Color Matching with NeoPixels

I keep getting distracted by other projects and ideas, but I wanted to post a brief update on the footwell NeoPixels project. I’ve been working on the data structures and color patterns, but today I wanted to cover something simpler.

For the time being I’m not planning on changing the color of the tC’s interior lighting, which is a nice burnt orange. I’ve toyed back and forth with the idea of replacing the tC’s cubby light and adding a few lights to the cupholders, which on a default setting should match the rest of the lighting. This gives us today’s problem: how do we match the NeoPixel’s color with the other LEDs?

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Getting Started with the Adafruit NeoPixels library

Although Adafruit has an excellent guide on getting started, I thought I would include a short post on using their library for RGB or RGBW strips. This already assumes you’ve got your strip hooked up to an Arduino and have successfully run one of the library’s example sketches. If not, read up on Adafruit’s basic connections tutorial.

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FastLED vs Adafruit_NeoPixel for RGBW LEDs

Multicolor LED strips generally come in two flavors – solid color and addressable.  Solid color strips, as the name implies, have all of their LEDs display the same color.  Addressable strips on the other hand allow you to control the color value of every individual LED in the strip.  The most popular individually-addressable LEDs on the market at the moment are Adafruit Industries’ NeoPixels, based on the WS2182 chipset.  They come in a variety of physical packages including strips, rings, and matrices.

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Happy Halloween 2016! Building Reaper’s mask from Overwatch

Just in time for the holiday, I finished work on my replica Reaper mask from the video game Overwatch!

The base of the mask is a wonderful 3D design by Ricardo Salomao, which you can download here.  I wasn’t originally planning on building a Reaper mask, but I found this fantastic model and just had to make it.

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NeoPixel Prototyping Board

While the final version of the footwell NeoPixel project calls for a long strip of ~60 pixels, most of my time is going to be split between programming at my desk and testing the pixels’ response to telemetry from the car.  I didn’t want to have to wrangle a large strip every time I wanted to test an idea, and I figured most of the patterns for the 60 pixel strip could be replicated on a shorter one.

My solution is this small prototyping board.  It’s a 3D printed part with mounts for an Arduino Uno, a small breadboard, and a NeoPixel stick.  The NeoPixel stick is a nifty PCB with 8 of the same type of RGBW leds as the strip I plan to use, and includes input/output pads and a resistor for the data line.  The breadboard lets me wire a 1000µF capacitor to protect the pixels from voltage spikes and allows me to hook up a second power supply if I’m reaching the power limits of the Arduino (which I should note is absolutely possible if you’re using all of the pixels at full brightness).

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Footwell NeoPixels: The Plan

This is going to be the first big project documented from start to finish on this blog.

I recently had the the idea to put some lights in the footwells of my car, a 2008 Scion tC.  There are a variety of kits available online that use standard multicolor LED strips, but I was never fond of the options available.

For one, the control interfaces are clunky and scream ‘mod’.  Most of them use thin remotes, though a few have small control boxes attached directly to the LEDs.  I wanted a control switch that integrated into the car’s switch panel and looked like it could be OEM.

I also couldn’t find any kits that used RGBW LEDs.  The ‘white’ light produced by combining Red + Green + Blue LEDs is muddy.  I wanted something that included a true white LED.

Lastly, and most intriguing to me, is that I’ve always had a vague interest in designing a shift light that interfaced via the CAN-bus available on the car’s OBD-II port.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine the two ideas.

To include all of these features, I need to design my own driver system.  If I’m going to do that, I may as well use addressable LEDs and go a bit crazy with the patterns!

Currently my plan is to prototype everything with an Arduino Uno and potentially port everything over to a Teensy 3.X for the final implementation.

Basic Project Goals:
  • Drive RGBW footwell lights with switch panel control
  • Pull vehicle telemetry via CAN
Project Features:
  • Custom button panel to control modes and brightness
  • Brightness control with visual feedback
  • Audio-intensity sensor / mode
  • Vehicle telemetry integration
  • User-configurable settings, read / saved on SD card.

These are the main goals/features, though I may add more as I go along.

I’m really excited to start working on this.  I have no regular plan for posts, but I’ll be sure to update as I make progress.