Dalek - The Next Blinky Thing Page

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In my continuing quest to use up the 15' of RGB LED ribbon (LPD8806) I purchased from AdaFruit, it occurred to me that I could use a short segment of the ribbon (10 LEDs worth) to build a light for our kitchen table in our new home. I discussed the idea with my wife and she was, shall we say, slightly skeptical that

1. A weird shaped blinky thing was the right light for over our kitchen table in our new home
2. A
weird shape blinky thing would be bright enough to have dinner by
3. Any one would want to eat dinner with a light show going on over head.

All good points I must concede. Undaunted, as we men typically are, I decided that the only way to find out if a blinky kitchen table light would work was to build one. The rest as they say is history.

I had an Arduino Uno on hand so I decided to use it to drive the LEDs in the light. I had numerous display patterns in mind so I needed to be able to control the light remotely as I didn't want to climb a ladder to change modes manually. I first designed the hardware (see schematic below) then wrote the software
which is available here. My software uses Ken Shirriff excellent IRremote library available from github at  http://github.com/shirriff/Arduino-IRremote. Thanks Ken, you made my job much easier.

Finally I turned my attention to what the light should look like. I thought about what shape I should make the light and how many LEDs would be needed to provide sufficient illumination. I wanted something modern looking but at the same time kind of craftsman style to fit in with our other furniture. I decided on a triangle shaped light that would hang on a cord from the ceiling. That meant the light would have to connect to 115 VAC as that is what the ceiling fixture provides. This also meant the light had to have a built in 5V power supply to run the Arduino, LED strip and the IR receiver. It was important that when the wall switch was flipped on the light would come on as quickly as possible and go into a bright white display mode so it acted like a "normal" light.

Remote Control

I wanted to use a small remote to control the light. I looked through my stash and found the remote that was used for our Roku streaming device. It was small but had enough buttons for my use. NOTE: if you use my software with a different remote you will have to change the code slightly. See the code listing for the details.

The Dalek light operates in three distinct modes.
1. Manual display select mode where the remote is used to select the speed and a specific display pattern for the light to display. The selected pattern and speed will continue indefinitely until changed.
2. Static color mode where the remote is used to select the color or hue for the light to display and to control the brightness of the display. All LEDs assume the selected hue and brightness.
3.  Random display mode where the light picks the display speed and the pattern randomly. Each display pattern is displayed for 60 seconds when a new pattern and speed are selected and displayed. This results in an almost infinite number of display patterns.

Remote Key
Home Key
Places the lamp into home mode or home position where it is ready to accept a new command. Home mode is indicated when all of the LEDs turn bright white.
Up Arrow Key
In manual display select mode this key increases the speed of the subsequently selected display pattern. In the static color mode this key increase the brightness of the light.
Down Arrow Key
In manual display select mode this key decreases the speed of the subsequently selected display pattern. In the static color mode this key decreases the brightness of the light.
Left Arrow Key
In manual display select mode this key selects the previous  display pattern. In the static color mode this key shifts the hue of the light towards 0 degrees.
Right Arrow Key
In manual display select mode this key selects the next  display pattern. In the static color mode this key shifts the hue of the light towards 360 degrees.
This key selects the pattern to display in the manual display mode. For this mode you use the up/down arrow key to select the display speed then use the left/right arrow keys to select the pattern, then click this key to display the pattern.
Rewind Key
Clicking this key puts the light into the static color display mode. Use the arrow keys to control the hue and/or brightness of the light. This mode continues until home mode is again selected.
Play/Pause Key
Places the light into random display mode where the display pattern (1 of 22) and display speed (1 of 9) are chosen by the Arduino at random. This mode continues until home mode is again selected.
Fast Forward Key
Flashes the light's LEDs to indicate how many built in display effects are available. There are 22 effects available in the current version of the software.

One pleasant but unanticipated side effect of the light's packaging is that in the dark the light projects a collage of colors on the wall behind it. The color and the projected shapes change dynamically in very pleasing ways. Check out the Dalek in action in this YouTube video:
I'll post another video of the Dalek light in the dark when I get it filmed.

Some pictures of my build

Closeup of Top Triangular Case

I made my case from mahogany, ash and walnut woods. I made the case triangle shape but you could make some other shape of case. The top and the botton are made from hickory veneered  1/8" birch plywood. Three brass wood screws hold the top and bottom pieces to the case.

Two holes were drilled in each side of the triangle to allow the test tubes to be inserted.

Resin filled Test Tubes

I wanted the light from the RGB LEDs to be diffused so I filled the test tubes with a resin/glitter mixure and then inserted the RGB LED with long leads into the mix. 24 hours later the test tubes were rock solid and ready for installation.

Test Fit of the Test Tubes

Here I've inserted the first two test tube into the box. After fitting, I glued them in with silicon caulking. I had to support the test tubes during the gluing process so they would be orthogonal to the surface when the silicon dried.

Gluing Continued

More test tube lights glued in place.

LPD 8806 RGB LED Strip

I used a 10 LED section of the addressable LED strip for this project. Six LEDs light the test tubes and four are positioned under the glass top.

The white squares are the surface mounted RGB LEDs. I unsoldered all 10 of these and soldered wires from the common anode LEDs within the test tubes and the glass top in their place.

I won't show you the inside of the light box because it is a rats nest of wires and components.
 I never want to open the lamp up again if I can help it.


Well my wife was correct (much to her relief) that the light didn't provide enough light to be used for our table light. So I needed to find an alternative use for my blinky thing. After some thought I decided to turn the light upside down, attach a copper pipe to its bottom and then build a new larger triangular box to use as a base for the light. This is the configuration shown in the video above. This is the reason my light now resembles Dr. Who's Dalek. Oh well, I like using my light as a mood light and many of our friends find it amazing. Enough said.

Finally, even though I used a triangular motif in packaging my light if you build one you can package it anyway you want. It could be square, round, hexagonal, or whatever. It could have 10 RGB LEDs like mine or 100, it is up to you. The important thing is to build one for your own.

Schematic of the Dalek Blinky Thing

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