For my project, I have decided to make an LED light fixture that is powered by an Arduino.
I have always really liked LED art instillations. I think they are very captivating and beautiful in their simplicity. For example, artists Jim Campbell creates LED instillations. Below is a picture of his instillation Scattered Light in Madison Square Park. He used about 2,000 LEDS to create this piece. The LEDS are programmed so they turn off and on giving the illusion that large shadows of people are walking in the park. It is worth looking up a video in order to get a better idea of what this looks like.
In a previous design class I built I light fixture using LEDs, pictured below.
This light fixture, which resembles a jelly fish, combines 80 LEDs and a lot of fabric. The LEDs are cased inside tubes of fabric that I sewed. There are about 4 LEDs wired in parallel in each tube. The lights are programmed to flicker randomly creating a twinkling effect. The LEDs were programmed using an Arduino UNO. I also used a Mux Shield (Mayhew Labs). This is an add on to an Arduino UNO that allows you to have 48 analog inputs or digital outputs. I used all 48 pins as digital outputs. This was my first time doing anything with LEDs or Arduino, so the learning curve was pretty steep. It took me a while to figure out how everything should be wired together and how to program it. Therefore, I did not focus on the aesthetics of the piece as much. I think it turned out well, but there are a lot of things that I would like to improve on this design. Therefore, I have chosen to iterate on this design for my project. This won’t necessarily be easy because I do plan to start from scratch, but I plan to use the knowledge of LEDs and Arduino that I gained from this project to move forward.
I plan to make another light fixture that combines fabric and LEDs. Now that I already have the technical skills necessary to complete a LED light fixture I can focus more on the aesthetics of the project. Instead of creating a chandelier like piece, I am going to create something that will hang flat against a wall. Here is a really bad sketch:
This sketch is just to give a general idea. I want to use the same idea of fabric tubes with LEDs inside of them. I hope to have a variety of fabrics with a variety of textures to create a wall hanging, that even without incorporating lights, would look good hanging on a wall. The lights will add the dynamic element to this project. I plan to program the lights to flicker in a way that is aesthetically appealing.
I want this piece to be functional in multiple ways. As mentioned before, I want it to look good just hanging there. I want it to be something that could be used to decorate a room. Furthermore, I think it would be cool to have it be used as a backdrop to performances. Musicians often times have lights to accompany their performances. A lot of my friends are musicians that play house shows and at DIY venues. I hope this could be something that would maybe look good as a backdrop to their performances.
I think the main challenge of this project will be time. I have a lot of ideas, and a lot of them are pretty large scale. Therefore, I will have to really narrow down on one specific, manageable design to tackle in the next month.
Budget & Timeline
I already own an Aruidno UNO and Mux Shield, so that cuts down on the cost of this project a little bit. I plan to save money by searching for fabrics at second hand stores. Fabric can tend to be very expensive, even if you are buying in bulk at fabric stores. Also, I plan to buy wire and LEDs in bulk. I hope to keep the total cost under $150-$200.
Wire ($15 for 100 ft)
LEDs ($30 for 100)
I want to have all of the material purchased by the beginning of spring break. I would like to have all the fabric assembled by the end of spring break. In the two weeks after spring break, I would like to assemble all the LEDs and wire. Therefore, finalizing the light fixture.