Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

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Steve Rowe
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Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby Steve Rowe » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:49 am

Hi,

At last found somewhere that looks like a good starting point for me to find out what I'd like to know. Thanks very much to anyone who takes the time out to read through the following and post some answers or pointers. Sorry for the long post!

I have a project in mind that is fully built in my head and I really need to find out if it is a practical proposition and what my starting point is to reach the end game.

A little about me, I'm a total novice on the electronic build side, though I did use a soldering iron a few times about 20 years ago, fairly practical more than happy to have a go and fail a few times but not 200 times.
My day job is a programmer,not anything super beady but even so I'd like to think that I can pick up that side of things pretty quick. I don't have hours and hours of free time to spend locked in a shed (I don't even have a shed) building what I want from scratch. At the same time I don't think I want to get something totally off the shelf, should it exist, as I'd like to learn some new skills. Hopefully a balance between the two approaches exists.

What I want to build is 30 cm diameter circular arrangement of say 60 LEDs, 60 is just an arbitrary number. This would have following features.

1. Battery powered.
2. Programmable to light the LEDs up in a representation of analogue time, like hands of clock. I've seen youtube of various LEDs set-ups to represent time but not much on how you get to that point.
3. LED behaviour can be modified to other non-standard time displays, ala Tokyo Flash style watches if you know of them.
4. I think this implies that I need to control all 60 LEDS individually, or perhaps in groups of five not sure how relevant that is.
5. The 60 LEDs aren't just arranged around the edge of the circle for seconds they would be regularly spaced across the whole circle

On top of this "LED Array" I would be mounting some art work (basically a picture printed onto an acetate sheet mounted onto a perspex sheet). As much as practical I think that the mount of the perspex sheet on the LED board should be enclosed as I would want to limit the light from the LEDs from leaking out the edge of the mounting. My understanding from background reading is that it is not practical to entirely enclose the LEDs due to the heat they would generate?

The light shining through the picture part of the piece should be subdued and diffuse, probably! I'm now getting into areas that will be decided through playing around with the part finished build.

So getting on to the specifics (finally!) of what I'd like to know.

1. In general terms I assume what I want to build is practical?

2. What do I need to tell the time and what translates the time into the arrangement of LEDs for me in such a way that I can programme the translation of time to LED on / off states. This would end up a permanent part of the piece so I wouldn't want to go overboard with the size and power consumption as the final piece would be wall mounted and so I've a strong preference for battery power. Any recommendations on what the controller for the LEDs would be? Raspberry Pi, Ardunio, something else, have I missed the point entirely about what I need to control the LEDs?

3. My current plan would be to prototype this by say getting a set of 10 LEDs to behave the way I want, in general terms what is my shopping list? Obviously LEDs, resistors but what is the thing I need to tear down the arrangement of LEDs and build it again quickly so that I can experiment with the arrangements of LEDs? Should I even be doing that in with the real world components, I'm now thinking I can play with the design in Excel so that I can get the arrangement of lights right and experiment with how I want them to blink on and off with a bit of VBA.

I really have spent quite a lot of time surfing trying to get answers to the above but am struggling to gain an understanding of how I start down the path that gets me to the finished piece. More than happy to spend time building simpler projects that will give me the skills I need to build the final piece but I'm struggling to find out what the simpler things are I need to learn to do are.

Anyway thanks for any pointers.

Cheers,

Steve

vimes79
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Re: Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby vimes79 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:21 am

Hey

Sounds like a great project.
Although its going to be fairly feature packed and have a number of LED's there are a few ways to get this working. The most simple idea in my mind is to use an Arduino MCU Based Prototyping Control Board for holding and running the program (data) and then add whats known as a prototyping shield (a piece of perf board with the fixings to sit on top and plugged into the Arduino you then build your circuit up on that (there are solderless breadboards available with the same fixings or you could just run jumper wires out to one where you can setup and design your build and test it till it behaves how you want it to then more/copy it over to a perfboard shield for soldering. On the shield you would need to add another power source (battery or mains to low voltage DC converter) as the Arduino wont produce enough current to run that number of LED's, but its a simple power circuit using only a few cheap and easy to get hold of parts for and then I would use either an/some LED Controller/s or shift registers to get the LED's into a Charlieplexed circuit (Google charlieplexing LED's + check Wikipedia) that will then allow every single LED to be addressable through the program saved and running from the Arduino (This type of circuit is commonly used for LED cubes to be able to seperatly control the behavior of every single LED seperatly. Its smart stuff and not to difficult to get your head around. My very first LED project from an Arduino was a 4x4x4 LED Cube, it looked horrible as I wasnt very careful with my arranging of the LED's but it did/does work and is around here in a box somewhere. A circular design would be easy and then you just need to set the clock mode up to run from a RTC module or circuit as well as setting the modes up for running your custom displays.0

Leave it with me today and I will have a think and check some ideas for you and come back later with some ideas and basic schematics.

Im sure some of the other regulars will chime in here too with some ideas as there are some real experts at working with LEDs here (Phenoptix was created as a place to buy quality and well priced LED's) and the Owner is a master when it comes to LED circuits so will most likely have a better idea. The more ideas on the table is better IMO as you can then pick and choose and get something together that you want.

I do know that there is in fact a kit out there that uses 60 LEDs on a clock face to show time (then a few more for decorative bits). I will look that up for you to as it may well be easily hackable to keep the circuit and display and mount it into your own housing or display.

Some one here will get you the idea you need but its definatly worth your while to start reading up on the Arduino (which comes in many shapes and sizes) as well as large LED circuits and how best to get them running using LED drivers or Shift Registers etc... for multiplexing and charlieplexing.
Supporter of Official Arduinos - BeagleBone - RasPi + EVE
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vimes79
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Re: Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby vimes79 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:40 am

Oh, for learning more about basic electronics and circuits you really cant go wrong with an Arduino and a guide book that shows you all the basic functions within a program and teaches you the basics on how to write your own programs (not very difficult at all) and also how to use all the main pieces of hardware you would come across in most circuits. of course all the info is available on line too.

An Arduino Uno R3 is the best and most user friendly of the arduino family and also the most versitle and compatable. Make sure you buy official Arduino boards as alot of the clones out there have extra features and different parts that can sometimes cause issues when learning the basics.

A good start would be:
Arduino Uno R3 Starter Kit with the Board and then a load of essentials including Solderless Breadboard and Jumper Cables, a switch, a few LED's and battery clip : http://www.phenoptix.com/collections/arduino/products/arduino-uno-r3-starter-kit-pico-uno-usb-breadboard-jumpers-and-4-leds

Then get yourself a couple of bags of value LED's : http://www.phenoptix.com/collections/leds/products/value-leds-50-packs-of-various-sizes-colours-and-lens-types

And then a couple of packs of the most common value of resistors or a pack of 20/40/60 values with 10-40 of each (eBay is a good place to buy resistors but MAKE SURE you are buying from a UK supplier and not a Chinese or HK seller (as you will be waiting for weeks!) They might even have some regualr through hole resistors here if you contact the shop.

Finally a great intro book is called : Programming Arduino - Getting started with Sketches BY Simon Monk
or/and
MAKE: Getting Started with Arduino by Massimo Banzi (Co-Founder of Arduino)
Supporter of Official Arduinos - BeagleBone - RasPi + EVE
-PROUD OWNER OF RepRap PRO MENDEL 3D PRINTER-
Current Projects : + Twitter Bug RGB + RoboBrrd UK #004 (Wireless IoT Brrd) + "Imp Print" +


Twitter Feed : Raw_Gaming

Steve Rowe
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Re: Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby Steve Rowe » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:16 pm

Vimes,

Thanks so for much for all the great information you have given, much appreciated. Planning on ordering what you suggest as we speak, it looks like it is going to give me a great start into my project.

Cheers,

Steve

phenoptix
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Re: Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby phenoptix » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:39 pm

Hi Steve,
Welcome to the forums, as usual Nial has pointed you in the right direction!

Steve Rowe
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Re: Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby Steve Rowe » Sun Mar 03, 2013 8:01 pm

Thanks, picked up most of the bits and bobs I ordered from you from the post office yesterday.

Just worked through the first exercise and now have myself a flashing LED!

So just need to do that times 60, learn a new promgramming language, learn to solder and how to put the whole piece together and job done! :shock:

phenoptix
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Re: Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby phenoptix » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:04 pm

Simple! Depending on what you want to do with the LEDs it might be worth looking into multiplexing.

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Re: Abstract Clock / Art / Conversation Piece

Postby xanthic » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:25 pm

Don't rush it, don't expect anything to work quite right first time and you'll be fine. We've all been there :smile:


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