LED Light Rod

Battery powered led light that looks like a fluorescent tube light.

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The goal of this project is to make a wireless glowing tube of light, basically a wireless led powered fluorescent tube. Right now it is planned to use 18650 batteries to provide the juice, SK6812 RGBW addressable leds for the light, and a Teensy 3.2 to do all the processing.

Hackaday prize stuff:

The challenge that this project solves is not having a light that makes you look like Zeus, or maybe you want to mess with people and say you have a wireless fluorescent tube, maybe you want a colour changing, animatable light saber. Really just because it's cool, and why not?

A little more seriously, I've seen fluoro tubes being used more and more a sort of a cool looking artsy light and wanted to make a wireless version that you can carry around!

Here are a few of my inspirations:

What Does The Fox Say music video

Cinematographers Roundtable from The Hollywood Reporter

takeSomeCrime dance video:


Hardware: CC-BY-SA 4.0

Software: MIT

More up to date info on license here:

I think I might have missed the anything goes part of the contest by a few hours, woops. Maybe that's ok? If not I'll be a bit more punctual next year :P

  • 1 × 5m 144leds/m SK6812 RGBW led strip High density individually addressable led strip
  • 3 × Pololu 5V 9A step-down buck regulator Power supplies for MCU and leds
  • 6 × 18650 LiPo battery KeepPower 3400mAh Panasonic NCR18650B Protected Button Top
  • 1 × 1.5" ID 1.75" OD Clear Acrylic tube ~800mm long
  • 1 × Teensy 3.2

View all 12 components

  • Modifying OctoWS2811 to work with RGBW led strips

    Mackenzie Hauck06/12/2016 at 23:37 1 comment

    When using these single data line led strips a problem arises when using hundreds (or more) leds off a single data line. The 800kHz signal is too slow to update all the leds at a high framerate. The way to get around this is driving strips in parallel which is what products like the Fadecandy or the software OctoWS2811 for Teensy solve.

    However, both of these solutions are currently only compatible with rgb strips (24 bits per pixel) so I had to modify OctoWS2811 to work with rgbw (32 bits per pixel). It was a pretty simple modification of using a variable to set the bits per pixel instead of a hard coded value of 24, as well as adding a way to convert from RGBW to GRBW which my strips were wired as. I renamed the library to OctoSK6812 since I took out the compatibility with 400kHz strips, and to differentiate from the official release of OctoWS2811 since my additions might break things since it hasn't been fully tested. It's OctoSK6812 since that is the driver chip inside these new rgbw leds, and this chip is also found in the mini rgb single data line leds.

    Here's the code:

    And a slightly modified test example also from OctoWS2811:

    This test lights up the first 4 pixels to help identify the arrangement of the colours for a particular strip. If the leds show as: RGBWW then the correct configuration is set.

    This modified version should also still work with the rgb variants of the SK6812 driver chip.

  • More parts arrived

    Mackenzie Hauck05/31/2016 at 05:50 0 comments

    Kinda at the last minute for the entrance into the anything goes part of the Hackaday prize so one more quick project log to qualify :O More better posts in the next week or so...

    I got some more parts over the last week, mostly so I can start testing stuff to see what works.

    • Couple of Teensy 3.2's so I can use one to test and embed the other in the project
    • Meanwell 5V 26A power supply to test the led strips with a beefy supply
    • Battery clips to build the battery holder
    • Resistors to make voltage dividers to monitor battery pack state through balance connector
    • Buffer chip to level shift 6 3.3V data lines to 5V to control leds
    • and a little bit of bakelite protoboard

    Read more »

  • Design number 2

    Mackenzie Hauck05/31/2016 at 05:41 0 comments

    So after the first idea didn't pan out I went back to the drawing board. One of the biggest problems was trying to fit the battery inside of the metal framework for the leds, and thanks to geometry if I add more sides that means I can decrease the outer radius. Basically lets me make the metal structure fit more tightly around the batteries as well as having more lights around them to hopefully get me 360 degree light distribution a little easier.

    Read more »

  • Experimenting with diffusion material

    Mackenzie Hauck05/23/2016 at 21:00 0 comments

    The end goal of this project was to emulate a standard fluorescent tube, and to do that the light coming off the tube would have to be very even. I tried a few different methods for diffusing with mixed results. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the progress as they weren't working as well as I'd hoped...

    Methods tried (so far):

    • Sanding the outside of the acrylic tube
    • Very thin coat of white paint
    • Spray on frosted coating (Rustoleum type stuff)
    • Under cabinet diffusers that are used in kitchens
    Read more »

  • Initial idea

    Mackenzie Hauck05/23/2016 at 20:46 0 comments

    I didn't document as I was trying stuff out, so these first few entries are a recap of what I've done so far. Hopefully that's ok with the hackadayprize2016 rules :)

    I was originally going to mount some APA102 all white addressable leds to some aluminum in a triangle to create the 360 degrees of light I wanted.

    Read more »

View all 5 project logs

Enjoy this project?



aalves wrote 06/28/2016 at 22:37 point

I've always thought of doing something like this for light sabers, but realized the same thing as you that you would need to use a lot of strips of LEDs to get even lighting.  I'd recommend looking at the light saber community and there work with string blades especially on diffusion materials.  One thing that I see that might trip you up is the battery, I don't think an 18650 will be able to supply the juice that you would need to run so many LED strips. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

davedarko wrote 05/26/2016 at 07:30 point

so a battery powered colorful light stick? Could you add a sound module for the cfl humming sounds? :3

  Are you sure? yes | no

Mackenzie Hauck wrote 05/26/2016 at 21:47 point

I'd say a colorful light stick is a pretty apt description! I was thinking if I get it to work to add a way to clip on a base to turn it into a colour changing lightsaber, complete with accelerometer and speaker to make the buzzing and swishing noises :)

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davedarko wrote 05/26/2016 at 23:14 point

awesome :)

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