From the September 2013 edition of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
Now a little from the article…
We ordered a Light-O-Rama CMB24D controller and started experimenting. The board requires a low voltage power supply and we quickly “re-purposed” one from a retired laptop computer. The RGB controller board has eight output connectors with each connector pin labeled +, R, G, B. Each single pixel RGB device has four wires labeled +, R, G, B. Matching the connector pins to the wires couldn’t be easier and required only a small screwdriver to secure. Within minutes we were making our single pixel floods and ribbons change colors through the Light-O-Rama Hardware Utility test console.
We started thinking about how to really test single pixels and soon the crew was outside attaching RGB light ribbons to a structure. Here’s how we did it and what we learned.
Single pixel devices on a real house
I wish we I could say we went searching for the perfect house to use as our test bed. Nope. We used one of our own and planning consisted of a poor drawing on a napkin. We did think ahead just a little and knew we needed to use the Light-O-Rama design concept of four groups of four so we could use their off-the-shelf sequences. In our minds we ended up with four horizontal elements (the windows) and four vertical elements (the gutter, door and steps.) We attacked our project at around 2:30 that afternoon.
We found an outdoor enclosure that used to hide the timer for an irrigation system and it was perfect for mounting our RGB controller board and power supply. Someone did have to rummage around to locate a 12 volt DC supply big enough to power the electronics on the controller board as well as the RGB devices we attached to it. Since we knew each RGB single pixel device could draw up to two amps of power and we were using eight of them, a 20 amp power supply made sense. We had a supply purchased earlier from eBay for about $25 and it proved perfect for our needs. With a little effort you can find 5-20 amp outdoor related DC power supplies specifically designed for LED use at a reasonable price. Be careful of using the power supply from landscape lighting systems because many have an AC output.
We played with the RGB floods but ended up not using them in our real-life demonstration. The structure was brown brick and didn’t reflect light well so we stuck with the light ribbons.
It didn’t take us long to figure out light ribbons are great for straight lines. Right angle turns and curves aren’t what they’re designed for. Depending on the type of ribbon being used it can be sliced at designated cut points to create a 90 degree turn but you need some single conductor wires to bridge the cut segments. Slicing and soldering is easy but does require a steady hand and you can’t overheat the ribbon. We found slicing and soldering provides the cleanest look but it’s a hassle in the field. We ended up applying some clear silicone caulk to the cut ribbon ends to keep the connections weatherproof.