16 X 16 Pixel RGB LED Artboard Part 1

A few months back I saw some very interesting NeoPixel coffee table designs on YouTube. Right away I knew that I must get my hands on some of these amazing little lights and start to experiment.

Instead of going for a large coffee table design I decided on a smaller project, a 16 x 16 pixel NeoPixel Artboard that could display static images or animations. I was inspired by this video:

And thus the project began, first by purchasing some WS2812B addressable RGB LED’s from an online vendor. The parts showed up after waiting a couple weeks and I dove in right away!

In the past I’ve played around with classic thru hole RGB LED’s, but these were quite different. The nice part with these LED’s is that each pixel in a strip is individually addressable, meaning they can be controlled separately using a very simple one wire communication protocol. No extra shift registers are required which keeps this project compact and the wiring very simple, although tedious if you use the individual LED’s on pcb approach that I did here.

In the future I would definitely use and suggest using the pre-wired strips for a project like this.

My first experiment was wiring up a 10×10 array for testing. Here is a picture of the LED’s as they arrived at my doorstep.

Here’s how I wired it up for testing, except I did add a 100 Ohm current limiting resistor in series with the data line as it was suggested in the manufacturers documentation online.

 

Looking back I really should have ordered the prewired strips for this project. Oh well such is life, live and learn… Needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to soldering for at least a week after this. Wiring by hand, this took a few hours. I used solid 22awg copper wire for power, gnd and data.

This went smoothly and in no time I was up and running, I downloaded the acclaimed AdafruitNeoPixelLibrary and installed it in Arduino IDE. Then I wired up the panel to an Arduino Nano and suitable DC power supply (these things are power hungry so beware!).

Here I’m testing each row individually as they are wired.

And finally success, the whole panel works… But why is my small bench supply making funny smells. This thing is drawing easily 2A at 5V DC, depending on the color produced. White is the worst as it requires all three LED’s of each pixel to run at full brightness.

Continued in Part 2 – Designing and Building the Array…

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