Feb 222020

The tube to LED tube effect mastery tubes through many strange tubes. Some tubes are interesting concepts that become poorly thought out attempts, some tubes suffer from a lack of resources or patience in fabrication, some just don’t make any sense at all in retrospect but I have to assume they did at some point.

Here we have a few failed, but still educational, tubular journeys I’ve made recently.


At 100% brightness with half red and half blue so you can see the blending issue.

While I was at the hardware store looking at tubes I couldn’t help but notice the largest diameter tube in stock was about right to try edge lighting with an LED ring instead of through the center. They’re 1-7/8″OD and a 12-LED ring lines up right the LEDs packages. It took a little thought to get a secureish connections with a 3d printed holder. Unfortunately the results were very underwhelming. The light mixes completely in the first two inches so you lose any color differentiation between the LEDs pretty fast. And it dims out after about eight inches. Worse the look of the light coming from the tube wall instead of inside the tube doesn’t look very cool to me. Just looks like a giant, crappy fluorescent tube with a color temperature that’s just wrong. The tube was about $10 and I wasted a lot of time getting the holder right, but my time is worthless and I can reuse the LED ring for other projects. So not a huge loss and I might try using the tube for something else later.


These modules are ridiculous, but I’m semi-committed to figuring out something to do with a lens with such an insanely tight beam that the RGB channels don’t even overlap. After giving up on bouncing the light off anything since literally any other LED is a better option- I decided to see if I could capitalize on the insanity of the module’s design by projecting the beam into a tube. That makes it sound like I really thought outside the box to find a use, but I think it’s pretty clear why my first thought was tubes.

The lens turned out to fit a 1″OD|3/4″ID tube perfectly so I just printed a little collar and pumped in a bead of silicone to make a watertight so it could hold water. I didn’t go with silicone fill in the tube because it’s just a lot of silicone for a test. The results are interesting, it lights up the tube and blends pretty well. I think two of these on opposite ends could light up a tube at least 2-3′. I’m not sure that’s worth buying any more of these but I might have found a way to at least put them in a one-off giant-tube build. Not sure why I’m calling this a failure because it kind of worked out, but these freaky little projector LEDs are pretty much a mistake to begin with. I’d like to ask whoever designed them what purpose they had in mind.


This is supposed to be an effect light with tubes that ‘fill’ a little bottle or shotglass at the top with light. After I had the basic build worked out I was somewhat shocked to discover I do not presently own a shotglass. I had the acrylic case from an hexbug toy so I chopped it down and filled it with silicone just to top off the prototype build. Once you put the silicone on its kind of a done deal, you can kind of unmess it after it cures on PLA, but it’s not worth it.

It took me a bit to see it, but I am no longer comfortable with the overall aesthetic of this build. I should have waited until I got a shotglass. But I’m going to add another section of tubing to complete the loop back to the base. so this prototype build just is what it is, which is a light that doesn’t not remind people of a dong enough to not be a considered failure.


These tests actually gave me some other ideas that I’ve had some success with, but I’m going to save those for a post that isn’t about fun mistakes. So stay tuned, there might be a post about mistakes involving fresnel lenses and\or highlighter fluid to look forward to, and definitely more tubes.

Feb 212020

I was searching for a high power addressable LED module and this was one of the few I found in a price range I could play with, and being 5V instead of 12V is convenient for me. They were $15 for 5 unit plus shipping.


5deg Beam Angle

Nano for scale

Only found them on Ray Wu’s AliExpress store, can’t find them anywhere else. It took a few weeks for delivery but it was reasonable for international shipping.

They’re basically what I expected, they worked right out of the box with FastLED test code (WS2811\GRB). I’ve been using 2812’s for so long I was briefly confused by the 4th wire and was worried they were just common anode RGB. But they’re WS2811’s for sure.

I opened one up and should have taken a picture but forgot. The only things worth mentioning are that the lens is glued to the PCB and protrudes from the housing so you cannot remove the board from the aluminum block without breaking off the lens somehow, which is likely to damage the PCB. Also it’s notable to me that the aluminum housing won’t help cool the PCB at all, it’s held in a channel in the middle but doesn’t have any thermal connection to the aluminum. That seems like a missed opportunity.

As far as the light goes- they’re very, very bright. Incomparable to a standard LED strip LED, it’s a bitty freaking light cannon. I can see them being used for architectural displays that would be visible even with lots of ambient light. The video is with my apartment lights on and the FastLED brightness at 128, about 1/2 power.

The thing that I didn’t expect was the projection effect. It’s kind of bizarre and probably why these things aren’t as popular as they could be. If you watch the video you’ll see what I’m talking about.

It projects an almost perfect image of the LED chip and you can clearly see the different positions of the red\green\blue LEDs. It makes it pretty much unusable for direct illumination of anything, at least from close up. You have to bounce this off of something or it’ll be unbearable to look at. It might help to test 20-30ft away, but my apartment isn’t that big and my neighbors already think I’m nuts so I’m not doing outdoor testing right now.

Unfortunately that kind of defeats the purpose of a tight beam for me. Might as well just get a better diffused light if I have to bounce it anyway.

So I’m not sure where to go from here with there. Since I’m already going crazy with tubes I might see if I can use these for a giant silicone tube light or something. We’ll see what happens, but I was pretty excited to get them in and test them so I thought I’d share.

Feb 152020

Heinlein, Musk, Groening… true human visionaries understand that what the world needs now is tubes, sweet tubes. So for the sake of humanity- here are more tubes.

I’m ending up with some odd lengths of scrap tube from my warp coil fetish and I thought they might look cool arranged vertically around a 12 LED ring. I could have done 12 tubes, but I went with 6 tubes using every other LED and the middle ones are a ‘base’ light. So you can have the translucent tube color accented against the reflected light off the center column.

It kind of works, but I need to add a little reflector\diffuser material to better point the ‘base’ light at the column, right now it kind of spills out everywhere and doesn’t evenly light the column. Still reasonably pleased with how it worked out so thought I’d post it.