEDs to light it up. Ideally, I want something that can be hung up on the wall or placed on a table/shelf. Having both options would be great and having this type of flexibility (especially if I want it hung on the wall), battery power would be important. Of course, having battery power comes with its own set of hurdles, which I will discuss later.
The features I want this sign to have are:
- Light up any color as desired
- Controllable via a phone app over wifi
- Display at least a few different light patterns
- Battery powered for portability
- Plug-in power option
- Hang on a wall/vertical surface or freestanding
It’s a fairly short list, but one that will allow me to gain valuable experience in CAD modeling and design for 3D printing, electrical wiring, and programming microcontrollers (in this case, an ESP32). I wasn’t sure what I wanted this LED sign to say at first, but decided I should just make my logo. Below is a project outline I will do my best to follow. The next posts in this series will relate directly to this outline and hopefully, by the time I make it to the end, I’ll have a working LED sign that looks fantastic.
As far as materials and parts, as I mentioned above, I intend for the LED sign to be entirely 3D printed. For power, I would like to have a USB power bank, if I can find one small enough yet powerful enough to integrate into the design. Otherwise, power will be provided via USB 3.0, which should be able to deliver up to 3A of power (likely more than I’ll need). For the LEDs, I’ll be using WS2812B addressable RGB LEDs. Lastly, to control everything, I’ll be using an ESP32-WROOM-32, which will give me plenty of memory for the programming portion and will have WiFi already built in.
I. Planning A. Determine project concept 1. 3D printed LED sign of logo B. Determine project features 1. Light up to any chosen color 2. Controllable via phone app over wifi 3. Display light patterns upon selection a. Pulse pattern b. Rainbow transition (all letters) c. Rainbow wave (through entire sign) d. Each letter by itself in sequence e. Each letter in sequence until all lit 4. Battery powered if possible 5. Plug-in Power option 6. Hangable on vertical surface or freestanding II. Design A. Determine dimensions of sign B. Determine flow and number of LEDs C. Determine location of ESP32 to allow USB access D. Determine power options (battery/plug?) and switch locations E. Determine circuit design F. Determine hanging and freestanding requirements G. Sketch and identify all determined design aspects III. Modeling A. Model design in Fusion 360 B. Print test portion C. Tweak and repeat. IV. LEDs A. Initial Testing 1. Prepare ESP32 with test program 2. Use breadboard to test LEDs B. Circuit Test 1. Wire LEDs, power supply, and ESP32 as designed 2. Test circuit with test program C. Programming 1. Write program to test color choice feature using serial input 2. Write program to test color patterns feature using serial input 3. Write a program to test WiFi communications 4. Write a simple phone app to test color choice and pattern features over WiFi. V. Assembly A. Attach LEDs via adhesive to locations determined in LED flow B. Attach ESP32 and battery to determined locations C. Connect all wiring for designed circuit D. Test
In the next post of the series, I’ll talk about the design I came up with and possibly some modeling iterations. Stay tuned!