No wise man ever said “You can’t start trying to make warp coil lights and get caught up in a whole other thing with the stuff you started making the warp coil lights with and then not eventually get back to warp coil lights.”
And you know what? They’re right- because nobody should ever say that, and that’s exactly what I did.
This is another warp coil light, this time with WLED but I haven’t added the warp effect loop yet, this is just WLED onboard effects. If I haven’t mentioned it enough- WLED rocks the\my casbah and\or world. The video shows the original warp coil light on the left and the new warp coil light on the right.
Interestingly, the old tubes seems to do a better job of transmitting the light around the curve and I’m not sure why. The old light and the silicone is only a few months older than the new one, but the actual vinyl tubes I used for that light were ones I’ve had for years. I think that roll of tubing had been sitting in my parts bin for a decade. I do notice the older vinyl has a slightly yellowish tint. I’m not sure if that’s from the factory or from sitting and accumulating layers of tobacco smoke. Whatever it is, I wish I could duplicate it. You can almost tell in the video that the middle of the new light doesn’t get quite as much light, but the old one is pretty even throughout.
Anyway- the new one has four coils instead of three because THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!!
My recent experience with WLED has made me think all these years coding out FX loops were a monumental waste of time. I should have just waited for WLED to exist. Not really, I learned a lot, but WLED is seriously the benevolent overlord of LED control code, and of course it includes the godfather of LED code- FastLED. I know I can gush over awesome open source projects, but WLED is a transcendental gift to reality. I have been looking for and vaguely pretending to plan to code something like this since I started playing with LEDs, but this is far beyond my abilities as a coder, or a human being. Anyway- WLED is the alpha and the omega for LED projects. So I’ve been smartening up a couple of dumb lights with it and smiling and clapping at some for the first time in a long while.
Here’s a video of a few lights running WLED, but it doesn’t demonstrate a fraction of the control options or effects.
I’m still really digging the hextube configuration. I don’t really plan on making more of them because it’s kind of quirky and I don’t think many people would be into it, but I really dig it but I haven’t been able to figure out a good FX loop for it, so I gave it an ESP8266 brain and took it to WLED university. Now I can control it with QLC+ via E1.31, but the onboard WLED FX are pretty wicked too. WLED lets me define different sections of the strip to do different FX, so I defined ‘segments’ for the outer tube LEDs, the area LEDs, and the inner tube LEDs and set them all to slightly different loops and pallettes. The video shows ‘wipe’ running on the outer and area LEDs but with different timing and opposite directions, and ‘plasma’ running on the inner tube LEDs. I think it looks pretty cool. I don’t even want to start parsing out how I would recreate this loop in an Arduino function, and now I don’t have to- and I might never again.
The video also shows an 8×8 LED matrix I built a while back using WS2812B strips, the bluetooth breakout board, and about 20 lbs of acrylic. I have no idea why I thought 3 sheets of 1/2″ acrylic were appropriate for this, but the thing is solid. It’s been running the fire effect 24/7 for at least the past 5 years. It was pretty trivial to swap out the Nano board for an ESP01. I also added a capacitor across the +/- just because I’ve learned you should do that for larger displays. The display is just running ‘plasma’ on very low brightness to let the hextube shine.
And there’s an obligatory balsa tube because it’s running WLED too and balsa tubes are just my jam now. I modified the WLED source to add the little crossfade effect loop for the balsa tubes so it starts up running that and it’s selectable and dimmable in the webUI. I’m having a little trouble figuring out how to handle the WS2811 PCB LEDs with WLED. I want them to stay off for regular onboard FX and only use them in the custom FX, but if I put them in a different segment they don’t work in the custom FX either. It’s not a huge deal but I’d like to get it straight.
I would like to take this opportunity to give the hextube a more fitting moniker since I’ve called several tests and builds ‘hextube’. It’s become a bit of a ‘my grandfathers axe’ situation with the parts but I think it’s going to stay what it is now. So I’m going to start calling this particular build SEVEN.
STYLES BLOOM – Looks kind of like a weird underwater flower with fluorescent stems. FLAME – A bubbly flame sort of thing, usually orange-reddish. CLOUD – Like if you could drill a core sample from a cloud or something, but more colorful. GUMBO – Whatever looks cool in a tube but isn’t one of the other styles. SPACE – Scenes of whatever looks cool in a larger tube made from a fresnel lens sheet.
PARTS\MATERIALS MicroUSB ATTINY85 Board, WS2812B LEDs (RGB and UV), WS2811 PCB with Discrete LEDS, Vinyl tubing, Silicone, Fluorescent\Glow-in-the-dark pigments.
DISCLAIMERS ~There’s a 10 second delay after you plug them in before the lights turn on. This is due to to the controller board being programmable and just is what it is because I want people to be able to reprogram them if they want. See ‘Hackability’ if you’re interested. ~These lights are not perfectly manufactured. They’re built entirely by one guy with a poorly calibrated 3d printer in the kitchen of a one bedroom apartment, but they should do what they’re made to do, which is light up and look kind of pretty. ~Don’t handle them too aggressively. They’re sturdy enough to survive light knocks, but they’re just display lights. The tubes are not completely rigid so you can squish them hard enough to destroy the scene if you try, but don’t try you should be fine. For best results just plug and stare. ~I guess they could catch fire, but most things could. These run at 5V and pull less than 50ma but they are made of electricity and rubber and that combination has some flammable potential so I feel I should mention it. ~Don’t consume them or let children or pets consume them. They’re probably toxic at some level and it just can’t be good for you. They look way better than they taste. Also these have zero considerations for children or pets so just keep them away entirely. ~I’ve hidden a false but very convincing secret of the universe in every 42nd light. The message is encoded in the LED’s PWM so it’ll become embedded in your subconscious the instant you turn on the light. Try not to fall for my cosmic lies.
PROCESS At some point I’ll put more effort into documenting the process of working with silicone because it is pretty interesting and I haven’t found references to anyone else doing this kind of thing with it. I got some inspiration from people who work with clear resins, but silicone has a lot of different properties. My initial choice of silicone was by circumstance, it’s just cheap and available, but by now I appreciate some properties that make it a very unique substrate. I also found some information from people who had experimented with silicone to create homemade casting molds that turned out to be pretty useful.
The electronics were pretty simple since I’ve been working with Arduinos and LEDs for about a decade, though I did have to do some thinking and tinkering. I’ve been going back to the Arduino Nano for years. It’s my default for any non-wifi project, but I wanted USBMicro and the Nano is actually way overpowered just to drive 2-10 LEDs. I found the old digispark ATTINY85 board I got from their kickstarter (the USB-A version) and got it to run the FX loop after shaving off some superfluous code to get to 6000 bytes or whatver. So I ordered a bunch of the USBMicro version and those seem to work pretty well. Full disclosure I’m using the chinese knockoffs because they’re ridiculously cheap.
The BLOOM and SPACE lights have RGB LEDs at the top and UV at the bottom. The top of BLOOM is a 2×2 RGB matrix and SPACE is an 8 RGB ring. The bottom of BLOOM has a UV WS2812B pixel, and SPACE has a WS2811 PCB with 3 discrete UV LEDs arranged in a triangle for a kind of spotlight effect.
Designing the base\stand was painfully iterative. I’m a very lazy and imprecise 3d designer and really bad at maintaining\calibrating my 3d printer. But eventually I landed on a pretty simple but functional and aesthetically inoffensive design and that’s what I’ve been sticking with. I plan to adjust the base to make room for ESP based microcontrollers to implement WiFi, but overall I like the footprint and size of these so I’m going to try to keep this general look for a while.
MAINTENANCE\REPAIR These shouldn’t require any maintenance, they just sit there and make light. Maybe dust it off every now and again. The tubes and stand are vinyl or plastic so avoid solvents or anything sharp or abrasive. As far as I know if left alone these tubes should outlast me, but I can’t test that assumption. If anything happens with the electronics but you want to keep the tube I can fix it, but any damage to the tube is irreparable. I’ll offer electronics repair for undamaged lights for one year after purchase for no charge except international shipping, and we can work something out after that or if they’ve been damaged.
HACKABILITY These are made with common, inexpensive parts and open-source code so if you’re handy you can modify them to do whatever you want. New FX can be uploaded via USB without any modification, though getting the micronucleous programmer USB drivers set up on your PC can be a hassle especially on Ubuntu. I may post some links to tutorials at some point but this is hackablity for already hacky people, it’s not an educational device. The data pin will probably be 2, but you’ll want to open the case and double check. The LEDs are just WS2812B so you can swap out the board for something with WiFi or BT if you want. I’m all about hackery so if you intend to or end up doing something with these that they weren’t designed for please share, or if you need some help I’ll see what I can do. At some point I plan to make a 4×4 matrix of the FLAMES that can be controlled via WiFi so if that kind of thing is your bag let’s jam.
LED LOOPS The FX loops use the FastLED library. There are no user adjustable settings via buttons or serial interface at this time, you just plug them in and they do what they do. The FLAME\CLOUD\GUMBO effects cycle through the color wheel. The bottom LED cycles +\-50 hue offset. Each LED has an independent brightness that cycles randomly from about 40-100%. Both LEDs cycle saturation between 50-100%. The top LEDs of BLOOM and SPACE crossfade between adjacent LEDs to give a bit of a motion effect to the scene. The bottom UV LEDs of BLOOM and SPACE crossfade between adjacent UV LEDs and randomly cycle the maximum brightness. These loops should create continuous but fairly random look that is interesting enough to stare at but doesn’t become distracting if you’re not looking at it.
It’s Fathers Day and mine recently created something pretty darn poignant regarding the treatment of the U.S. Flag. You should watch it.
There is a lot of lip service about patriotism these days, and very little genuine understanding about America as a people, a nation, a government, or even just a freaking geographic area for that matter. Fortunately we still have a solid foundation that we could pick ourselves back up from and maybe one day- learn to stand tall and be proud of ourselves as Americans for the right reasons. I know we still have a chance because I can still love and publicly criticize America right here within it.
We’ve got a lot of work to do to make this place anything near worthy of how well we market it to ourselves, but in the meantime, we can at least show respect to those who helped build America’s legitimate foundation by doing what my father suggests in this video, just doing the darn housekeeping for crying out loud.
Happy Fathers Day Dad, and Pop and DeeDee, I know they appreciate this video a lot. I think this video is kind of a fitting fathers day gift for them too. I know this little diatribe doesn’t quite fit with the simple purity of your message in the video, but I don’t think you’ll mind me stepping up on my soap box for a minute, you did kind of help teach me about the whole free speech thing and using my brain and whatnot, can’t unring that bell- lol.
God Bless America, and also teach us to share ALL of our blessings with the whole world, like our fathers shared their blessings with us.
If you need a band name, pick one and send me $5.00.
If your band is already named one of these- give me 30% of your gross earnings or I’ll club a baby seal!
Baby Seal Club
Baby Seals Revenge
$5 Band Name
Made with Real Cheese
Edible Death Trap
Custard and Fishsticks
Vacation Layaway Hangover
I am not an Animal
Dr. Mustard and Gas Masks
These are the Voyages
Breath Damn You, Breath!
Night Dream Day Mare
Are You My Mummy?
Ed Scissorhands’ Funeral
Fruit Is Not a Verb
Take Two and Call Me in the Morning
Hammer Fist Shakedown
Parking is never Free
The Lawyers of Destiny
Mistaken for Kindness
Book Exchange Enforcement Officers
Books on Tape
Reused Coffee Grounds
Psycopath Collection Agency
Eat or Die
Stellar Cartography Overhaul
North Korean Space Agency
Choose Your Own Adventure
Baritone Eunuch Choir
Sound for Sale
I’ll also gratefully accept bitcoins sent to: 1K5Yy77ejes2FZrHBG5fns3QAicnwZcduq
These are some sets I designed for a friends script ‘Suntan’ quite a while ago. These were never built, but they were fun to design (made in Sketchup) Just putting these up in a pre-dated post for posterity. And while I’m at it, here’s a link to a little short animation I made forever ago using these 3D sets after I found out they were never going to be used for anything else – ‘The Internet Explorers’